College foots the bill

When Leanne Woodhead starts at Lincoln College in September, she faces a 47-mile journey by bus each morning. She would have to pay for the journey if it wasn't for her college.

Leanne, 16, lives in Sutton on Sea, a small east coast town north of Skegness. She is going to take a BTEC in sports fitness and aims to study sports science at university.

Parents Wayne and Sally are pleased to see her moving into FE because the far-flung seaside town, with its ageing population, holds few career opportunities. But the Woodheads are furious over a new pound;180-a-year charge for post-16 student bus passes introduced by Lincolnshire county council.

Last year, transport to college was free. Ms Woodhead doesn't qualify for education maintenance allowance.

She will get free travel there in September because Lincoln College has stepped in to subsidise its students' transport.

Her father Wayne is angry that other Lincolnshire students attending college and sixth forms next year, particularly the less well off, suddenly have to pay pound;60 a term up front.

The council's expectation that students should rely on part of their education maintenance allowance to get themselves to college will defeat the object of the allowance, he says.

"The EMA was there as an incentive for children to stay on in 16-18 education," he said.

"I personally feel that the local authorities are jumping on the bandwagon and using it purely as a cost-cutting exercise."

Lincoln College said it is disappointed with the authority's new charge.

Its decision to subsidise its students will cost it around pound;125,000 next year, which could double in 2007 when the second cohort of charge-paying students arrive.

"As a college, we serve a number of deprived neighbourhoods where students are quite reliant on their EMA," said a spokeswoman.

"We are concerned that this would adversely affect attendance, particularly for those students who were undecided."




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