The meter is running on cost of 14-19

23rd January 2009 at 00:00

When four secondary schools run up a bill of Pounds 60,000 in taxi fares ferrying pupils to a college in Wales's smallest local authority, questions have to be asked.

Did the policymakers ever stop to consider the cost - or the practicalities - of transporting pupils from schools to colleges at the outset of 14-19 learning pathways? It seems hard to believe based on our story this week (page 1).

Of course, it is all good news for the private hire taxi firms who will be rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of the vocational revolution in schools. How many meters have been left running outside schools waiting for pupils over the past year?

If this is the cost now, what will it be in 2012 when every school will have to offer its pupils 30 courses on the timetable? Can beleaguered education budgets afford this?

Gareth Isfryn Hughes, head of Ysgol Tryfan, in Bangor, believes not, and is concerned for the future. He has been surprised at the cost, spending at least Pounds 15,000 this year on fares.

In Merthyr, there are plans to run a shuttle bus service between the schools and Merthyr College, but how will it work? How regular with the bus service be, and as more courses are offered will the buses get the pupils to school or college on time?

Will allowing students off site more encourage more truancy and will it be more difficult to keep track of pupils' whereabouts? The 14-19 learning pathways are one big logistical nightmare that heads will have to increasingly deal with.

After a tentative beginning, there is now widespread support for the 14-19 pathways, but that does not take away from the practical headaches schools will have in juggling timetables and transport.

Of course, there is always the option that teachers and college lecturers travel to deliver the lessons or lectures,

However, as TES Cymru reports this week, this has its own problems. Will teachers and lecturers be expected to forfeit break times, and even lose out on their entitlements to planning, preparation and assessment time?

Last year, heads' unions warned the 14-19 learning pathways, and the problems of implementation, would be the story of the year, and one that is likely to run and run... just like the taxi meters.

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