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Student Transport

Volume 410: debated on Monday 18 August 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what action he is taking in conjunction with the Learning and Skills Council to co-ordinate the transport requirements of individual students, with particular reference to those with (a) special needs and (b) specialist course requirements. [129984]

In 2001–02, we commissioned an extensive study by Steer Davis Cleave into transport support for students of 16–19 and in particular, those with disabilities and learning difficulties. In line with the recommendations from this, my Department has revised legislation, via Schedule 19 of the Education Act 2002, and made an additional £39 million of funding available to local education authorities (LEAs) and their partners for the three years from 2003–06. Now LEAs, Learning and Skills Councils (LSCs) and further education colleges are required to work together to produce, publish and deliver local policies to ensure that there are effective transport services and financial support in order that young people can access and complete their further education. These new transport arrangements are currently the subject of independent evaluation.This is in addition to the learner support fund, which is £36 million in 2003/04. This is paid to schools and colleges so that they can help students aged 16–19 to meet course related costs, which can include transport. The LSC also provides additional learning support to institutions to help with the extra costs a learner with special needs may require, e.g. for transport between sites and to other off-site activities for learners with mobility difficulties. And the LSC has provided support to education providers through revenue and capital funding to implement the Disability Discrimination Act.The Government have announced that from September 2004 education maintenance allowances will be available across England. These will pay a means tested allowance of up to £30 per week (plus bonuses) to young people to provide them with an incentive to stay in learning and to help them with the associated costs, including transport.

Students 19 plus

Learner support funds are the main source of financial support to help students of 19 and over in further education with costs associated with studying, including transport costs. They are allocated via the LSC and used flexibly by colleges to help students facing financial difficulties related to their learning. £96.5 million has been made available for students aged 19 plus for 2003/04.

Each college is able to set its own policy on how it applies the funds and is required to give priority to students with disabilities, learning difficulties and other socially disadvantaged groups.