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Travel to School: Rural Communities

Volume 702: debated on Monday 1 November 2021

3. What steps his Department is taking to help ensure that children in rural communities with limited public transport are able to attend school. (903935)

Local authorities must provide transport for children of compulsory school age to attend their nearest school if they cannot walk there because of distance, route safety or special needs. During the next spending review period, authorities will receive an extra £1.6 billion a year to maintain vital services such as that.

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s reply. As a former teacher, I very much understand the value of education, but in the past few months I have been concerned to hear of constituents having difficulties getting children to school because of limited public transport and school bus places. I know that my hon. Friend will agree that it is vital to ensure that children do not miss out on learning, so I would be grateful to hear what steps are being taken to ensure that children in rural areas, particularly with limited bus transport, are able to attend school, and whether he has discussed this matter with colleagues in the Department for Transport.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. As he says, as a former teacher, he recognises the benefit of children being in schools. I can assure him that the Department regularly talks to the Department for Transport about school transport. Last year, we gave Somerset over £1.1 million of additional funding for school and college transport in response to the need for social distancing on public transport. I shall continue those conversations.

Of course, far too many children in rural areas end up getting driven to school, but does the Minister agree that when they finally arrive at their destination, they will be slightly surprised to find that this Government’s ambition for funding is just back at the level that they inherited from the last Labour Government in 2010?

I think the hon. Gentleman will find that funding levels are considerably higher than they were in 2010. We were also delighted to deliver real growth in funding over that period, which many of us have long campaigned for.