A total of £269,647 has been granted to young people through a new grant scheme to help pay for travel to access education and training.
This equates to a total daily commute of 12,524 miles for all the individual students supported by the scheme – further than travelling from Westmorland and Furness to New Zealand.
There were 385 individual grants from Westmorland and Furness Council's 16 to 19 Education Travel Bursary Fund, as well support for two college transport schemes.
Qualifications supported that young people are studying for include A Levels, AATs, BTECs, AS Levels, Diplomas, Foundation Degrees, T Levels, UALs, Degrees and HNCs.
Subjects studied include English, maths, agriculture, chemistry, physics, geography, electrical installation, health and social care, art, animal management, sports coaching, cyber security, engineering, economics, music and plumbing.
The fund is aimed at supporting young people in Westmorland and Furness to pay for transport for educational purposes – whether that be bus, train, taxis, fuel costs for private transport or even students who travel by bicycle.
Feedback from one family about the positive impact of the scheme said: "The bursary has helped massively as transport costs have risen a huge amount along with other things."
Another said: "A positive impact. No need to borrow money to cover our son’s college travel costs."
One student said: "It’s taken off the pressure of having to pay for travel in order to study at a college further away on a course I wanted to study, rather than settling on another course at a school in walking distance."
Launched on August 24 and closing on October 20, the scheme is one of 14 projects representing £5m of priority investments for Westmorland and Furness agreed by the council's Cabinet. The projects reflect the new council’s key priorities for the area, including funding for local areas, biodiversity and nature, sustainable transport, social care, children, culture and education.
Councillor Neil Hughes, Cabinet Member for Transport and Environmental Services, said: "This is fabulous news. It is wonderful for us as a council to be able to provide this practical and much-needed support to so many young people from all over the Westmorland and Furness area. Cabinet made the significant commitment of £5 million to priority projects to reflect the council's key priorities and I am delighted that this one has been such a success."
Councillor Sue Sanderson, Cabinet Member for Children's Services, Education and Skills, said: "These grants will help make sure opportunities are available to all, reducing one of the major barriers to accessing education and training and increasing life chances throughout Westmorland and Furness. The range of subjects and qualifications covered demonstrates how much of a difference these grants will make – to the young people themselves but also society as a whole."
Eden District Council ran a pilot travel bursary scheme last year, with two projects which continued to receive funding this year:
- Alston Moor Federation is continuing to provide affordable, subsidised bus transport for students to attend sixth form at New College, Durham in 2023-24. This is done via a transport service from Alston, collecting young people from Nenthead and along Weardale each day.
- Myerscough College is receiving support for a non-means tested subsidy for their students accessing provision delivered by Myerscough in Westmorland and Furness.
Other support is available from Westmorland and Furness Council.
If you are under 19 years of age on 1 September 2024, come from a low income family and you are studying a full time course (a minimum of 17 hours per week), you may be eligible for free Post 16 (low income) transport.
This is available to students in full-time education, who live over three miles from their catchment sixth form or nearest college offering the vocational area they are studying and whose parent or carer is on one of a range of benefits.
The A2B Now card – a reduced fare bus travel card for 5-20 year olds living in Westmorland and Furness outside school travel times – is also available for young people to help them access leisure, sports, social participation and culture.
Residents aged between five and 20 years old can apply for the pass, which costs £10 per year.
It is valid on local bus services within Westmorland and Furness and entitles holders to bus travel for £1.80 (single) and £3 (return). If the normal fare is less than this travellers will pay the normal fare.