Tweet I mentioned yesterday the fact that some councils are looking to distinguish between statutory and non-statutory services, with a view to cutting out the latter. Until Carmarthenshire started considering withdrawing transport for pupils aged 16 to 19, I hadn't realised that providing school transport for pupils aged over 16 came into the second category.
It's not offically a firm proposal as yet, since a task and finish group is still looking at it – but the cost saving has already been deducted from the council's indicative budgets from 2011 onwards. And there are still two options for implementation – simply removing the service entirely, or charging an economic cost for its provision.
One astounding argument advanced at yesterday's budget-setting meeting was that most of the young people concerned receive EMA to encourage them to stay on in school, and that they could pay their own transport costs out of that allowance. What the government giveth, the council taketh away, as it were. (And presumably, if the result were to be that fewer children decided to return to education after GCSEs as a result of reducing the financial incentive, that would give the authority another chance for some 'savings'?)
But there is another aspect to this which concerns me. FE colleges are now independent of local authority control, so any decision to remove transport for 16+ pupils would not affect those who opt for FE colleges. I have long suspected that the unstated agenda of officials at both county council level and Assembly Government level is the abolition of sixth forms, and their replacement by tertiary colleges created by the expansion of FE.
When they try to achieve that aim directly, they hit massive parental opposition. But what if they could achieve the same result by stealth? By, for instance, making FE financially more attractive than the 6th forms?
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