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Please Extend Free School Transport to 18 years old.

October 5, 2014 6:03 PM

Speech prepared by Judith Bunting, Parliamentary Candidate for Newbury and West Berkshire, for the debate on the Policy Motion: Protecting Public Services and Making Them Work for You, in favour of Amendment 4

Amendment 4 states: "Extend the statutory obligation for free school transport to ensure that young people are able to access free state education to age 18."

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Conference - I am here to speak in support of Amendment 4 - which calls on Local Authorities to extend the availability of free transport to and from school, to young people up the the age of 18 years. This is simple idea, but have no doubt this is about as critical as it gets.

While we have been part of the government, Liberal Democrat Ministers have passed some of the most socially democratic policies of a generation. The raising of the tax threshold, the triple lock to ensure pensions hold their value, the £2.5billion pounds pumped into education through the pupil premium, these policies make me proud to say I am a Lib Dem. It's the hall mark of our party that we stand up for equality whether you are male or female, black or white, able or disabled - well, I want every child who lives in a village or rural community to have an equal chance of succeeding in life, as well.

Line 156 of the main motion acknowledges: "Public transport has a particularly critical role to play in rural areas". And how. Not everyone who lives in the villages has a car. Up to 15 years old, when they're eligible, families claim free school transport, when a student 16, Does their family get rich overnight. In West Berkshire the buses they are then obliged to take will cost them £800 pounds per year. Where's that supposed to come from?

As of 2015 it is going to be compulsory - yes, compulsory - for our students to stay in training, apprenticeships or to stay in education until they are 18 years old. This is good, but it is meaningless if the students expected to take this up this opportunity cannot get to where they are supposed to go. If we don't ensure these students have the means to get from our outlying communities to their places of education and training, how can they be expected to take the opportunity up. And how are we going to manage the fines and custodial sentence that parents can face, if their youngsters become persistent truants?

Conference - I stand here to call for joined up thinking and joined up public services, and the extension of free school transport for students through to the end of compulsory state education, apprenticeships and training. Please support this motion, and support Amendment 4.

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Amendment 4 did not pass. David Laws, however, committed publically to working with the

movers of the motion to find a solution to the problem highlted in this debate.