Mopeds may feature in college travel pla

Teenagers at risk of dropping out of education may be loaned mopeds and electric cycles as part of a radical move to help them to stay in college and secure a brighter future, it was revealed last night.

Teenagers at risk of dropping out of education may be loaned mopeds and electric cycles as part of a radical move to help them to stay in college and secure a brighter future, it was revealed last night.

Other 16-19-year-olds could be picked up from their remote villages by a community minibus or allowed to buy half-price bus tickets.

Education chiefs hope the incentives - which could even include new bus services - will give teenagers in some of the most rurally deprived and isolated areas new education opportunities.

They also hope the plans will boost post-16 education participation rates in the county, which are currently the lowest among all of England's shire counties.

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But at yesterday's Norfolk County Council cabinet, there were fears that a shortage of government cash could scupper the schemes before they got off the ground.

The proposals are part of the council's bid to be one of the 20 pilot areas for the Department for Children, Schools and Families' (DCSF) three-year trial of sustainable school travel plans.

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If successful, they will also help teenagers to travel between various schools and colleges to learn different subjects as part of the new diplomas for 14-19-year-olds.

The council has pinpointed three areas for the proposals, which cabinet yesterday agreed to put forward for public consultation.

In King's Lynn, 16-19-year-olds living between one to three miles from college - who currently have to pay full adult bus fares - would get half-price bus travel to get them there and back at

any time on any day, if they are enrolled on a full-time further education course at College of West Anglia or one of the three school sixth forms.

In the Downham Market, Swaffham, Methwold and Watton areas, the high schools are working together to provide 14-19 diplomas, which could see students travelling between the schools to learn modules.

The proposal is to improve public transport between the schools, and from the area into King's Lynn, to help teenagers access education more easily and cheaply.

The third area in the pilot scheme proposal comprises Fakenham, Wells, Aylsham and Reepham, and includes ideas to improve access to the towns' high schools and to Easton College, near Norwich. They include:

An express-style public bus service to bring people from Wells to Fakenham and on to Easton College.

A community minibus to get teenagers from surrounding villages into schools and colleges at Wells and Fakenham.

Moped or electric cycle loans to give teenagers in isolated areas the opportunity to stay in education beyond 16.

Adrian Gunson, cabinet member for planning and transportation, said: “I'm very much in favour of the pathfinder schemes, which would give greater opportunity for education and choice in the rural areas.

“But we don't know the financial implications, even if we were to be chosen for the pathfinder. We have no idea whether we would be able to continue with it if any grant ran out. There's enormous uncertainty about it.”

The report to cabinet said: “The cost of fares may deter young people from attending post-16 education and the prospect of walking distances over a mile to and from college or sixth form may be unattractive to them.”

The report said a number of young people had to undertake “onerous” journeys from across Norfolk to attend their preferred courses at Easton College.

It said: “There have been a number of students who have not completed their courses as they have found the journey too difficult to sustain over a long period.”

The proposals will now

go out to consultation

from tomorrow to October 19 before detailed proposals come back to cabinet on November 5.

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