Rolle reality - now parents face £288 travel bill per child

PUBLISHED: 09:00 06 November 2009 | UPDATED: 12:15 10 June 2010

PARENTS face having to pay hundreds of pounds a year in train or bus fares if sixth-formers are forced to travel to Exeter. That s the stark reality for many families now that the county council has reneged on an arrangement and refused to buy the defunct

PARENTS face having to pay hundreds of pounds a year in train or bus fares if sixth-formers are forced to travel to Exeter.

That's the stark reality for many families now that the county council has reneged on an arrangement and refused to buy the defunct Rolle College for post-16 education.

Families could face an annual travel bill of £804 per child for an annual peak rail ticket from Exmouth to Exeter.

However, some students get round the annual peak ticket by buying daily tickets at £3.40. Taking into account holidays and non-lecture days, this would cost around £288 a year.

With the community college running out of space, governors had pinned their hopes on the Rolle purchase - especially as the school leaving age will jump from 16 to 19 in 2013.

Governors predict the Exmouth college's post-16 pool will swell from 531 to 851 by 2014 - meaning students could have to go to other colleges in the area.

Now, county council leader John Hart has admitted that, if students were forced to travel, families would have to pay for it themselves, adding: "Travel isn't a statutory obligation for the county council."

Speaking at the scrunity committee - which supported not buying Rolle College - he said it would cost a family £280 a year to send a student to study in Exeter.

"We would only subsidise families on income support," he said.

Cllr Hart argued that there 'wasn't the demand' for a Rolle post-16 college and said many students wanted to take courses not offered in Exmouth.

He rejected governors' predictions and, alternatively, claimed the Exmouth sixth form would peak at only 547 by 2015.

Student Paul Millar, joint chairman of Exmouth's Student Council, said: "We must express the opinion of students... about where they'd prefer to study, instead of it being taken as a given by the county council.

"They feel students are moving to Exeter because they prefer the location, rather than other factors.

"The £288 some of our friends have had to splash out per year on train fares for Exeter College is ridiculous."

Joint chairman Tim Hughes said a straw poll of students revealed overcrowding at the community college was the real reason many wanted to travel.

He said the Telfer Centre - used by sixth formers - was becoming more and more crowded and unworkable.

"The space is limited, especially as class sizes have doubled in the past two years," he said.

"Resources are low, and there is not the space to accommodate the books and equipment needed for a broader range of subject.

"A move to the Rolle College would certainly provide this."

STOP PRESS

THE public will be able to speak at an extraordinary meeting of the town council on Monday. Mayor Darryl Nicholas said: "The Rolle decision is a blow to the town's aspirations, but now is not the time to throw in the towel. It is imperative we get the town council, community groups and school representatives around the table. We have no time to lose."

The meeting, at the town hall, starts at 7pm.

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