Letter to MPs regarding Grant Shapps’ decision to cut free transport for under-18s in London

Dear [name of local MP],

RE: provision of free travel for under-18s in London

We are writing to you to express our concerns.

Whilst we recognise the important steps the Department for Transport has taken to support Transport for London, as part of the Extraordinary Funding and Financing Agreement, we are extremely worried about the impact it will have on the children in our school.

Whilst the majority of our students live locally to our schools and, as such, will be able to walk to school, the impact of clause 12 (e) of the Extraordinary Funding and Financing Agreement – namely the suspension of free travel for under-18s – will be such that some of our families will really struggle financially as a result of the changes suggested.

As an inclusive school, we work hard to ensure that barriers to learning and wellbeing are removed and we work hard to ensure that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are supported accordingly. We believe this issue will disproportionally impact children from BAME communities across London, something contributing to issues of systemic racism across society.

Scrapping free travel for under-18s would have a disastrous impact on the education, employment, and cultural and sporting opportunities of our young people. As we rebuild our city after the Coronavirus shutdown, it is imperative that we focus our resources on our young people, whose prospects have been so badly damaged by the economic shutdown.

The ending of free travel for under-18s would have the biggest impact for their education prospects. Without free travel, many young people from lower-income backgrounds would not be able to afford the bus fare to school, resulting in a greater level of absences, lateness and under-performance. School children walking long distances to school will be at greater risk of becoming victims of crime or traffic accidents. We can also expect to see an increase in children being driven to school if free bus travel is no longer available, reversing the improvements we have seen in school-related traffic.

Local authorities have a statutory responsibility to fund travel to school for young people if their school is greater than three miles away. Free travel for under-18s in London effectively removed the obligation for local authorities to provide this funding. The scrapping of free travel is due to be implemented in September, giving local authorities very little time to find the funding for school travel and put in place administration arrangements. This is an unlooked-for burden at a time when local authority resources are already unprecedentedly overstretched.

Beyond their educational prospects, however, young people will miss out on the vast array of cultural and sporting activities that our great city has to offer if they are restricted from moving around. Those from lower-income backgrounds will be the most badly impacted by this decision.

We urge you to help us get Grant Shapps MP reconsider this decision. Our greatest priority at this time is to invest in our young people, whose futures have been made so uncertain by this pandemic.

Of particular relevance is a debate in the House of Commons on Thursday 9th July (Standing Order no 9(7)), and we look forward to hearing what representation on behalf of your constituency’s secondary schools and colleges you will be making.

We look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Best regards,

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