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Issue:- 17 April 2014

Pupils' attendance improves thanks to Merseytravel's interventions

DISADVANTAGED young people who have been struggling to pay for their travel to school, college or training have been given a helping hand by Merseytravel.

Members at the first Merseytravel Committee of the new Combined Authority will be hearing of the successes of a pilot scheme launched last year, to help those most in need.

It followed insight that some teenagers were not turning up at school, college or apprenticeships because they couldn't afford the cost of public transport or lacked awareness about transport services.

The scheme; which included giving out free travel tickets, bikes and personalised journey planning information; has had a positive impact on those who took part.

Broadgreen International School said that 98% of students who received support with transport costs showed a marked improvement in their attendance.

Headteacher Sally Beevers said:- "We are grateful for Merseytravel's support, which has had a positive impact on our students. Their generous offer of travel passes for some of our students who have very poor attendance and punctuality has demonstrated that high public transport costs for young people can be a barrier to attending school when household income is low. We want to see these good patterns of attendance continue and will commit further school funding to ensure this happens."

As well as Broadgreen, Merseytravel worked with another 6 education providers during the pilot Litherland, Haydock and Ridge Way High Schools, Knowsley Community College, Mersey Maritime and UK Railway. After the trials they all gave good feedback and demonstrated how the range of support provided has made transport more affordable for young people.

Andy Pollard, Headteacher at Haydock High School, said:- "There is a simple equation: If a student doesn't come to school he or she doesn't learn. We serve a community high in social deprivation and some of our parents struggle, routinely, to find money for bus fares. I am deeply indebted to Merseytravel for the support given to 12 of our most needy students. Because of the generous offer of a free bus pass they can now attend school and receive the education which we hope will stand them in good stead for the future. Mersytravel has helped the school honour its pledge that 'every child matters, every child is known and every child can achieve'."

Knowsley Community College also praised the initiative after more than 2,000 students benefited from expert travel advice during enrolment, including awareness of financial support available. A leaflet produced by Merseytravel is now being used at all promotional events for the college to highlight the range of travel options available.

Apprentices at UK Railyway, who had no income and because of their age were not eligible for Jobseekers' Allowance, were also supported by Merseytravel. By giving them free tickets it ensured they were able to complete mandatory training off-site, which led to them gaining employment in the rail industry.

As a result of the initial pilot, Members are being asked to agree a raft of measures at their meeting on 10 April 2014 to ensure affordability remains high on the agenda.

Further plans include working with commercial operators to launch a 2 day ticket later this month for young people up to the age of 16.

Chair of Merseytravel Councillor Liam Robinson said:- "We understand that the cost of travel can reduce access to education and life-enhancing opportunities such as training, work experience or volunteering. This is why we signed a pledge to work with transport operators, education establishments and local authorities to make transport more affordable for young people.  It's heart-warming to hear from teachers and other partners about the difference we are making to these young people's lives and we want to build on this success."

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