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College students “negatively affected” by removal of free public transport

Barking & Dagenham College’s campus in Rush Green

Barking & Dagenham College says its students will be negatively affected by the removal of free travel for under 18s.

The Department for Transport imposed the condition as part of the government’s £1.6 billion bailout of Transport for London.

The move affects Zip Oystercard users on buses and trains operation by TfL, although it is unclear when the measure will be brought in and how long it would be for.

Since 2005, children have had free of discounted travel on the network across Greater London.

In May, after the bailout was announced, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, called for free travel for children to be restored.

Yvonne Kelly, the Principal & CEO of Barking & Dagenham College, said: “All of our learners will be negatively affected by the decision to stop free travel for under 18s.

“However, those with the lowest household income will be hit hardest.

“This will mean that our learners are less able to travel to college and, consequently, it will limit their access to education.”

Barking & Dagenham College is backing a campaign led by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) for the reinstatement of free travel for all under 18s.

Joy Kettyle, the college’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “Often young people travel beyond their local area to access specialist courses, specialist skills, whether that be catering, or digital, and this is really going to take away those opportunities for them.

“They’re going to be less able to travel to college to access their education.”

Principal Kelly has written to local MPs warning of the impact the new measure will have if it is not suspended.

She says many students from disadvantaged backgrounds have already had their education hampered by coronavirus restrictions, meaning students have not been going in since March.

“Accessing online learning has been a challenge for most people, and particularly for the most deprived households,” she said. “Lack of access to adequate IT equipment, etc. due to affordability, is a barrier to learning and reduces equality.

“As colleges and schools begin to open up, we should be doing everything we can to encourage learners to be able to access their education and catch up where they need to do.

“Taking away their free means of getting to college is a step in the wrong direction.”

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