College leaders across London and the Association of Colleges are calling on the Secretary of State for Transport to save the 16+ Oyster Card and give young people the opportunity to get back on their feet after coronavirus. Through local campaigns and a letter to the Transport Secretary, the coalition is also backing a campaign led by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) for the reinstatement of free travel for all under 18s: Don't Zap the Zip: Keep London transport free for under 18s.
The Association of Colleges has written to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, calling on the government to reverse the decision to suspend free travel for young Londoners. Leaders from London’s colleges are also writing to their MPs warning of the detrimental impact on young people’s education and training opportunities and the risk shutting out the most disadvantaged from moving around the city could have.
All further education colleges in London, the Association of Colleges and CPAG put safety first and are concerned that public transport should not be used before it is safe to do so while coronavirus is still a threat to public health. Reopening plans for colleges include minimising travel on public transport, with continued staggered opening hours, plans for cycling support and reduced cohorts of students. However, 168,000 students in 16 to 18 education, including almost a quarter on free (school) meals will face severe cost barriers to opportunities and overall quality of life if free travel for all under 18s is suspended.
A suspension would mean that for the first time travel becomes a cost barrier to young people’s participation in education in the capital. As the country recovers from the pandemic, it is essential that young people are supported to get back on their feet and access the opportunities that will be so vital in a jobs and skills market that has suffered greatly over recent months. Young people disproportionately suffer during economic recessions and scrapping free travel risks shutting out the most vulnerable and disadvantaged young people even further.