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£600 or a race against time for a mother of four from Dartford to get her kids to school

A mother-of-four whose children go to four different schools says a doubling in price of the Kent Freedom Pass is unaffordable, and dropping off her children is unworkable.

Nicola Prangell, 40, who works from home as an accountant, says if the increase to the pass goes ahead, she will have to fork out £600 to send her children to school, a price she does not want to pay.

The alternative is juggling a drop-off at Leigh Technology at 8.20am, Ebbsfleet Academy at 8.25am, Dartford Grammar school at 8.40am and Dartford Bridge primary at 8.45am – a 19-mile trip.

Her children are Kyle, 12, who goes to the Leigh; Brandon, 15, who attends Ebbsfleet; Callum, 12, at Dartford Grammar; and Ewan, six, at Dartford Bridge.

Nicola Prangell and her kids
Nicola Prangell and her kids

Mrs Prangell, of Barnwell Road, said: “I will have to leave my house early on a school day to drop the three eldest at school by car making more congestion on the roads.

“Then I have a problem at home time as Ebbsfleet Academy finishes at 3pm, Dartford Grammar finishes 3.10pm, Dartford Bridge finishes at 3.15pm and the Leigh finishes at 3.40pm.

“How am I supposed to be at all schools to pick the children up?

“I have four children at four different schools. KCC picked these schools for my children to go to.

“My youngest is within walking distance, which isn’t too much of a problem, but I have three children at secondary school who travel at the moment independently with their Kent Freedom passes.

“My eldest is at Swan Valley and is in Year 10 doing his GCSEs.

“He has Asperger’s syndrome so there is no option to move schools for him.”

In time order, Mrs Prangell would have to travel two miles from her home to get to Leigh Technology College.

“Although I do not expect you to agree with me, the revised schemes will represent very good value." - KCC, transport boss David Brazier

From there it is 5.6 miles to Ebbsfleet Academy and then nine miles back to Dartford Grammar school.

Mrs Prangell added: “This has not been thought through at all.

“Yes the two in schools in Dartford can walk but if it’s pouring with rain they are going to be wet before they even get there as Dartford Grammar is two miles from my house and the Leigh is 1.8 miles.”

From September, there will be a new card for schoolchildren aged 11 to 16, called a Young Person’s Travel Pass. But it will cost £200 and limited to use between Monday to Friday.

In a response to a letter sent to KCC, transport boss David Brazier told Mrs Prangell: “There are presently 30,000 Freedom Pass users each taking an average of £450 of value from the pass and sometimes up to £1,000 per annum.

“This is costing the county council £13.2m per annum, and at a time when we are required by government cuts in our funding to save nearly £300m we cannot go on at this level of expenditure.

“Both the Freedom Pass and the 16+ travel pass are discretionary i.e. we receive no grant from government, and although we could have simply abolished both schemes to save money, we have not done so, knowing how valuable they are to residents.

“Although I do not expect you to agree with me, the revised schemes will represent very good value.

“I am sorry that the policy changes are going to create difficulties for you, but they are essential if the statutory services like adult social care, health, vulnerable children and SEN Transport are not to be affected.

“They have been agreed by the cabinet committee and the formal decision will be made in a few days’ time.”

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