A COUNCIL tweet warning 16-year-olds to consider the cost of transport before they decide on further education has been slammed as “appalling”.

Dorset County Council used social media to remind young people that transport is not free beyond the age of 16.

Its tweet said: “Planning what to do after GCSEs? Check out your travel options before you decide. Travel for 16+ isn't free & there may not be seats on school buses.”

The council does not subsidise school transport past the age of 16, but does offer sixth formers any spare places on school buses for £640 a year. The charge can be reduced for low-income families.

It also provides limited help via bursaries towards transport to college for low-income households.

Broadstone Liberal Democrat councillor Vikki Slade, who has twice fought the parliamentary seat of Mid Dorset and North Poole, replied: “This tweet appals me. Choices should not be based on the fact the council won’t support young people continuing in education.

“Free travel to school should be available until 18 for those who live too far to walk or cycle to nearest school/college.”

She told the Daily Echo: “When the rules changed to force children to stay at school/college or in apprenticeship to 18, the requirement on the council to provide school buses did not extend and it becomes the parents’ responsibility.

“In some cases schools are using some of their very limited budget for bursaries but this is putting huge strain on them.

“Families who live in villages some distance from schools – e.g. Bere Regis in the Mid Dorset constituency – and places in the deep Purbeck, Winterbornes etc face having to add the financial implications of staying on rather than [asking] ‘Is it the best option?’”

The council tweet included a link to the authority's post-16 travel policies.

Dorset County Council said in a statement: “When the government raised the age of compulsory education, training or employment with training, there was not an equivalent change in the national transport policy to supply travel for students to apprenticeships, colleges or sixth form.

"The social media campaign is aimed at notifying students and their families to enable them to make informed decisions.

"We are very keen to work with all education providers to make sure the information that they give to potential students is explaining all the options they can take.”