An item on the local news dealt with those experiencing travel difficulties after the landfalls on the Exeter to Newton Abbot line. Many items in the week before had dealt with the terrible situations of many due to the floods. A particular example of the Dunkirk sprit was shown by an elderly man interviewed at his flooded house in Kennford. He had been unable to secure insurance this year. In the landfall report a schoolgirl and her mother were interviewed. She lived at Starcross but attended Torquay Girls Grammar School and that day was having to go by bus or car, there being no rail service. She was much aggrieved at the inconvenience saying that they were paying something like £170 a month for a rail service. I wonder if others thought the difference in attitudes was illuminating. It was not only that difference in attitudes however which left me asking questions.
She was travelling from Starcross to Torquay to attend a school in the Torbay school catchment area. Anyone who uses that line in the morning will know it is full of children, from Exeter and along that line, going to school in Torquay. One can only assume that those travelling and paying similar sums are in effect getting what they see as the equivalent of a private education on the cheap. That they are buying monthly seasons will mean that they will only be buying those for part of the year and this will be a mere pittance if compared with the cost of a private education in Exeter.
Would they consider such money well spent if they were to be spending it to travel to a community college in Taunton? Would indeed they be spending that money to attend Torbay Community College? If they are spending that money to in effect get a private education on the cheap then one can only assume that the difference in cost between those tickets and the cost of a school in Exeter is being borne by the Torbay Council Tax payers and income tax payers. How do those tax payers feel about providing (a) an education for those from outside the area and (b) in the case of income tax payers in the rest of the country an education for others which they would not be able to obtain in their own areas. There are many arguments for and against selective education, although none that I would find convincing and there must be many more for and against importing children into a selective school area, particularly where that area is one of the poorest in the country with many children that would benefit from such an education. Exeter is a comparatively well-off area. Should it not be educating its own pupils rather than passing them to a poor area like Torbay.
Many families in Torbay would consider themselves lucky to be able to afford to pay £170 a month for school travel.
They might reflect that it is their council tax and income tax that is subsidising the education of those pupils able to afford such travel from well outside the area.