Report warns that rural youths have less choice of FE institutions

Young people living in rural areas are losing out on vital access to education and skills development, according to the State of Rural Services 2016, a new report published today highlighting the contraction of rural public and private sector provision in England.

The research by Rural England CIC finds that more than three fifths of pupils in England’s rural areas cannot reach a secondary school by public transport or on foot in a ‘reasonable travel time’ - a figure that would be lower still if it referred only to schools with a sixth form - while only half can get to an FE institution.

While quieter areas skew towards an older population, some 14.7 per cent of England’s rural population is aged between 15 and 29, meaning that this patchy provision has a significant impact.

The report highlights the fact that the share of the working age population with at least a level 3 qualification is lower in rural areas, and notes the numerous challenges facing those in remote towns and villages if they wish to upskill. For example, access to an apprenticeship in a rural area is made more difficult because of the paucity of public transport networks and the absence of locally-based larger employers.

In addition, not only are they generally living further away from colleges than their urban peers, the absence of a statutory concessionary travel scheme means that reduced price travel for FE students is patchy and subject to change. State of Rural Services 2016 finds that learners in rural areas spent about £18 a week on travel, compared with an outlay of about £15 a week in urban areas (a 20 per cent rural premium).

The report also finds that many rural areas lack good broadband connectivity, which would prevent younger residents from taking advantage of online learning. More generally, it highlights increasing pressure on already-squeezed public services in rural areas such as GPs and mental health services. The report warns of a worrying evidence gap regarding rural services and calls for more evidence to be gathered to assess the full picture.

Margaret Clark CBE, Chair of Rural England’s Stakeholder Group, said: ‘The State of Rural Services 2016 Report collates and lays out recent evidence about the provision of services to residents and businesses in rural England, with worrying findings across transport, education, social care and retail. When it comes to access to further education and skills development, rural areas are suffering due to difficulties and poor transport services.’

Kirstie Donnelly, Managing Director City & Guilds, said: ‘Rural England’s findings raise some significant concerns about access to further education outside our major towns and cities. Everyone, regardless of where they live, should have the chance to improve their skills and access great careers. The current Government has taken some really positive steps to enhance the skills system and raise the profile of apprenticeships in recent months. But the sad reality is that we are seeing signs of a reduction in learning opportunities for many young people across the country, with access to post 16 education under threat from college mergers or closures resulting from the ongoing Area-Based Reviews. As this report shows, learners in rural areas already face a number of obstacles in accessing training or apprenticeships. It’s crucial that policymakers consider how they can help people overcome them, rather than creating new barriers.

‘We know through our partnership with the Land Based Colleges group Landex that young people often aren’t even aware of the opportunities available to them in the land-based careers that proliferate the British countryside. We need better careers advice to ensure that young people in rural areas understand the full range of great careers that are available to them right on their doorsteps. This will also be crucial post-Brexit, to ensure that employers in rural areas are able to access the talented workforces they require.’

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said: ‘The education and training of young people is vital for boosting local economic growth. AoC believes that students should be able to access the college with the best education and training that they want and need, not just making the decision based on the cheapest bus or train fare. We believe that existing arrangements for local authorities to provide financial support for transport to young people accessing education and training could be significantly strengthened. We hope that the Bus Services Bill, currently going through Parliament, will move towards that.’


About Rural England CIC

§    Rural England is a Community Interest Company (CIC) that has been established to bring together rural networks and to improve the rural evidence base, by sharing knowledge and carrying out independent research. 

§    It aims to stir policy debate and inform policy making about rural issues.

§    It works with a wide range of stakeholders and has a governance structure which is designed to ensure that it operates independently of any interested party.

State of Rural Services 2016

The report covers nine service areas - local buses and community transport, welfare services, access to cash, Further Education, the retail sector, mental health services, older people’s services, public health services, and community assets. Findings include:

Local buses and community transport

§  Rural residents travel longer distances and spend more time travelling than their urban counterparts - 394 hours over a year, compared with 366 for urban residents.

§  Rural residents are more likely to use a car than their urban counterparts, but around one in nine rural households have no car and are dependent on other means of transport.

§  Rural households spend a large share of their disposable income on transport (12.5 per cent or £91.20 per week, at 2013 prices, compared with £64.60 per week for urban households)

§  Across non-metropolitan (or shire) areas local authority funding support for buses was cut by eight per cent in the last financial year and by almost 25 per cent over the last four years.

§  In 2015/16 124 local bus services were withdrawn altogether and 248 were reduced or otherwise altered across England, with the largest cuts in shire areas.

§  A third of community transport schemes operate in rural areas (more than 600 in all), where passengers made eight million journeys.

Welfare services

§  Around 60 per cent of rural residents live more than five miles away from a Jobcentre – in urban areas 95 per cent of people live within five miles. At last count there were only three located in villages, hamlets or isolated dwellings.

§  In the most sparsely populated rural areas, 30 per cent of benefits claimants live more than 10 miles from an advice supplier such as Citizens Advice and Age UK.

§  Only 64 of England’s 1,015 debt advice suppliers are located in rural settlements.

Access to cash

§  124 of the bank branch closures during 2014 were of the last branch in their neighbourhood, particularly affecting rural town and coastal communities.

§  In 2010 just 30 per cent of households in villages were within two and half miles of a bank or building society branch – a number that has likely declined given the rate of branch closures.

§  Almost 99 per cent of the rural population lives within three miles of a post office outlet.

§  When last analysed, 11 per cent of cash machines were in rural settlements. In rural villages a quarter of households lived more than two and half miles away.

Further Education

§  The share of the working age population with at least a level 3 qualification is lower in rural than in urban areas.

§  Rural users have less choice of FE institutions they can reach. Only half can get to a FE institution by public transport or walking in a ‘reasonable travel time’.

§  Less than 40 per cent of rural users can get to a secondary school by public transport or walking in a ‘reasonable  travel time’ (a figure which would be lower still if it referred only to schools with a sixth form).

§  Due to the absence of a statutory concessionary travel scheme, reduced price travel for FE students is therefore patchy and subject to change.

§  Learners in rural areas spent about £18 a week on travel, compared with about £15 a week for learners in urban areas (a 20 per cent rural premium)


§  The average rural consumer would need to drive for nine minutes to reach their nearest convenience store and would need 16 minutes to reach it by walking or public transport. The average urban consumer can reach one in about seven minutes by either mode of travel.

§  The average rural consumer would need 32 minutes to reach their nearest town centre by public transport – this is 17 minutes for the average urban consumer.

§  Rural consumers may be held back by poor broadband connectivity, while innovations, such as parcel shops and self-service parcel lockers, are largely in city locations.

§  In 2014 there were 325 community shops open and trading across the UK, of which 277 were in rural England. This number has grown steadily.

Mental Health services

§  Farmers have the largest number of suicides of any occupational category.

§  Analysis shows that mental health service provision is consistently more restricted in NHS Trust areas classified as rural, when compared with those that are urban. Issues include fewer professional staff, the infrequency of home visits, poor access to in-patient facilities and a lack of alternative care options.

§  There are fewer doctors, nurses, social workers and therapists per head working in rural areas.

§  Patients in rural Trust areas receive less contact with professionals and fewer patient bed days are available.

Older people’s services

§  Those aged 65 and over comprise 23 per cent of the rural population, higher than the 16 per cent of the urban population. The ageing of the population is fastest in rural areas.

§  Average journey times for households to reach GP surgeries are also longer in rural areas -just over nine minutes by car and almost 18 minutes by public transport or walking. This does not take account of the frequency of public transport

§  11.6 per cent of all rural residents (or more than one in nine) were providing unpaid care.

Public health services

§  Some services are delivered at GP surgeries. 56 per cent of rural households have ‘reasonable access’ to a GP surgery by public transport or walking, implying that 44 per cent do not.

§  Funding for public health services is significantly lower in rural than in urban local authority areas. Allocations per resident in 2014/15 were £27 in East Riding of Yorkshire, £28 in Rutland, £29 in Devon and £31 in Cumbria, compared with an England average of £51 and as much as £133 in inner London boroughs.

Community assets

§  A 2014 survey of community organisations with an interest in community assets found that 16 per cent operated in rural areas and a further 20 per cent in mixed rural/urban areas.

§  England has almost 10,000 village halls and rural community buildings, run by volunteer management committees. In 2014 these were estimated to have a combined asset value in excess of £3 billion.

§  By 2014 the number of community-owned shops across England had grown to 277, with 119 still at the planning stage. It would appear most of these are in rural areas.

§  There are now 170 Community Land Trusts in England and Wales, roughly half of which have formed in the last two years and most of them serving rural areas.

§  There are 43 UK pubs operating as co-operatives. 28 of these are located in rural England.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page