HUNDREDS of teenagers living in rural areas will be given travel expenses as an incentive to continue their school studies after the age of 16.

Almost £200,000 is being made available for youngsters by North Yorkshire County Council's Education Department to help them overcome the difficulties of living in often remote areas.

The funds have been made available from the Department for Education and Skills, following extensive consultation between the Council and the North Yorkshire Learning Partnership.

The cash boost has allowed the council to reduce the qualifying distance for grant eligibility from five miles to just three miles, meaning even more teenagers will benefit from the scheme.

Head of continuing education Chris McGee said the county had a very good record for the number of students going on to study post-16 in schools and colleges, despite the transport difficulties living in such a large rural community throw up.

"Students from urban and rural areas will qualify for transport assistance so long as they live three miles or more from their school or college. The move will provide travel passes to about 430 students," he said.

In a further move to make education more accessible, the education service is relaxing the rules around financial support. Previously, discretionary bursaries were refused if a student wanted to drop out after his first year and start a new course. Also, no financial help was given if parents earned more than £9,300 a year.

Continuing education officials have now agreed to award discretionary bursaries even if the student does want to start a new course.

They also sanctioned increasing the parental income threshold to £12,500.

Mr McGee said: "These moves are trying to ensure that transport and financial issues are not a barrier preventing youngsters attending the course of their choice. They are about increasing and easing accessibility to education post-16."