Home to School Transport
Home to school transport can make all the difference to a child’s education. If provision is good, the child is happy and ready to learn when they arrive at school. If the provision is bad, the child may be anxious, distressed and not in a position to be educated.
Local Authorities have a legal duty to arrange free, suitable home to school transport for children (aged up to 16) who are eligible to their nearest suitable qualifying school. (Section 508b – Education Act)
Children with SEN, a disability or a mobility difficulty are defined as one of the groups of children eligible in Schedule 35B of Education Act
“of compulsory school age and is any of the following—
- a child with special educational needs;
- a disabled child;
- a child with mobility problems”
The nearest suitable qualifying school is taken to mean the nearest qualifying school with places available that provides education appropriate to the age, ability and aptitude of the child, and any SEN that the child may have.
Distance to School
Although there is a walking distance eligibility within the Home to school Travel and Transport guidance, this is not applicable to children with SEN – as clarified in Schedule 35B of the Education Act 1996
“having regard to whichever of the following are relevant –
his special educational needs,
his mobilility problems
he cannot reasonably be expected to walk to the school”
In section 1.3 of the home to school transport and travel guidance, it also states within the SEN/Disability or mobility problems eligibility:
“Usual transport requirements (eg the statutory walking distances) should not be considered when assessing the transport needs of children due to SEN and/or disability”
Suitability of Travel arrangements
Best practice suggests that maximum each way length of journey is:
- for a child of primary school age – 45 minutes
- for a child of secondary school age – 75 minutes
However, for children with SEN and/or Disabilities, journeys may be more complex and although a shorter time is desirable, it may not always be possible. (Paragraph 34 – Home to School Travel and Transport guidance)
For arrangements to be suitable, they must also be safe and reasonably stress free, to enable the child to arrive at school ready for a day of study. (Paragraph 35 – Home to School Travel and Transport guidance)
There is case law that considers the stress-free element of a child’s journey to school. R v Hereford and Worcester County Council, ex parte P 2 (1992) 2 FCT 732 – this is not available online but IPSEA provide a very useful summary. https://www.ipsea.org.uk/r-v-hereford-and-worcester-county-council-ex-parte-p-2-1992-2-fcr-732
Paying for Transport
If your LA asks you to pay for transport to the school of your choice, they have to be able to show that they have a school that is closer, that has spaces and can meet the needs of your child.
If they can do this, they must then also be able to show that the school you are requesting will cost significantly more than their choice. This cost includes the home to school travel and transport costs.
If the LA can evidence both of these, then they are entitled to ask you to pay the cost of transport or to contribute to it.
Transport for young people (16-19)
Unfortunately, the Home to School Transport guidance is based on the Education Act’s definition of eligibility and not the Children and Families Act. Despite young people being eligible for education and EHC Plans until the age of 25, the same cannot be said for Home to School Transport.
The difficult age is 16 and 17, when they are no longer an eligible child and not yet a relevant young adult (as defined in the Education Act).
In January 2019, the DfE published an updated post-16 Transport and Travel support to education and training statutory guidance for local authorities to clarify the sixth form age and adult duties.
Despite this new guidance clarifying that children are now required to stay in education or training until their 18th birthday and that local authorities are responsible for promoting the effective participation in education and training of young people, there was no change to existing policy.
The DfE do state “it would be good practice not to charge a contribution for transport for a young person assessed under the sixth form age duty (eg post 16 and under 19) if it is likely that they will be eligible for free transport under the adult transport duty” however, once again, there is no change in policy to enforce this. Good practice is great but not enforceable.
For children ages 16-19 who are attending school or college, the Local Authority must have a Transport Policy Statement on their website (within their Local Offer). This must contain a specific provision for disabled learners. The LA should consider the impact of a learning difficulty or disability on the young person’s ability to walk and its duty to encourage, enable and assist the participation of young people with learning difficulties and disabilities up to the age of 25 in education and training.
This Transport Policy Statement should set out home to school/college transport arrangements for young people with SEN. However, there can be charges for this. Some Local Authorities offer a sliding scale based on income. Details of what each Local Authority provides for this age group should be clearly available on their Local Offer.
If the LA charge for transport, it must comply with the Equality Act 2010.
Safeguarding & Training
Local Authorities should ensure the suitability of any contractors (or employees) by undertaking the required safeguarding checks (DBS – Disclosure & Barring Service). This includes bus drivers, taxi drivers and escorts. (Paragraph 43 – Home to School Travel and Transport guidance)
Local Authorities should ensure that all drivers and escorts have undertaken appropriate training (and that this is kept up to date).
It is also considered good practice for those responsible for planning and managing school transport (the SEN Transport team) to have undertaken appropriate equality training. (Paragraph 44 – Home to School Travel and Transport guidance)
Home to School Transport Appeals
Local Authorities should have in place and publish their appeals procedure. This should be published alongside the LA’s travel policy statement (which should be on the LA’s Local Offer). The appeals procedure should be a clear two stage process for parents who wish to challenge a decision about the transport arrangements offered or their child’s eligibility. (Annex 2 – Home to School Travel and Transport guidance)
Stage one – review by a senior officer
Within 20 working days of receiving the initial home to school transport decision, parents to make a written request for a review of the decision detailing why they believe the decision should be reviewed and any personal/family circumstances they believe should be considered when the decision is reviewed.
Within 20 working days (*) of receipt of the request, a senior officer reviews the decision and sends the parents a detailed written notification of the outcome of their review with details of how a parent can escalate their case to stage two if appropriate.
Stage two – review by an independent (**) appeal panel
Within 20 working days of receiving notification of the outcome of the review, parents to make a written request to escalate the matter to stage two.
Within 40 working days of receipt of the parents request, an independent panel considers written and verbal representations from both the parents and the officers involved in the case and provide a detailed written notification of the outcome (within 5 working days of the panel hearing).
(*) the timings are recommended and not statutory
(**) independent means the panel members are independent of the original decision making process but are not required to be independent of the LA. They should be suitably experienced (at the discretion of the LA) to balance the needs of the parents and LA.
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