Local authorities have particular duties towards some groups of children and young people who require home to school transport arrangements.
The entitlements differ depending on the age of the child or young person.
Local authorities are required to arrange free, suitable, home to school transport for children of compulsory school age who are ‘eligible’, to their nearest suitable qualifying school (section 508B of the Education Act (“EA”) 1996).
Eligible children fall within four categories, set out in Schedule 35 EA 1996:
- Children with SEN, a disability or a mobility difficulty
- Children whose route to school is unsafe
- Children who live beyond the statutory walking distance
- Children from low-income families.
If a child meets the criteria for any one of these categories, they should be entitled to home to school transport.
Compulsory school age begins with the start of term following a child’s fifth birthday and ends on the last Friday in June in the academic year in which s/he turns 16.
A qualifying school is a:
- maintained (publicly funded) school or nursery
- non-maintained special school
- pupil referral unit
- city technology college, or
- an academy.
For a child with an EHC plan, an independent school can also be a qualifying school if this is the only school or the nearest school named in Section I of the EHC plan (Paragraph 15(3) Schedule 35B EA 1996).
Children who receive education somewhere other than at school (for example, at an alternative provision for children who are excluded or have medical needs which mean they cannot attend school) can also qualify as eligible children.
The law relating to home to school transport relates to all children not just to children with SEN although there is a specific category of eligible children into which most children with SEN are likely to fall, i.e. Children with SEN, disabilities or mobility problems. However, this is not necessarily the case. Children will only be entitled to free home to school transport under this category if they cannot reasonably be expected to walk to school.
Torbay Council’s Home to School Transport Policy explains when children and young people will be entitled to receive free or subsidised transport to school and college.
Parent(s) and carer(s) should read the relevant policy carefully prior to making any decision regarding a school or college placement for their child, if the provision of school or college transport is an important factor in their decision-making process.
For more information on Torbay school transport, see http://www.torbay.gov.uk/schools-and-learning/school-transport/, where is states:
“If your child meets the distance criteria to entitle them to free school travel there will be no need to assess them for entitlement on grounds of special educational needs and/or disability.
“If you live closer than the statutory walking distance, an assessment will be made and free transport will be provided if your child is unable to walk to school because of their mobility problems or associated health and safety issues related to their special educational needs or disability.
“If your child is able to walk to school but needs to be accompanied to do so, you will normally be expected to accompany them.
“All requests for transport on grounds of special educational needs and/or disability will be assessed on their individual merits. Free transport will only be provided to the nearest suitable school.
“Where transport is provided, the mode of travel will be decided by us based on the evidence that you provide. Normally assistance will be in the form of a bus pass, if appropriate. However, specialist transport is available where needed, including wheelchair accessible vehicles and escorts to accompany pupils who need supervision or assistance on their journey.
“Awards for transport on grounds of special educational needs or disability will be reviewed annually.”
IPSEA (Independent Provider of Special Education Advice) have also put together some information regarding transport.