The government issued new guidance ahead of schools returning which acknowledges that social distancing has reduced public transport capacity.
They make a clear distinction in the guidance between dedicated school transport and public transport.
Dedicated transport key points from the guidance:
- The 2metre/1 metre rule does not apply in the same way for dedidated school transport, though the government asks for distancing in vehicles where possible
- Pupils grouped on transport, where possible, should reflect bubbles adopted in school
- Hand sanitiser at start/end of journeys
- Additional cleaning of vehicles
- Organised queuing and boarding
- Use of face-coverings for children (except those aged under 11)
Suffolk on Board have some FAQ's around Coronavirus and a helpful guide about school travel for parents:
In the section below, we focus on Special Educational Needs and Disability in relation to school and college transport, though you may be eligible in other circumstances (the distance you live from nearest suitable school, the route to school is unsafe, you are on a low income).
The Local Offer is where you can find information about the range of local services and opportunities available, including transport arrangements for children and young people with SEND.
For young children below compulsory school age*, there is no direct duty to arrange transport - sections 509A and 508C of the Education Act 1996 give local authorities discretionary power to make transport arrangements.
*compulsory school age starts the term following their fifth birthday.
The Suffolk School Travel policy (PDF) grants discretionary arrangements for children approaching the age of 5 years:
SCC will also provide funded school transport for “Rising 5-year-olds” (i.e. children who are attending reception but have not yet turned 5 provided that they live more than 2 miles from their nearest suitable school. (page 11)
Under section 508B of the Education Act 1996 local authorities are under a duty to provide free school transport to eligible children.
You may be entitled to free transport getting your child (of compulsory school age*) to a qualifying** school if:
- your child has special educational needs, a disability or mobility problems or
- the route your child will take to school is unsafe or
- you live beyond the statutory walking distance*** or
- you are on a low income
* Compulsory school age starts the term after your child's 5th Birthday, and ends the last Friday in June of the academic year in which they turn 16.
** A qualifying school is a maintained, an academy (a free school is a type of academy), a pupil referral unit or an Independent school named in an Education, Health and Care plan. An exception would be where the local authority consider there is a suitable school which is nearer to you.
***For children aged over 5 but under the age of 8 the statutory walking distance is 2 miles; for children aged over the age of 8 and under 16 the statutory walking distance is 3 miles. The statutory distance is measured by the shortest route along which a child, accompanied if necessary, may walk safely.
(a full definition can be found in the Education Act 1996 - Schedule 35B)
You only need to satisfy one of the eligibility categories, if your child is eligible due to SEN, disability or mobility problems, the other categories are irrelevant.
School age children with Special Educational Needs, Disability or mobility problems
Your child may be entitled to home to school transport if they have Special Educational Needs, a disability or mobility problems, which mean they cannot reasonably be expected to walk to school* (provided the local authority has made no arrangements for attendance at a nearer suitable school).
The local authority will consider whether a child could reasonably be expected to walk if accompanied, and whether their parent can reasonably be expected to accompany them.
It may also be unreasonable to expect a child to walk to school because they lack a sense of danger.
Will the local authority automatically pay for transport to a school named in the Education, Health and care (EHC) plan?
Not necessarily, this will depend on whether your child can reasonably be expected to walk to the school and whether there is a nearer suitable school.
Where you disagree with the local authority about the suitability of a school named in a final EHC plan you can appeal to the SEND Tribunal
The Home to School Travel and Transport Guidance (paras 34 and 35) defines suitable travel arrangements and include:
- enabling an eligible child to reach school safely, reasonably stress free and ready for a day of study
- suggested maximum reasonable journey times of 45 minutes for primary school children, and 75 minutes for secondary school children.
- School transport providers and escorts must be subject to enhanced DBS checks and have received disability equality training.
Paragraph 35 says:
The maximum distances will depend on a range of circumstances, including the age of the child, their individual needs and the nature of the routes
Section 508A of the Education Act 1996 says that local authorities must also promote the use of sustainable travel and transport for all children and young people (of compulsory school age) who travel to receive education in the local authority’s area.
Section 509AA is where you can find the duty to support young people of sixth form age (which is from the last Friday in June in the academic year in which they turn 16 but under 19). If a young person began the course they are studying at school or college before their 19th birthday, they remain of sixth form age until they complete that course.
The ‘Transport to education and training for young people aged 16 and over’ statutory government guidance says:
The overall intention of the sixth form age transport duty is to ensure that:
• learners of sixth form age are able to access the education and training of their choice; and
• if support for access is requested, this will be assessed and provided where necessary. (6)
This means that legislation gives local authorities the discretion to determine what transport and financial support are necessary.
They do not have to provide free transport to education for young people over compulsory school age. However, they must publish a transport policy statement setting out what reasonable travel choices are available to enable 16 to19 year old’s to participate in education or training.
As is the case for school-age children, the post-16 guidance also says that transport should enable a young person to reach their place of education or training without such stress, strain or difficulty that would prevent them from benefiting from the education provided.
Young people with SEND may need help with transport because they may not be able to travel to their education setting due to their disability or mobility problems, or where they have to travel further afield to attend a suitable setting.
The local authority must consider individual circumstances before reaching a decision. As they do not have to provide free transport, the offer might include part-funded travel (such as a bus pass/travel card), and/or might include travel training. You can find links to information about bus passes and travel training within our final dropdown 'useful links'.
Read the dropdown ‘challenging a transport decision’ for our advice about what you can do if you are unhappy with the outcome of an application.
Section 508F contains the duty to support Adult learners. (who are aged19+). If they started a course of further education before their 19th birthday, they remain of sixth form age until they complete that course (section 509AA will apply - see dropdown 16-19).
The ‘Transport to education and training for young people aged 16 and over’ statutory government guidance says:
…the local authority is required to make such arrangements for the provision of transport as they consider necessary in respect of:
(a) adults (i.e. those who are aged 19 or over)… and
(b) relevant young adults with an EHC plan (…up until the age of 25) (7)
Where the local authority makes such arrangements, any transport provided must be free of charge. Where the local authority decides not to provide transport arrangements in a particular case, they still have discretion to pay all or part of the reasonable travelling expenses for the student. (9)
The post-16 guidance and the Suffolk post-16 policy applies up until the age of 25.
The key difference to this age category is that, where the local authority considers it necessary for the young person to be enabled to attend their setting, they must provide this free of charge.
Read the post-16 transport to education guidance (Department for Education)
If you think you may be eligible you can apply online
For students aged 16 to 19 apply here
You can contact the Customer Service Team on 0345 606 6173 and someone will complete the form with you if you are unable to complete these online.
If you are declined you may appeal, read more in the next dropdown (challenging a transport decision).
Where the local authority (Family Services team) have agreed to fund transport to a specialist setting Apply here
You can contact Passenger Transport in the first instance with any questions about, or to make an application:
Phone: 0345 606 6173
Review/Appeal (internal appeal process)
You may challenge a transport decision (within 20 working days of the date of your refusal letter) about/where:
- the transport arrangements offered;
- your child’s eligibility;
- you disagree with the distance measurement between your home and your child’s school or college in relation to statutory walking distances;
- you consider that the shortest available walking route is unsafe for a child, accompanied as necessary;
- there are other exceptional circumstances which mean that you cannot arrange for your child to access their school, examples might include your child’s special needs or medical condition means that they cannot be expected to walk to their school, or your medical condition means that you cannot accompany your child to their school;
- you feel the local authority has not applied this policy correctly.
Prepare your supporting evidence
Give detail about how or why you feel a policy is unfair, unlawful or has been applied incorrectly.
Provide supporting information about your child or young person’s disability or risk around getting to school or college safely.
Possible evidence might include:
- Your child or young person's views for example, have they indicated they feel unable to, or are worried about getting to school or college on their own
- Experiences of managing your child ‘out and about’, eg. if they are prone to risky behaviour, or are unable to understand a bus timetable for example.
- Any information which shows that the suggested journey will cause stress and/or prevent your child from arriving 'ready to learn', for example, long journey times, unsafe route or the number of bus changes.
- Needs and provision within an EHC plan for example, specific sensory & learning difficulties, mobility or concerns around safety etc.
- Letters or reports from medical practitioners explaining any health or mobility needs
- Copies of educational notes, school/college reports, support plans, incident or behaviour logs etc.
- Social care reports or CAF notes from Family Network Meetings – notes recording any difficulties keeping your child safe
What else can I do if I am unsuccessful with my appeal?
Complain to the local authority
Complain to the Local Government & Social care Ombudsman (LG&SCO)
You can complain about the local authority to the LG&SCO if you feel they have acted or applied a policy unfairly, see our information within 'raising concerns'
The Suffolk SEND 16+ Transitions Guide (PDF) for information about young people moving beyond year 11.
Suffolk Local Offer (what's available locally for children and young people with SEND)
Suffolk on board (travel support for learners with SEND)
Bus passes (for disabled people)
Travel training for young people (giving students the confidence to travel)
Watch these two videos about travel training:
Legislation & statutory guidance
Education Act 1996 (contains the legal duties)
Home to School Travel and Transport Guidance (statutory guidance for local authorities from the Department for Education)
Transport to education and training for young people aged 16 and over (statutory guidance for local authorities from the Department for Education)
SENTAS - Special Educational Needs Transport Advocacy Service