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 (Section 3) defines suitable travel arrangements and includes:
- Taking account of children’s needs
- medical needs
- Risk assessments
- Journey times
- Managing behaviour that is part of SEND
Some examples of the guidance include:
‘The arrangements should enable the child to travel in reasonable safety and comfort, and without undue stress, strain or difficulty, so that wherever possible they arrive at school ready to learn.’ (Para 80)
‘As a general guide, the maximum journey time for a child of primary school age should be 45 minutes each way, and 75 minutes each way for a child of secondary school age…’ (para 96)
‘Local authorities should ensure that an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, with a check of the children’s barred list, has been carried out for drivers and passenger assistants involved in providing dedicated school transport;’ (para 99)
‘Some children may find change distressing and benefit from having consistency in their travel arrangements wherever possible. Where a change to travel arrangements is planned, time to get used to the idea of a new route or vehicle, or an opportunity to meet a new driver or passenger assistant, may be helpful’ (para 114)
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.
Read the Suffolk school travel policy (PDF)