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.
Read the Suffolk school travel policy