Transport for Pupils with Special Educational Needs

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If a child or young person is on roll at a school, it is the parent/ carers responsibility to ensure that they attend the school. Most children are able to get to and from school by walking, cycling or using public transport. However some children will need support for them to make this journey.

Local Authorities have a duty to make free, suitable travel arrangements for all eligible children, and discretion to make travel arrangements for all other children.

What does ‘eligible children’ mean?

There are 4 categories, all of which only relate to children of compulsory school age. (The start of the term following the child’s 5th birthday and ends in the last Friday of June that the child turns 16 years old.)

1. Children unable to walk to school by reason of their SEN, disability, or mobility problem (including temporary medical conditions).

The Local Authority must make suitable travel arrangements for children with SEN, a disability or mobility issue that means they could not reasonably be expected to walk to the school, even if it is within the statutory walking distance.

Examples of this are:

  • Child A attends her nearest primary school which is 1.5 miles from her home. When she started to attend the school her parents understood that she was not eligible for free transport, as there was an available walking route from her home to the school. As the walking route involved climbing over a stile, when Child A broke her leg and her parents applied for support, the local authority assessed Child A as eligible and made transport arrangements for her until she was fit to walk the route again.
  • Child B is a five year old child with cerebral palsy which severely restricts his mobility. Child B attends his nearest suitable school which is one mile from his home. Child B’s doctor has confirmed that in their opinion, Child B’s mobility is sufficiently restricted and it would not be reasonable to expect this child to walk to school. Child B is eligible for free transport to school.
  • Child C is 12 years old and has an autistic spectrum disorder. He attends his nearest suitable school which is 2.5 miles from his home. He is unaware of danger and has to be accompanied even on very short journeys. Child C’s doctor has confirmed that in their opinion, his carer is unable to prevent Child C from being exposed to the risks arising from his lack of awareness of danger for a journey of this length. To comply with their duty the Local Authority must ensure that suitable arrangements for Child C are in place.

2. Children unable to walk in safety to school because of the nature of the route.

Factors to take into account (at the time of usage of the child) include:

  • Age of child
  • Street lighting
  • Width of road
  • Volume and speed of traffic along road
  • Overhanging trees or branches that might obscure fields of vision for the pedestrian or motorist

3. Children living outside ‘statutory walking distance’ (2 miles for children under 8 years old and 3 miles for children over 8 years old.) from the qualifying school.

4. Children entitled to free school meals, from low income families.

The suitability depends upon a number of factors:

  • Best practice shows that they must enable an eligible child to reach school without such stress, strain, or difficulty that they would hinder access the education provided.
  • For arrangements to be ‘suitable’, they must also allow the child to travel in reasonable safety, and in reasonable comfort.
  • Drivers and escorts must be Enhanced CRB checked and should have undertaken disability equality training.
  • Best practice suggests that the maximum each way length of journey for a child of primary school age might be considered to be 45 minutes; whilst a child of secondary school age might be expected to travel up to 75 minutes each way Similarly, a child’s special educational needs and/or disability might be such that it implies a shorter maximum journey time.
  • Whilst the duty to make travel arrangements does not necessarily mean a ‘door to door’ service, the child will also not be expected to walk an unreasonably long distance. Again, 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 they are expected to walk to the pick up or set down points.

What if my child has a statement?

Transport will generally only be recorded on a statement of special educational needs (in Part 6) when a child has a particular transport needs.

Free transport should be provided if:

  • they fit into one of the categories of eligibility and
  • they attend the nearest school to the home address that can meet the child’s needs as outlined in the statement (in Part 4).

Parent/ carers may chose a different school to the nearest suitable school as long as the school will still met the needs of the child as outlined in the statement. However the parent/carers may then become liable for the transport costs to that school.

If the Local Authority names a residential school at some distance from the parent’s homes, the SEN Code of Practice states (8:71 & 8:90) that the LA should provide transport or travel assistance to help maintain/ home school contact.

If you wish to discuss the allocation of the transport please refer back to your SEN education officer.

What if I am not happy with the travel arrangements?

In the first instance please phone and discuss this with the Portsmouth SEN Transport Officer on 02392 0841345 or visit Every Local Authority has an appeal process. 

If you would like to discuss transport issues further, please contact Portsmouth IASS on 02392 732542.

Further useful links:

Home to school Travel and Transport Guidance - a summary of the statutory duties with which local authorities must comply when making home to school travel arrangements.

IPSEA Transport page

Post-16 transport to education and training - Statutory guidance for local authorities

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