When must the local authority help with transport to school?
The Local Authority (LA) must help transport your child to school, if they are of compulsory school age and do not live within walking distance of the nearest suitable maintained school. Children are of compulsory school age from the school term after their 5th birthday until the end of the school year in which they become 16.
'Walking distance' is 2 miles for a child under 8, and 3 miles for a child over 8.
However, if your child is at a school which is more than 3 miles from home but there is a nearer school which is suitable, then it will not have to provide transport for your child or pay towards the cost.
Your child might also be eligible for school transport if:
Your child has a special need or mobility problem and as a result can't be expected to walk to the nearest suitable school or the school named in their statement of special educational needs (SEN) - this includes children with temporary mobility problems.
The route your child would have to take is too difficult or dangerous to expect them to walk eg if it involves crossing very busy roads and your child is still young.
Children from low income families may also be able to get help with school transport in certain circumstances. For this to apply your child either needs to get free school meals or you and your family are on full working tax credits.
If you come into this category, you can also get help in the following circumstances:
- If your child is under 11 years old they will not be expected to walk more than 2 miles
- If your child attends a secondary school between 2 - 6 miles from home and there are no more than 3 other suitable local authority schools nearer to home
- If your child goes to a secondary school which is between 2 - 15 miles from their homes, and you have chosen this because of its religious status, you will be able to get free transport if there is no other similar school which is closer. This also applies is you have deliberately chosen a non-religious school and all the schools near you are religious.
What type of transport assistance will be provided for my child?
The LA can provide transport by:
- Refunding travel costs to parents
- Funding public transport, eg by providing season tickets
- School buses
- Taxis, including shared taxis
- The provision of escorts to walk children to school or travel with them on other transport
How can I make sure that the transport assistance is suitable for my child?
School transport must be 'suitable'.
This means your child must be able to reach school without stress, strain or difficulty which would prevent them from learning. Your child must also be able to travel in reasonable safety and comfort.
Your child should not travel for more than 45 minutes each way if they are at primary school, and no more than 75 minutes if they are at secondary school. However, if your child attends a special school then these times may be altered.
If you feel that the school transport provided to your child is not suitable, you may need to get supporting independent evidence from either a medical professional or your child's school. This should cover issues such as how tired your child is when they arrive at school, whether they get more tired as the week progresses and how it affects their education and behaviour.
How can Simpson Millar help us?
Simpson Millar have many years of experience helping parents through this legal maze. We can provide some initial advice on whether or not LA is acting lawfully in your case, and help you with transport appeals to the LA and any judicial review which may be needed. We are able to get legal aid funding for support in suitable cases.
It's a complicated area of law and one where parents and Las alike can lose sight of the legal obligations. If you have any concerns about the way it is affecting you and your child give us a ring on 0345 357 9850 / 0808 129 3320.For more information on whether the Local Authorty should help with school transport if your child has a statement of Special Educational Needs Click Here