Can My Child Get Free Home to School Transport?
Your child may be entitled to get free transport to school. However, this depends on how far away from school they live and whether they have any Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). If you think your child should get free transportation and your Local Authority has refused it, you have the right to appeal.
For legal advice call our Education Solicitors and SEN Lawyers.
Who is Eligible for Free School Transport?
Every child in England and Wales aged between 5 and 16 qualifies for free school transport if they attend their nearest suitable school and live:
- At least 2 miles from the school if they are aged under 8
- At least 3 miles from the school if they are aged between 8 and 16
Free school transport must also be provided if no safe walking route is available, regardless of how far from the school the child lives. If you are concerned that the walk to school isn’t safe, you should contact your Local Authority.
Families who receive the maximum Working Tax Credit or with children who are entitled to free school meals can get free home to school transport if they are:
- Aged between 8 and 11 and live at least 2 miles away from school
- Aged between 11 and 16 and their school is 2 to 6 miles away, and there aren’t 3 or more suitable schools closer to home
- Aged between 11 and 16 and their school is 2 to 15 miles away, as long as it’s their nearest school favoured on the grounds of religion or belief.
A child is also eligible for free school transport if their SEND means they’re unable to walk to school, regardless of how far away they live.
What if My Child has a Statement of Special Educational Needs or Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)?
The Local Authority has to provide school transport if your child is attending the school named in their statement and it’s more than the statutory walking distance away or your child cannot walk there by themselves.
However, if you asked for that particular school to be named when the Local Authority considered that your child could go to a nearer school, then it can avoid providing school transport. In this case, the Local Authority may agree to name your choice in the statement on the basis of 'parental preference' and that you will arrange transport.
If this is the case, this must be clearly stated in Part 4 of the statement or Section I of an EHCP. And on this basis, the Local Authority doesn’t have to provide school transport. Therefore, parents and carers shouldn’t agree to a school being named on this basis without carefully considering their options, including an appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.
By law, the Local Authority can’t refuse to provide travel assistance to the school named in the statement or EHCP based on the fact that the pupil could attend a nearer school after the statement or EHCP has been issued.
As EHCPs can be provided to young people up to the age of 25, transport for adult learners is a grey area. The Local Authority has the discretion to make transport arrangements as they consider necessary to a young person over the age of 16 rather than a duty to do so. Consequently, seeking transport for those between 16 and 25 can be a more complex task than for a child of compulsory school age. However, the remedies below will still apply.
Will I Be Expected to Take My SEND Child to School?
Local Authorities can’t assume that if parents have a car, they will take the child to school. And often, children with SEND are in different schools from their siblings, and their parents simply cannot be in two schools at the same time. A Local Authority can’t insist that parents provide transport and you can refuse to provide transport without having to give a reason.
Also, Local Authorities can’t take into account the fact that the child has a mobility allowance or a motability car. Mobility allowances are intended for your child's travel to hospital appointments, specialised play schemes, etc. You can voluntarily drive your child to school on the basis that your travel costs, such as fuel, insurance, road tax, depreciation and repair costs, will be refunded.
If your child needs an escort, the Local Authority can’t assume that you’ll act as an escort, and again, you can refuse without giving a reason. If the Local Authority provides escorts, check that they’re properly trained in dealing with children with SEND.
What if the Local Authority Refuses Transport?
Firstly, you should use the Local Authority’s own internal appeal system. The appeal should be carried out reasonably quickly, especially if your child is missing school until the situation is resolved. In such circumstances, the Local Authority may need to offer transport to school on a temporary basis until the appeal outcome.
If the Local Authority doesn’t provide an efficient appeal system, or if you feel the appeal result was unlawful, you can make an application to the High Court for Judicial Review.
Your child may be eligible for Legal Aid provided that the transport problem is one that’s arisen during your child's attendance at the school and isn’t a problem caused during the admissions process.
For free legal advice, call our Public Law Solicitors
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