In our last post, specialist lawyer and advocate, Nabil Dance explored the legal duty of local authorities (LAs) to provide school transport to young persons between the ages of 16 to 25. But what happens if your request is rejected? Where can you turn to for help? Here, Nabil tells you what your next steps should be.
If your school transport request has been rejected
Here is a list of potential options to consider if your school transport request has been rejected:
1. Government funding schemes
There are two relatively new schemes of national government funding available which may be able to help with transport costs.
The first is Care to Learn, which can help with the cost of taking your child to their childcare provider, school or college. Travel payments go directly to the school or college your child attends and they will either pay you or arrange your travel for you. There is eligibility criteria to access Care to Learn and it is only available for publicly-funded courses in England.
The other scheme is the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund which, as the name suggests, provides a bursary that young people aged 16 to 19 or their education or training provider can use to pay for things like transport and lunch on the days that they study or train. Again, there is eligibility criteria to qualify for this Bursary Fund so make sure you check that before you apply.
2. Other modes of transport
Discuss alternative modes of transport with the LA. For instance, seeking a place on a local government bus may be more realistic than, say, a taxi with an escort.
3. Partial funding
Seek full funding, but if that’s rejected, try to seek partial funding instead. Partial funding is evidently more realistic.
4. Appeals/complaints (and re-appeals/complaints)
Evidently, parents/carers should consider lodging an appeal or complaint following a rejection. This also applies to re-appeals or further complaints.
Many parents/carers wrongly assume that if the first appeal or complaint was unsuccessful, a further one is not possible. A similar trap is to simply submit a second appeal when the circumstances, and/or evidence, remain the same as the previous appeal, or complaint. If you intend to appeal or re-appeal it is important to gather new and additional evidence as detailed in point 5 below.
5. Gather and submit further evidence
LA representatives deal with a very wide range of complaints or appeals relating to transport. Understandably, many parents/carers take an emotional approach to their application, and this can easily result in a rejection.
As mentioned in the previous article, to help avoid this, any points made in application and complaint should be evidence-based, wherever possible. If making a complaint or appealing against a decision, make sure you gather new and additional evidence to support your case.
You will understand the emotional impact the lack of transport has, however, it’s important to look for the facts that support this. Speak to your school, consider your employer’s position if it means you can’t provide the transport yourself.
6. Other forms of assistance
Educational institutions (e.g. the school or college) and charities may be able to assist financially, or by directly arranging the transport. Ask the school, check the local offer on the council’s website, undertake a web search and see what you can find.
7. Suitability of school placement
There are Government guidelines that can be used to improve the young person’s transport arrangements, for example:
The Department for Education’s, Post-16 transport to education and training guidance says ‘13.4. Best practice suggests that a child of secondary school age may reasonably be expected to travel up to 75 minutes each way to access learning. Local authorities should apply similar expectations to young people of sixth form age.’ Visit Gov.UK for more information.
However, this option needs to be considered carefully, as it may trigger discussions with the LA as to whether the student needs to attend a closer school, or college.
8. The Local Government Ombudsman
The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) is the final stage for complaints about councils and some other organisations providing local public services. Its findings are not legally binding on a LA, but it is persuasive and highly-respected by the vast majority of LA officers.
It is also possible for parents and carers to approach the Secretary of State, or lodge Judicial Review proceedings, however it is recommended to seek specialist legal advice before doing this. You can find a list of lawyers who may be able to help you in the My Family, Our Needs Directory.
School transport can be a complex issue, and if you are in a position where your request has been rejected, you may wish to consider taking a multi-tactical strategic approach, gathering all the new evidence you can and pursuing some (or all) of the above routes, where appropriate, simultaneously to increase your chances of success.
With thanks again to Nabil Dance who can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org