Disabled boy being picked up by school bus

Not long ago, My Family, Our Needs featured a real-life story about a mum who had to leave her job because her son’s school transport provision stopped when he reached the age of 16.

Post-16 school transport can be a complex issue for many families so My Family, Our Needs has teamed up with specialist education lawyer and advocate, Nabil Dance to explore what local authorities have a duty to offer and how they make their decision.

The school transport duty 

Firstly, we should start with a local authority’s duty to provide post-16 transport.

In the context of disabled students, post-16 transport from the local authority applies up until the age of 19, if he or she is in full-time education. However, it may extend beyond 19 if he or she is continuing with their course.

According to government guidance, local authorities have the same duty to provide adequate transport if it ‘assists and enables’ the disabled young person to attend educational institutions until the age of 25.

How do councils decide who qualifies for school transport?

First and foremost, any local authority must consider, and decide, whether providing transport to a disabled child is necessary. This is an objective test.

In undertaking this decision, there are other factors which must be considered, such as:

  • The age of the young person and the nature of the route, or alternative routes, which he or she could reasonably be expected to take.
  • Any wish of that person to be provided with education or training at a particular school, institution or other place, where that wish is based on the person’s religion or belief.
  • The needs of those who could not access education or training provision if no arrangements were made.
  • The journey time to access different establishments.
  • The costs to the public purse.

Transport policies

Local authorities have a duty to prepare and publish an annual transport policy statement detailing the provision of transport or otherwise that it considers is necessary to support students of sixth form age to attend education or training.

Direct funding

One of the most complex considerations for parents, or carers of a disabled young person who is attending an educational institution, can be the cost of day-to-day transport.

A location authority has the option to fund all, or part of an adult’s expenses, if a young person attends a state, or state-funded, educational institution. For older children, it is often the case that their parents will seek a full, or partial, reimbursement of their individual travel expenses.

In seeking whole, or partial funding, the same factors as outlined above will always apply when a local authority considers whether to fund in any way, with necessity being the starting point.

To assist with transparency of decision-making, the Government’s guidelines encourage local authorities to publish the average cost of transport for a young person. If this has not been published, there is nothing stopping a member of the public seeking this information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Your council’s website should have the information on the average cost, and how to make a freedom of information request. This average cost information may be of use when speaking with the council about your child’s transport.

A practical approach

It is important to take a pragmatic and non-emotive approach in submitting a request for transport. Your request should primarily be evidence-based wherever possible to maximise your chances. Gather any evidence you require to make your application and help the local authority make its decision. This could include:

  • A written letter from your employer to explain that there is no flexibility in the work schedule, to assist with the school/college journey.
  • Travel receipts for a whole week of transport.
  • A written letter from the current educational institution emphasising their travel-related concerns.

This approach to evidence gathering is also useful if you need to appeal a decision or make a complaint and it is this topic that I will explore in the next part of this series on post-16 school transport.

With thanks to Nabil Dance for taking the time to share his expertise.

Next time, Nabil will outline the options parents, carers, and young people potentially have if their request for transport (e.g. a taxi, or partial/full funding) is formally turned down by the local authority. Make sure you catch our post later in the week so you don’t miss out.

What are your experiences of post-16 school transport? My Family, Our Needs would love to hear from you so email us at hello@myfamilyourneeds.co.uk

Useful links

The Gov.uk website has information on school transport. There’s also a postcode search to direct you to the relevant page on your council’s website.