Expert Education Law advice courtesy of the dedicated team of nationally respected specialist lawyers at HCB.
School Transport can be a common cause of disputes between families and local authorities. Whilst every child is entitled to an education, there can be real difficulties in actually getting to the school
With reductions in budgets, local authorities continue to look to make savings. Over the past few years, local authorities have focused many of their budget cuts on school transport. That is because school transport can be very expensive.
Children automatically eligible for free school transport
It is the duty of Local Authorities to provided suitable and free transport to and from school for all eligible 5-15 year olds. All arrangements need to take into consideration each child’s specific need and therefore transport should be made suitable for everyone – including those with disabilities, special educational needs, and distance from the school. This will involve an individual assessment to determine what transport would be most suitable, and the Department for Education should publish regular guidelines on what constitutes appropriate transport.
If a Local Authority claims that a child is not eligible for specific transport, it can become a legal issue. Parents can contest this decision with help from a specialist solicitor. As soon as a child is deemed eligible, the Local Authority are required to provide free school transport for them.
Children not automatically eligible for free school transport
For anyone who is not deemed eligible, the Local Authority still has the power to provide transport for students. If a child is not eligible and a parent still applies for transport, the Local Authority should still consider the application and give reasons should they refuse. There is no policy to automatically refuse young people who are not considered eligible.
However, if a Local Authority agrees to provide school transport to a child who is not considered eligible, it may be at a price and parents may be asked to contribute towards the cost of the transport.
School transport for 16 and 17 year olds
Although 16 and 17 year olds are still legally required to participate in education, there is no obligation for the Local Authority to provide school transport. They are only required to provide a Transport Policy Statement to ensure that all students with special education needs or disabilities will still have transport arrangements.
Unfortunately, there is no requirement for the Local Authority to provide free transport for students who are over 15, they are only required to make reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils to ensure they have equal access to education services. Though there are no clear legal guidelines for the Local Authority to comply, a young person may request free transport in light of their disabilities.
Social services duty to provide school transport
If the Local Authority have a duty to deliver services for disabled people to access education, then they may also be required to provide transport in line with their social care responsibilities.
This is only necessary when the education roles of the Local Authority have no statutory liability to make transport available, so it is important to make sure your child is eligible beforehand. If they are not eligible – an application towards discretionary transport can be put forwards. Should that also fall through, social care responsibility should be considered.
My local authority are refusing to provide school transport
If you are struggling to secure transport for your child you have a few options. You can either complain to the Local Authority, bring up the matter with the Local Government Ombudsman, or you can challenge the result via Judicial Review.
Even if transport is offered, if it is not suitable then it can still be contested. If you believe your child’s method of school transport is unsuitable you can still make a complaint to the Local Authority or put forward an application for Judicial Review.
If you require advice about school transport law, or you are looking to resolve a dispute through Judicial Review, you can get in touch with one of our experts to help navigate you through the process and get the best results for your family.