DfE launches school transport review

Tristan Donovan
Monday, September 11, 2017

The Department for Education is reviewing guidance on school transport for disabled children after an inquiry found half of councils have published misleading or unlawful guidance.

Council school transport services have faced deep funding cuts since 2010, the IFS report found
Council school transport services have faced deep funding cuts since 2010, the IFS report found

An inquiry into school transport by the disability charity Contact examined the policies of 59 local authorities and found that 51 per cent did not comply with the law. These included policies that wrongly claimed only children with an education, health and care plan were eligible for free school transport.

A report outlining the inquiry's findings said such statements are at odds with education law, which states that any child with special educational needs, a disability or mobility problems that prevent them from walking to their nearest suitable school qualifies for free transport regardless of how far they live from the school.

The inquiry also conducted an online survey of 2,568 parents of disabled children about their experiences of securing school transport.

Nearly three quarters (73 per cent) said their local authority provides transport for their child and 74 per cent of those who received transport got it for free. However 23 per cent said they had been refused transport, with a top reason for refusal being that their child lived too close to school.

Almost half of parents said they could not work or had to cut their working hours because of school travel arrangements and nearly a quarter said their child struggles to learn because of stressful journeys to school.

The inquiry recommended that the Department for Education conducts a review of the statutory guidance on school transport for all disabled children and extends eligibility for transport to 16- and 17-year-olds to reflect the change in school participation age.

In response to the findings, the Department for Education said it would review its guidance.

"We are investing £222m over four years to help local authorities improve special educational needs and disability (SEND) services and local authorities must provide school transport for all eligible children with SEND," a DfE spokesman said.

"In light of the findings by Contact, the department will review the statutory guidance for local authorities to ensure it is clear."

Amanda Batten, chief executive of Contact, called the decision to review the guidance "a huge win".

The inquiry, which was chaired by Eastbourne's former Conservative MP Caroline Ansell, also urged local councils to review and correct their policies, and to work with local parent-carer forums and transport providers on the commissioning of school transport.

It also called on the UK's devolved governments to make their laws on disabled children's right to school transport clearer.

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