Some deaf children in England will be entitled to free home to school transport from their local authority (LA).
LAs offer help with home-to-school transport by:
- providing a child with a free travel pass
- reimbursing parents’ mileage costs
- offering a child travel training (to encourage independent travelling)
- providing an escort to accompany a child while walking or using public transport
- sending a minibus
- sending a taxi (with or without an escort).
The type of help offered by your LA may change over time to reflect your child’s level of independence. For example, a child may start with door-to-door transport, then progress to meeting transport at a pick-up point, and eventually have independent travel training so they can travel alone on public transport. Any changes to transport arrangements should be discussed with you and your child.
LAs have a duty to provide eligible children with free home-to-school transport when they attend the nearest suitable school.
Your child’s eligibility for transport will depend on:
- their SEND and if this means it’s unreasonable to expect them to walk to school (even if they live within the statutory walking distance)
- if their home-to-school journey is longer than the statutory walking distance
- their social and family circumstances
- the suitability of the walking route for a child of their age/capability.
The statutory walking distance is the distance between home and school that the Government thinks a child should be able to walk:
- two miles for children under eight years of age
- three miles for pupils aged 8–16 years.
Any journey longer than the statutory walking distance will mean a child is automatically entitled to help with transport.
Distance is measured along the nearest available and suitable route your child could use. The LA should take into account factors such as types of road (including speed and volume of traffic), street lighting, whether or not it’s practical for your child to be accompanied by an adult, and the child’s age.
If your preferred school is beyond the statutory walking distance but the LA considers that there is a suitable school which is nearer, it doesn’t have to provide transport.
The LA doesn’t have to provide transport to an independent school unless the school is named on the EHC plan (and even then, distance and other eligibility criteria still apply).
As a rule, transport is recorded on an EHC plan only in exceptional circumstances, where your child has particular transport needs. However, the fact that it’s not recorded doesn’t mean there’s no duty to provide it.
Transport for children with an EHC plan should be non-stressful. The maximum recommended travel time is 45 minutes each way for children in primary school and 75 minutes in secondary school.
Children in low-income families (whether or not they have special needs or disabilities) are eligible for free transport if:
- they’re between eight and ten years old and live more than two miles from their preferred suitable school
- they’re of secondary school age and attending a school (not necessarily the nearest suitable school) between 2 and 6 miles from home
- they attend the nearest school of parental preference for religious reasons and that school is between 2 and 15 miles from home.
LAs should have an appeals procedure for parents to follow if they have cause for complaint or disagreement concerning the eligibility of their child for travel support. The details of appeals procedures should be published alongside the home-to-school transport policy.
You can’t appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal about transport (although it may be discussed as part of an appeal about a school placement).
Your local policy
LAs must publish their home to school transport policy for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Look on your LA website to find your local policy.
Use your Local Offer
Your Local Offer must include details of:
- arrangements for travel to and from schools, post-16 institutions and early years providers (this could include a link to the LAs home to school transport policy)
- the local Independent Advice and Support Service which supports children and young people with SEND and their parents.
Read the law
Download a copy of Home to School Travel and Transport Guidance: Statutory guidance for local authorities (July 2014) for more details, or to help you argue your case that your child should be entitled to free home-to-school transport.
If your child goes to school by taxi or with a pupil escort, we have created videos with BSL signs to help the driver or escort communicate with your child. With thanks to Frank Barnes, Hamilton Lodge and RSD Derby for their support.
Spectrum offers an online course in Safeguarding and Awareness for Home to School Transport Teams which includes a section on deaf awareness for drivers and escorts.