Some deaf children in Northern Ireland will be entitled to free home-to-school transport from the Education Authority (EA).
The EA offers help with home-to-school transport by a range of means, including:
- providing a child with a free bus pass
- paying parents a car allowance
- sending a minibus
- sending a taxi (with or without an escort).
The method chosen by the EA will depend on the age of the child, the duration of the journey and whether it would mean an unreasonably long time away from the family home (due to early starts and late returns).
The EA has a duty to provide pupils of compulsory school age with free home-to-school transport when they attend the nearest suitable (grant-maintained) school, if they meet eligibility criteria.
Children below compulsory school age aren’t eligible for help with transport, even if they’re already in a reception class.
Your child’s eligibility for transport will depend on:
- if their home-to-school journey is longer than the set walking distance
- their SEN or disability and if this means it’s unreasonable to expect them to walk to school
- the suitability of the walking route for a child of their age or capability.
The set 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 11 years old
- three miles for pupils aged 11 and over.
Any journey longer than the set 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.
If your preferred school is beyond the set walking distance but the EA considers that there is a suitable school with places available which is nearer, it doesn’t have to provide transport.
If your child has a statement of SEN, the general arrangements described above might not apply. Children with statements will have had the decisions about that their school placement, including their entitlement to free home-to-school transport, made by the EA when their statement was written.
The EA has a discretionary power to provide home-to-school transport to a child with a statement who is attending an independent school. The EA has to balance this power with using funding and resources efficiently.
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.