Read advice for families in England about home to school travel arrangements at the start and end of the school day.
This subject can be quite complex. If you would like more information about transport between home and school, contact our Education Rights Service on 0808 800 4102. This information does not apply to travel arrangements between educational institutions during the school day. Transport laws are different in other nations, please see our
transport in Wales
and transport in Scotland
web pages for more information.
Local authority duties
All local authorities have a legal duty to make suitable travel arrangements free of charge for some children, where it is needed, so that they can attend school. To find out if this may be the case for your child, see the section called 'Eligible children'.
However, local authorities can choose to make travel arrangements for any pupil, so your child may still be able to get transport even if they don't meet the criteria mentioned in the 'Eligible children' section. See the section called 'Discretionary arrangements' for more details.
Statutory walking distance
Whether your child may be entitled to free home to school transport can depend on the distance from your home to the nearest suitable school.
Transport may be available if:
- your child is under eight years of age and lives two miles or more away from the nearest suitable school
- your child is eight years of age or more and lives three miles or more away from the nearest suitable school.
The two distances mentioned above are measured along a route which a child can walk with reasonable safety. This is explained in more detail in the section 'Eligible children' on the next page.
Is my child eligible for free home to school transport?
The local authority must provide free home to school transport for your child if he or she:
- is of compulsory school age and
- attends one of the establishments listed under 'Types of schools' (below) and
- falls into one of the groups listed in the 'Eligible children' section.
Types of schools
- Maintained (or community) schools.
- Maintained nursery schools.
- Non-maintained special schools.
- Pupil referral units.
- City technology colleges and academies.
- For a child with a statement of special educational needs or education, health and care plan, any independent school if it is named in the statement or plan.
- Children with special educational needs (SEN), disabilities or mobility problems who cannot reasonably be expected to walk to their school (even though it is within the statutory walking distance), and no suitable arrangements have been made by the local authority for them to attend a school nearer to their home.
- Children who attend a school beyond the statutory walking distance, as long as the local authority hasn't made suitable arrangements for the child to board at school, or to attend a school nearer to their home.
- Children who are unable to walk safely to school because of the nature of the route. This applies even if the child lives within the statutory walking distance. The local authority must assess any risks a child might come across on the route. The risk assessment should take place at the times of the day that the pupil would use the route. The local authority should also take into account:
- the child's age
- whether an adult can accompany the child the width of road and whether there is a pavement
- the volume and speed of traffic
- street lighting
- different conditions at different times of the year.
- Children from low income families. This includes children:
- who are entitled to free school meals or
- whose families receive the maximum level of Working Tax Credit.
Primary age: children from low income families who are aged eight, but under 11, must have home to school transport arrangements made if they live more than two miles from the nearest qualifying school.
Secondary age: children from low income families who are aged 11 or over must have home to school transport arrangements made to one of their three nearest qualifying schools, where they live more than two miles, but not more than six miles, from that school. Where a parent has expressed a preference for their child to attend a particular school on the grounds of religion or belief, home to school transport arrangements must be made if the school is over two miles, but not more than 15 miles, from home.
The local authority has a duty to make sure that travel arrangements are suitable. This term is not fully explained in law. However, case law (R v Hereford and Worcester CC ex parte P (1992)) has judged that home to school transport should not cause the child undue stress, strain or difficulty that would prevent him/her from benefiting from the education the school has to offer.
Suitable transport arrangements may therefore depend on a number of things:
- the child must reach school without such stress, strain, or difficulty that would prevent them from being able to benefit from the education being provided
- the child must also travel in reasonable safety and in reasonable comfort.
Guidance issued by the Department of Education states that it would not be considered suitable for a child to make several changes of public transport which results in an unreasonably long journey.
Best practice suggests that the maximum each way length of journey might be:
- 45 minutes each way for a primary-age child
- 75 minutes each way for a secondary-age child
- even shorter for a child with special educational needs and/or a disability.
There is no duty to offer a door-to-door service but if a child needs to walk an unreasonably long distance to catch a bus, that is unlikely to be thought suitable. The maximum walking distance would depend on a number of things, including:
- the child's age
- the child's individual needs
- the nature of the route to and from pick-up and drop-off points.
Drivers and escorts
Local authorities should make sure that drivers and escorts have enhanced Criminal Record Bureau checks and receive disability equality training.
If a child is not eligible for free home to school transport, the local authority may still make transport arrangements for them. Such arrangements do not have to be free of charge. However, if there is a chance that the authority will make a charge, this should be made clear in their school travel policy. Good practice suggests that low income families should not be charged.
All local authorities must publish their general arrangements and policies on home to school transport. This should include their arrangements for children with special educational needs (SEN). Local authorities should consult widely on any changes to such policies.
How to challenge decisions about transport
If you, as a parent, have a complaint or disagreement about the eligibility of your child for home to school travel support, there may be action you can take. Guidance from the DCSF suggests that local authorities should have an appeals procedure in place for parents to follow. This should be published alongside the authority's home to school travel policy.
If your child has a statement of special educational needs
For children with statements of special educational needs, transport is usually recorded in Part 6 of the statement. This part of the statement is not legally binding. However, there is a general expectation that local authorities will make suitable arrangements for transport if this is mentioned.
Local authorities may also provide transport for children with statements whose parents have not made suitable arrangements themselves. This may be because the school is difficult to access by public transport and parents don't drive. DCSF guidance advises that any decisions about transport should be based on a child's individual needs.
As a parent, you can make a request for your child to attend a particular school. The local authority does not have to name your preferred school on your child's plan or statement if they believe that another (nearer) school would be able to meet your child's needs. Sometimes a local authority will name your preferred school on the condition that you meet all or part of the transport costs. This arrangement should be written into your child's statement.
Under certain circumstances, if you do not agree with your local authority about the school that they have named in your child's plan or statement, you can appeal to Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST). However, you are not able to go to tribunal if your choice of school is named in the plan or statement.
The courts have said that in some cases, local authorities can name two schools (or one school and at least one other type of school) in a plan or statement to allow parents the option of appeal. This will usually happen when the local authority agrees to name your preferred school but still believes that a school closer to your home could meet your child's needs. The plan or statement will say that you are therefore responsible for arranging transport for your child.
If the local authority names your choice of school in the plan or statement and the distance from your home is over the statutory walking distance (see the section called 'Statutory walking distance'), the authority must pay transport costs, unless an agreement is reached that you should pay.
If an agreement is reached that you will pay for transport, this agreement does not have to last for the whole time your child attends that school. The courts have said that if the family circumstances change and parents are no longer able to make suitable arrangements, the local authority must use their discretion to decide whether to offer assistance.
If your local authority names a residential school in your child's plan or statement, which is some distance from your home, they should provide transport or transport assistance.
The authority should also talk to you and make arrangements for you to visit your child and attend any important meetings, such as annual reviews.
Further help for parents trying to obtain an appropriate education for their child is available from our Education Rights Service.
Quick link to this page: www.autism.org.uk/transport-England