Here, we give advice to families in Scotland about home to school travel arrangements.  This includes information on the duties of local authorities, statutory walking distances and what to do if your child is not eligible for free transport. 

Local authority duties

All local authorities (LAs) have a legal duty to make suitable travel arrangements for certain children, where needed. These should be free of charge.  

However, they can also choose to make travel arrangements for any pupil. So, even if your child doesn’t meet the criteria, they may still be able to get transport.  Contact your LA for further information.

Statutory walking distances

Your child’s entitlement 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 school
  • your child is eight years of age or more and lives three miles or more away from the school.

Transport does not necessarily have to be provided for the whole distance as long as the child or young person does not have to walk the statutory walking distances mentioned above. 

Some authorities may provide transport for lesser distances, contact your local authority for clarification. All authorities should have a school transport policy which you can request a copy of.

Type of school

The LA must provide free home to school transport for your child if they attend their local school or another school suggested by them, such as a special school. This does not include nursery schools or classes.

If your child attends a school other than the one suggested by your LA, the authority doesn’t have to provide transport. If you made a successful placing request for an alternative LA school, you may find that the authority is unwilling to provide transport. Alternatively your child may be offered transport but you may be charged. If this happens your financial circumstances should be considered.  

If you have made a placing request to an independent or grant-aided school and your request is successful, the LA must meet the fees and any other necessary costs related to your child’s attendance there. This includes transport.

Types of transport

The types of transport that may be arranged for a child or young person can include:

  • passes to access public transport
  • contracted school transport
  • private hire vehicles, such as taxis.

Drivers and escorts

LAs must make sure that drivers and escorts are checked through Disclosure Scotland and that they are made aware of, or receive training on, a child’s needs.

My child is not eligible for free school transport

If a child is not eligible for free transport, it may still be worthwhile asking the authority to provide transport as they may do so if they wish. 

Authorities must also offer spare places on school transport to pupils who wouldn't otherwise qualify for free transport. However parents may be charged for these services and the place may have to be given up if another child, who does qualify, requires it.

For more information on what happens in your LA authority contact them and ask them for a copy of their school transport policy.

Pupil safety

A LA must take into account a child or young person’s safety when considering whether to make arrangements for transport. For example, if a child lives closer to their local school than the statutory walking distance but the route is considered unsafe or unsuitable, the authority must still provide them with education and may decide to provide free transport. 

Authorities also have a duty to take reasonable care for the safety of pupils when under their charge, including in relation to school transport. The transport operator will also have responsibilities in relation to passenger health and safety.

Policy

All LAs must publish their general arrangements and policies on home to school transport. This should include their arrangements for children with additional support needs.

Your local authority may also have a School Travel Plan Co-ordinator (or equivalent) to help develop their School Travel Plans.

How to challenge decisions about transport

If you have a complaint or disagreement about the eligibility of your child for home to school travel support, there may be action you can take. This can vary depending on where you live so contact your LA and ask them for a copy of their school transport policy.

A decision to refuse to provide transport to school may, in some limited circumstances, be subject to legal challenge.

Further help from our charity

The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service can provide information, support and advice on educational provision and entitlements for children and young people on the autism spectrum.

Useful documents and reading

School Transport Guidance Circular Scottish Executive Education Department Circular 7/2003 (2003)

School Transport: Survey of Good Practice Scottish Executive (2007)

Last reviewed: 7 September 2016.