Read advice to families in Wales about home to school travel arrangements at the start and end of the school day. This information does not apply to families living in other nations, where the law is different.
This subject can be quite complex. If you would like more information about transport between home and school, please complete our online form or telephone our Education Rights Service on 0808 800 4102, option 7.
Local authority duties
There is a legal duty for the local authority to provide pupils of compulsory school age (5 to 16 years) with free transport to their nearest suitable school if:
- they live over the statutory walking distance and
- the local authority has not made arrangements for the child to become a registered pupil at a suitable school closer to home.
When deciding which is the nearest suitable school, the local authority must consider any disability your child has and any special educational needs (SEN) whether your child has a statement of SEN or not.
Transport arrangements may include
- providing transport
- paying the cost of a child’s transport expenses.
Statutory walking distances
The local authority must provide transport:
- where a child of compulsory school age receives primary education and lives over two miles from the nearest suitable school
- where a child of compulsory school age receives secondary education and lives over three miles from the nearest suitable school.
The two distances mentioned above are measured by the shortest ‘available’ route.
A route is considered 'available' if:
- it is safe for a child without a disability or learning difficulty to walk the route alone
- it is safe for a child to walk the route with an escort.
Is my child eligible for free home to school transport?
Your child will be entitled to free transport if they live more than two miles or more from their maintained school, pupil referral unit, or non-maintained special school.
Your child will be entitled to free transport if they live three miles or more from their maintained school, pupil referral unit or non-maintained special school.
The entitlement also includes travel between home and a place other than where the child is a registered pupil. For example, travel at the beginning or end of the day, if your child attends a different school for some of the week.
Children with special educational needs (SEN) and/or a disability
A local authority must consider a pupil’s special educational needs, regardless of whether the child has a statement of SEN, when deciding which is the nearest suitable school to the child’s home. A suitable school for a child with SEN might be further away than the nearest local school and a high proportion of pupils with SEN are likely to be entitled to free transport.
The transport requirements of children with SEN or a disability will depend on individual circumstances and the route they must travel. If a child cannot walk to school because of the nature of their special education needs or disability, the local authority must provide free home to school transport even if the distance is less than the statutory walking distances.
Local authorities are required to have clear and consistent policies on transport provision for pupils with SEN and for those with disabilities, covering conditions such as autism spectrum disorder.
Children with a statement of special educational needs (SEN)
If your child has a statement or SEN that names a school, which is more than the statutory walking distance from home, the local authority will have to provide free transport from home to school, unless arrangements have been made for your child to be registered at a school closer to home, or to board at, or near, the school.
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 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 statement, you can appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal Wales (SENTW). However, you are not able to go to tribunal if your choice of school is named in the statement.
If the local authority names your choice of school in the statement and the distance from your home is over the statutory walking distance (see the section called 'Statutory walking distances'), 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.
Transport arrangements made must:
- be safe
- take a reasonable amount of time
- not cause the your child unreasonable levels of stress so that he/she is unable to benefit from the education provided when he/she arrives at school.
Guidance suggests that the maximum journey length each way might be:
- no more than 45 minutes for a primary aged child
- no more than 60 minutes for a secondary aged child.
There may be exceptional circumstances when those time limits cannot be met, for example due to unusually heavy traffic, road works, diversions, breakdowns etc.
There may also be circumstances where, in rural areas, the nearest suitable school is further away than the travel time limit would allow.
Drivers and escorts
Escorts may be used if there are risks posed by your child’s age, any special educational needs, and general behaviour on the route. Escorts can help the driver by supervising your child’s behaviour. Escorts should have suitable experience and training on how to work with and supervise your child effectively.
All escorts and drivers (apart from public service bus drivers) will be vetted under the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) scheme.
Other travel arrangements
The local authority has a duty to make other travel arrangements for children of compulsory school age, if it is judged to be necessary, to enable your child’s attendance at school. This could include difficulties your child may have arising from his/her learning difficulty or disability. For example:
- your child has a disability and is not able to walk to school, even if it is below the statutory walking distance from home
- your child needs an escort or special equipment.
Any arrangement made must:
- be safe
- not take an unreasonable amount of time
- not cause unreasonable levels of stress
- be free of charge.
When deciding whether travel arrangements are necessary, the local authority can consider whether your child is attending the nearest suitable school to his or her home. If they are not, the local authority may decide that arrangements are not necessary.
Care of pupils travelling to school
The local authority, transport operator, a driver, escort and a school may all have responsibility in law for the care your child while travelling to or from school, or when they are getting on or off of the vehicle.
Local authorities, bus operators and school should consider jointly the risks for your child at embarkation/disembarkation points on/or immediately outside the school premises. Risk assessments should ensure that:
- there are sufficient levels of supervision in school grounds and in bus bays where children get on and off of the bus
- there are clear road markings for embarkation areas
- as far as possible, pedestrian and vehicle areas are separated
- there are safe crossing points
- embarkation areas are clear of obstructions
Good practice suggests that head teachers make sure that there is supervision of embarkation and disembarkation whether on, outside of, or near school premises.
Welsh medium schools
Each local authority must promote access to education through the medium of the Welsh language. Accessing Welsh medium schools can involve longer journeys in those local authority areas where there are fewer Welsh medium schools. Generally, in these circumstances, authorities should have clear policies and use their discretion to provide free transport even where the chosen Welsh medium school in not the nearest school.
In January 2010, the Welsh Assembly implemented an All Wales Travel Behaviour Code. The code is compulsory for all learners up to the age of 19 years (or over 19 if they started their course before reaching 19). It applies to all modes of travel to and from education institutions. This includes contract buses, public buses, public trains, walking, taxis, scooters and motorbikes, cycling and journeys in learner’s own or other’s cars.
The Code sets out standards of behaviour expected of a learner when travelling to and from their place of learning. As a parent, you need to be aware of the implications if your child does not follow the Code. The local authority can withdraw free transport, or their place of learning can take action against them. If transport is withdrawn, it will be your responsibility, as parent to arrange suitable transport to and from your child’s school.
It suggests that parents:
- make sure that your child has understood the Code
- accept responsibility for encouraging good behaviour and ensuring your child abides with the Code
- be aware of the implications of breaches of the Code and the effect this can have on your child’s right to the provision of transport to and from his/her education institution
- be responsible for your child’s continued attendance at their place of learning if transport is withdrawn
- co-operate with educational institutions, transport operators and local authorities to enforce the Code
In addition to the legal requirements, local authorities may make travel arrangements they think fit to enable your child to receive education. This might include:
- free transport for those living within the statutory distance from school
- transport for those children under 5 or over 16 years
- transport to schools other than the nearest suitable school, for example for religious reasons
If a local authority does make discretionary travel arrangements, it must make sure that any policies are fair, reasonable and comply with relevant legislation, including equality legislation and the Human Rights Act 1998.
The local authority may charge for any discretionary transport arrangements it agrees to make.
You can request a copy of your local authority’s home to school transport policy to see if your child might qualify for help with transport.
Useful documents and reading
The Learner Travel (Wales) Measure 2008 sets out provisions for school/learner transport in Wales.
The Learner Travel Operational Guidance describes the Welsh Assembly Government’s interpretation of the law for school transport.
The All Wales Travel Behaviour Code.
Further help for parents trying to obtain an appropriate education for their child is available from our Education Rights Service.
Last reviewed: 10 March 2016