With pressures on local authority budgets, home to school transport is often a service that suffers, leading to local authority’s refusing to either provide home to school transport, or providing a cheaper provision that is not suitable. Samantha Hale, solicitor at HCB Solicitors explains when local authorities are legally required to provide home to school transport for children of compulsory school age and what to do if this is refused or unsuitable transport is provided.
When is a local authority legally required to provide home to school transport?
Local authorities are legally required to provide home to school transport to children of compulsory school age who are deemed to be ‘eligible’. A child can be deemed to be ‘eligible’ for a number reasons which includes but is not limited to:
- The child is attending their nearest suitable school, but the distance from the family home to the school is over the statutory walking distance. This is 2 miles for children aged under 8 years, or over 3 miles for children aged 8 years and over.
- The child is attending their nearest suitable school, which is within statutory walking distance, as defined above, but it is not reasonable to expect them to walk due to the nature of any special educational needs, disabilities or mobility needs they may have.
What can I do if my local authority refuses to provide my child with home to school transport?
If the local authority refuses to provide home to school transport, you should be given the opportunity to appeal against the local authority’s decision, through a process specifically for transport appeals. This process should normally be completed first before trying any other remedy.
If this appeal is unsuccessful you could consider either a complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, or challenging the refusal legally through Judicial Review Proceedings. You cannot do both, so I recommend speaking to a solicitor for advice on which option is best for you.
What can I do if the matter is too urgent for the appeals process to take place?
If the matter is too urgent to go through the appeals process I recommend speaking to a solicitor to about Judicial Review, as this is sometimes an appropriate remedy for urgent cases.
What can I do if the local authority has agreed to provide home to school transport, but the transport provided is not suitable?
The transport provided must be suitable. In order to comply with this the arrangements should enable your child to travel to school safely and without any undue stress or difficulty so that where possible they can arrive at school ready to learn.
If the transport provided is not suitable, then the same options to appeal, make a complaint Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, or Judicial Review apply regardless of whether you want to challenge a refusal to provide transport, or failure to provide suitable transport.
Can transport be included in my child’s EHCP?
Transport can be included in an EHCP as special educational provision where there is an educational need for this. However, the general stance is that transport will only be included in an EHCP in exceptional circumstances. If transport is not included in your child’s EHCP, I recommend considering an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability), to try and include the provision in Section F.
If transport is not included in my child’s EHCP, do the local authority still have to provide transport to the school named in the EHCP?
There is no separate duty on the local authority to provide your child with transport to the school named in their EHCP, if the provision is not included in Section F. As that is only included in exceptional cases, most children with EHCPs will only be provided with a provision of home to school transport if there child is deemed to be an ‘eligible child’ for the purpose of transport, as set out earlier.
Sometimes a local authority will name a school in a child’s EHCP ‘at parental preference’. This is usually done to avoid the local authority having to pay the school fees if an independent school is named and/ or to avoid having to arrange and fund home to school transport. This can be legal but only in certain circumstances. I therefore recommend seeking advice from a solicitor if a school is named in your child’s EHCP at ‘parental preference’ so they can advise if this is lawful. They can also provide advice on how to challenge the inclusion of the wording ‘parental preference’ in an EHCP.
Find further information on Home to School Transport at SENTAS – Special Educational Needs Travel Advocacy Service.
Find out more about HCB Solicitors here.