School transport challenges continue as DfE delays revised guidance

Tuesday 20 July 2021

Tags: education, campaigns, school transport, home-to-school transport, department for education

Parents are still struggling with issues surrounding their children’s school transport arrangements in England amid confirmation from the Department for Education (DfE) that revisions to the existing Home to School Transport Guidance remain on hold indefinitely.

Following Contact’s successful campaign in 2019, the government agreed to consult on improved statutory guidance for English local authorities on home-to-school travel for children of compulsory school age (5-16). The guidance had last been updated in 2014, with no changes to the law since then.

The revision process – originally due to conclude in spring 2020 – was put on hold during the pandemic. This week, the government told Contact that the process will remain suspended while the DfE manages its response to Covid.

They are unable to indicate when the DfE will be in a position to respond to the consultation process and publish the long-awaited revised statutory guidance.

Your questions answered

Ongoing policy challenges mean school transport is one of the top issues our helpline gets calls about. Our latest School Transport Facebook Q&A on 15 July proved no different, with countless parent carers reaching out for support and advice.

Some parents expressed concern that children ride to school with strangers who know little about them or who lack appropriate training. One father, whose son uses a ventilator, had to pay for specialist training for his son’s escort out of his own pocket.

Current guidance states that drivers and escorts must have undertaken appropriate training based on the needs of the children they transport, but it does not specifically cover children with medical needs. Revised draft guidance consulted on in 2019 did have information on children with medical needs, including training, but no changes will be enacted while the revision process remains suspended.

Problems also remained with children having a stressful experience on the way to school (such as by heightened anxiety due to inconsistent pick-up and drop-off times), issues arranging travel home from after-school respite centres, or parents being denied free transport altogether despite their children being eligible. We advise all parents struggling with this to read our webpage on eligibility for school transport in England.

Education advisers on our helpline were delighted to be able to help so many parents with their questions, but we remain adamant that an urgent revision of existing transport guidance is desperately needed.

You can help us keep up the pressure by asking your MP to get involved in urging the DfE to issue the revised transport guidance, following Contact on Facebook and Twitter, or getting in touch with our campaigns manager Una on una.summerson@contact.org.uk.

If you are having issues with your child’s school transport, please contact our helpline for advice on 0808 808 3555 (Mon-Fri 9.30am-5pm) or by emailing helpline@contact.org.uk.