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Local authorities set their own school transport policies. These
policies must comply with the law.
Research we carried out as part of our school transport inquiry
has shown that a number of policies do not comply with the law. We
are also aware of parent groups who have successfully challenged
potentially unlawful policies when they have been put out for
On this page we help you understand:
For full details of school transport eligibility, see our
main transport page.
Local authorities in England must publish policies for the
following age groups:
Children of statutory school age
This transport policy must be published under the Education
(School Information) Regulations 2002 (as amended). It must form
part of the composite prospectus, a document the local authority
publishes annually to show admission arrangements for state funded
schools in the area. The composite prospectus must be published by
12 September the year before admission.
Statutory guidance (Home to
School Travel and Transport Guidance) states that the
information in the policy should:
The law does not say how or when the local authority should
consult on transport policies for this age group. Statutory
guidance recommends that local authorities should consult widely on
any changes with all interested parties for at least 28 days during
Young people of sixth form age (16-18).
Under section 509AA of the 1996 Education Act, the local
authority must publish a transport policy statement for 16-18 year
olds. This must be published by 31 May to take effect the next
academic year, i.e. from September.
Local authorities must have regard to statutory guidance (
Post-16 transport to education and training) when drawing up
the policy for this age group. There are legal requirements for who
must be involved in the consultation, including young people and
Relevant young adults (18-24 year olds with an
Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan)
Under section 508G of the 1996 Education Act, the local
authority must publish a transport policy statement for relevant
young adults who are entitled to transport under the adult
transport duty. 'Relevant young adults' are defined as those under
25 with an EHC plan (although the guidance still uses the old
terminology, 'subject to learning difficulty
The policy must be published by 31 May to take effect the next
academic year, i.e. from September. There are legal requirements
for who must be involved in the consultation, including relevant
young adults and their parents.
Many local authorities consult on all age groups as part of the
Local authorities must publish details of school transport for
children and young people with special educational needs and
disabilities (SEND) in their local offer. This is set out in the
Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 -
schedule 2 paragraph 14.
A formal consultation is when a public body, such as a local
authority, seeks the views of stakeholders on a new policy, a
proposed change to eligibility criteria or other policy
Case law has established the general principles of consultation.
Consultation must be proportionate and fair. In particular:
Case law has established that the definition of what is "fair"
will be more stringent if people stand to lose an existing service
or benefit. This would apply to cuts in school transport
It may be possible to mount a legal challenge via judicial
review if a consultation has not been carried out fairly.
There is more information on consultations in
Disabled Children - a legal handbook paragraph 2.9. This is a
free download from the Council for Disabled Children.
Below are issues we've identified in proposed and actual school
transport policies. These issues are potentially, and in some cases
actually, unlawful and could be reason to challenge the policy.
For example, if stakeholders are not made aware of changes,
don't have enough time to respond, or if responses are limited to
an online questionnaire.
When a transport policy does not comply with the recommendations
set out in statutory guidance. Common issues are:
Blanket policies that restrict eligibility
Some local authorities have blanket policies that limit
eligibility to children with SEND who:
Such policies are not lawful. Children who cannot reasonably be
expected to walk to school because of SEN, disability or mobility
difficulty are eligible for transport under section 508B and
schedule 35B (2) of the Education Act 1996. The policy should
explain how a child with SEND meets the criterion for school
Local authorities are only obliged to provide transport to the
nearest suitable school and can refuse transport if parents choose
a school further away. To be considered "suitable", a school must
be right for the child's age, ability and aptitude, as well as
being able to meet their SEN. The policy should explain
Requiring parents to arrange transport
This is unlawful. The local authority must provide travel
arrangements for eligible children. Mileage allowances or use of
the parental car can only be with the parent's consent (Education
Act 1996 - section 508B (4)(b)).
Local authorities must comply with the public sector equality
duty under the Equality Act 2010. They must consider the potential
effect of their transport policy on disabled people, both disabled
children and disabled parents.
Below are common ways in which disabled children or disabled
parents may be disadvantaged:
There is no legal obligation to provide free transport for this
age group, but a blanket refusal could be discriminatory. For
example, if a four year old attends a special school some distance
from home and could not access education without transport.
It is reasonable to ask parents and young people to consider
travel training, but it should not be a blanket policy. It should
be based on individual assessment and tailored to the young
person's needs. Some young people may never manage independent or
supported travel by public transport. There may be issues in rural
areas if times of courses for young people with SEND don't fit in
with bus times.
No door to door transport
Some local authorities now expect parents to take children to
pick up points instead of collecting children from home. This is
legal but should be based on individual assessments, not a blanket
policy. Local authorities have a duty to provide 'non-stressful'
Charging for transport for young people of
6th form age
This is lawful, but the local authority should avoid indirect
discrimination. For example, will the contribution be set at a
similar level to that of a bus pass for non-SEND students? The
local authority should also take into account that students with
SEND may have to travel further to a suitable course.
Here are things you can do to have your say on school transport
policies in your area.
If you need advice about your son or daughter's transport to
school or college, look at our section on school
transport and call our helpline to talk to one of our
Download our factsheet Challenging
school transport decisions [PDF].
Independent Support factsheet on consultations:
Blog post from barrister Steve Broach on fair consultations: