School transport campaign

School transport is an integral part of a child’s education. If a child can’t get to school or has a stressful experience getting to school, they are not able to learn and take part in the school day like other children.

What’s more, disabled children are more likely to travel further to nursery, school or college, and unlike their non-disabled peers, many can’t travel independently. Many also need to be in education or training for longer to achieve the skills they need. So school transport is fundamental to enable them to access education.

In spite of this, lack of appropriate school transport is one of the top issues our helpline gets calls about. The impact of losing school transport is huge – with parents having to give up work or disabled teenagers unable to start or complete their education.

In this article

What are the issues?

The school transport loophole

The law says a young person is expected to be in school or training until 18. But young people do not have the right to transport to enable them to get there once they turn 16. This is grossly unfair.

There is also no legal obligation to provide free transport for under 5s, but a blanket refusal could be discriminatory. For example, if a four-year-old attends a special nursery school some distance from home and could not access education without transport.

Based on responses from 525 parents with disabled children aged 16-18 in England, our evidence shows:

Our helpline and online support has also seen a 40% increase in enquiries about the school transport loophole in the last three years.

Listen to our podcast about our school transport campaign

Clearer guidance for school-age children

Our instrumental School Transport Inquiry found that statutory guidance for local authorities is unclear, leading to children missing out on the transport they need.

The Department for Education agreed to revise statutory home to school transport guidance for school age children. But revisions have been put on hold indefinitely. We are urging the Department for Education to issue the revised guidance as soon as possible.

We are also calling on the Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive to strengthen the law, making it clear that education authorities ‘must’ provide school transport for children because of their special or learning needs, disability, or mobility problems.

What is the government’s response?

On the issue of school transport for over 16s, the government says there is a bursary to help teenagers with the cost of school transport.

But Contact’s survey found that the 16-19 bursary and discretionary funds are neither accessible nor sufficient to cover travel costs. Only 12% of families who applied are successful in getting any money from the bursary. Just 4% of eligible families got the full amount of £1,200.

What are we doing?

How you can take part

If you have been refused school transport or want to find out about your rights to school transport, please call our helpline for advice on 0808 808 3555 or read our school transport webpage.

About our School Transport Inquiry

Our report and desktop research, published in September 2017 on BBC Radio 5Live Investigates, brings together evidence from more than 2,500 parents. We discovered:

We want to say a huge thank you to the thousands of you who responded to our Inquiry into school transport for disabled children.

As a result of our School Transport Inquiry the Department for Education agreed to review the statutory school transport guidance for children of compulsory school age. This was published in June 2023.