School transport

5 mins read

School transport is one of the top issues our helpline gets calls about. 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.

The Department for Education has agreed to revised statutory home to school transport guidance for school age children, following Contact’s instrumental School Transport Inquiry. This should of been published in Spring 2020 but was delayed due to covid. 

We are campaigning to close the loophole for post-16 and under-five disabled children following more than 10,000 of you signed our petition on the topic.

Close on the loophole campaign 

Our Close the gap evidence on the increasing numbers of disabled teenagers being charged or denied school transport at 16 due to a loophole in the law and council funding pressures.

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

  • 79% of disabled young people are denied or charged for school transport or face disruptive, short notice changes when they turn 16.
  • One in 10 disabled young people are paying more than £1,000 a year for school transport
  • Nearly half are experiencing increased stress and financial difficulties

Contact’s 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

Why we are campaigning to close the loophole?

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.

It is grossly unfair that the law says a young person is expected to be in school or training until 18 but does not have the right to transport to enable them to get there once they turn 16.

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.

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.

What is the government’s response?

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 and just 4% of eligible families got the full amount of £1,200.

What did the School Transport Inquiry find?

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

  • 48 per cent and mostly mums said that school travel arrangements for their disabled child meant that they can’t work or have had to decrease working hours.
  • 23 per cent said their child’s journey to school is stressful which makes it harder for their child to learn.
  • 51 per cent of local school transport policies in England include unlawful statements.

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

What do we want to achieve?

  • Closing the loophole in the law for under 5s and disabled young people of sixth form age. Read more about school transport for young people over 16 in England.
  • We are 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.
  • See our full list of recommendations in our report.
  • To help parents understand their rights to school transport. Find out your rights on our webpages.

What are we are doing?

  • We are campaigning to close the school transport loophole for post 16 and under 5s by raising awareness in the media and with MPs. 
  • A  Early Day Motion on our behalf which is supported by cross party MPs. 
  • Running a information campaign for parents, including factsheets and template letters on how to challenge decisions. See our new webpages and myth buster on school transport.

How can you take part

What else are we doing

  • Seeking a parliamentary debate.
  • Support local parent groups and parent challenge decisions 

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.