Transport for young people over 16 in England

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Local authorities do not have to provide free transport to education for young people over compulsory school age. This includes 16-17 year olds, even though 16-17 year olds must stay in education or training. It applies whether your son or daughter stays on at school after year 11, goes to college or does some kind of work based learning.  Your son or daughter's travel arrangements may be reassessed even if they are staying on at the same school. Some local authorities may continue to provide the same transport arrangements, but they may charge for this.

In this article

Local transport policy

Although your local authority does not have to provide free transport, it must publish a transport policy statement setting out what travel arrangements are available to enable 16-19 year olds to participate in education or training. The policy also applies to young people over 19 who are continuing a course started before their 19th birthday. 

Local authorities should not have a blanket policy to restrict transport to certain groups of young people, for example those who have received transport to school in the past, or those who have been to special schools. They should consider individual needs and the distance and nature of the route when deciding who is eligible.

What kind of transport might be available?

Arrangements should be flexible enough to allow for reasonable choice of education and training places. Details should be set out in your local authority’s Local Offer section on their website.

Options might include:

  • A subsidised bus pass or railcard.
  • Transport provided directly by the local authority. For example a minibus or taxi for an individual or group of young people.
  • Travel training. This can help your son or daughter learn to travel independently on public transport. It may be available through the college or a voluntary organisation. Travel training supports a young person to be independent, but is not right for everyone. Your son or daughter’s suitability for travel training should be assessed before a decision is made.

Special educational needs and disability (SEN/D)

The local policy must include arrangements to help young people with SEN/D to get to education. As explained above, these may not be provided for free.

Young people with SEN/D may need help with transport because they may not be able to travel in the same way as most young people in the area, for example if:

  • They have a disability which prevents them from walking or using public transport to their place of education.
  • They have to travel further to attend a course suitable for their SEN. 

The local authority can make specific travel arrangements if needed and should look at each case individually before making a decision about suitable transport. Guidance says that transport should enable a young person to reach their place of education or training without such stress strain or difficulty that would prevent them from benefiting from the education provided.

If applying for transport, provide supporting information about your son or daughter’s physical disability, awareness of risk or sensory difficulties that would make it difficult for them to walk or use existing transport arrangements. 

Government guidance Post 16 transport to education and training has information about what should be in local authority policies.

Contributing to travel costs

Local authorities can ask families for a contribution to travel costs even if they were getting free transport previously. Details should be set out in the local authority policy. The amount should be reasonable and in line with travel costs for young people in the area without SEN/D. The contribution should also be affordable for low income families. Arrangements should give details about any help available with travel costs, who is eligible, and how to apply.

Other financial help

There may be alternative sources of funding to help with education costs, including transport. The 16-19 bursary may be available to help with education-related costs, including transport, if your son or daughter meets the eligibility criteria. Young people over 19 may qualify for discretionary funding from their college. 

Read more information about the 16-19 bursary.

Your son or daughter’s school, college or training provider can give you more information about financial support available. 

You or your son or daughter may also qualify for benefits. See our benefits webpages for further information. Our freephone helpline can advise you further about your entitlements.

Transport over 18

There is a separate duty to provide transport for adults aged 18 – 25.

The law says that local authorities must make transport arrangements if they consider it necessary to enable adults to attend education. Such arrangements must be free of charge. The local authority policy must also specify travel arrangements for adults in the area with Education, Health and Care plans. The adult transport policy is often published together with the policy for 16-18 year olds.

Adults who are eligible for social care may also receive help with transport to education as part of their Care and Support plan. See more information about requesting a social care assessment and moving to adult social care.

Challenging decisions

You may be unhappy with a local authority decision on school transport, either because they have decided your son or daughter is not eligible or you think that the transport offered is not suitable. Your local authority should have a complaints and appeals procedure for transport decisions. This should be published alongside the transport policy.

Our webpage Challenging school transport policies has guidance on how to challenge potentially unlawful local transport policies.

For advice on taking matters further, please contact our freephone helpline.

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