Local authorities in Scotland must make arrangements they consider necessary to provide free transport to school for pupils living in their area.
The law also allows authorities to provide free transport even when they don’t have a legal duty to do so (called the ‘power of discretion’). This means that every local authority in Scotland may have a different policy around free transport, so contact your local authority for specific details.
The local authority may provide free transport to:
- Your child’s local school.
- The school in which it has offered your child a place, for example a special school that meets your child’s needs.
In this article
Free transport to school is usually offered to pupils who live further away than the “statutory walking distances”. These are two miles for pupils under eight and three miles for pupils above eight. Regardless of distance, local authorities must consider the safety of the route to school and they can provide free transport if necessary.
Children may be entitled to free home-to-school transport because they have additional support needs. These needs may be short or long term. The local authority should consider your child’s individual needs.
The local authority will decide whether your child requires special arrangements, such as an escort, or equipment such as specialised seating. To be suitable, transport must be safe and “non stressful”. This means that your child arrives at school ready to learn.
Requesting school transport
It is a good idea to talk about school transport before requesting a particular school for your child. The law about free transport can be complicated.
You should provide clear information about your child’s additional needs, disability and any health needs when you apply for transport.
If your child has been placed in either:
- An independent special or grant-aided special school in Scotland
- A school elsewhere in the UK
the local authority should pay attendance costs and may provide free transport if your child has additional support needs.
If your child cannot go to their local school because of a medical condition, the local authority may decide to provide free transport to the school they do attend. They will usually consult the appropriate health board when making a decision.
The education authority can also provide free transport for your child to travel to pre-school for example nursery.
Types of transport
Transport is usually by bus, taxi, ferry or aeroplane. If you take your child yourself, you may be able to claim travelling expenses.
The local authority is responsible for your child’s safety and supervision while in the vehicle. The local authority should consider your child’s safety, their age and their additional support needs. They should also involve the parent carer and child in discussions about the type of transport and agreeing in advance what should happen if there is an emergency on the way to school.
Escorts and drivers
Some children who receive transport because they have additional support needs require the services of an escort. Escorts may be employed to accompany your child in the taxi or bus to and from school. They will need to know about your child’s needs and should receive training if necessary. Drivers may also need specialist training.
Escorts are responsible for helping pupils on/off the vehicle, using specialist equipment if necessary and ensuring pupil’s safety, dignity and comfort during the journey. Escorts can also relay information between home and the school if required. Escorts are not responsible for taking pupils from their home to the transport vehicle. This is the responsibility of the parent carer.
The head teacher is usually the line manager for the escorts and is responsible for their induction and training needs. For out-of-authority placements the line management responsibility lies with the Additional Support Needs Manager, but day-to-day communication will be via the head teacher.
Scottish Ministers expect authorities, when negotiating school transport contracts, to require that all drivers and escorts are fully scrutinised by Disclosure Scotland. Relevant checks should be undertaken by the company and the authority as necessary.
If an authority subsequently has concerns about the suitability of an individual driver or escort in such circumstances, the authority should take this up directly with the bus/taxi company or other appropriate authorities.
By law, anyone who provides childcare or who supervises children should be fully checked through Disclosure Scotland.
Sources of further help and information
- Education (Scotland) Act 1980, Sections 51, 60-60G
- Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004
- The parents’ guide to additional support for learning, Enquire (2014)
- Scottish Government – School transport guidance.
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