Transport for young people over 16 in England

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This advice applies in England only.

Young people over 16 do not have the same rights to free transport as children of compulsory school age, even though 16 and 17 year olds must stay in education or training.

Instead, transport for 16-19 year olds is discretionary, and local authorities may ask parents for a contribution. Young people’s transport needs may be reassessed at this age and travel arrangements may change, even when learners stay on at the same school.

Young adults aged 19 and over may be entitled to free transport in some circumstances, and parents cannot be made to provide transport for this age group.

In this article

Local authority duties

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. This remains the case whether your son or daughter stays on at school after year 11, goes to college or does some kind of work-based learning. And 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 they did when your child was under 16, but they may charge for this.

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. (The law and guidance refers to the 16-19 year old age group as “young people of sixth form age”.)

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.

Transport for pupils with 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 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:

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 any 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.

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:

Personal travel budgets

Many local authorities are changing their transport policies for 16-19 year olds. Under the revised policies, local authorities will offer parents a personal travel budget in the first instance, rather than a seat in a school bus, minibus or taxi. This may apply even to young people staying in the same school and who received direct transport up until the end of year 11.

Such policies are lawful, as long as the local authority allows for exceptional circumstances and has an appeal process. The local authority must not have a blankey policy that it will never provide direct transport. This was clarified by a legal case in 2020 (the Drexler case).

If the local authority offers you a personal travel budget and you cannot make suitable arrangements, the next step is to go through the local appeal process.

Contributing to travel costs

Local authorities can ask families to contribute to travel costs, even if they were getting free transport previously. The local authority policy should set out the details. 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 for young people over 19

There is a separate duty to provide transport for adults aged 19 – 25 and to publish a policy statement.

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 have a specific transport policy for 19-25 year olds with education, health and care (EHC) plans. This policy is often published together with the policy for 16-19 year olds.

When considering whether it’s necessary to make travel arrangements for an adult learner, the local authority must consider their age and the nature of the route they would have to take. Parents cannot be required to transport an adult child, even if they have a motability car. The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has issued a statement reminding local authorites of their responsibilities to young adults.

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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