Transport to school

As a general rule, parents are responsible for getting their own children to school, even if they have additional needs. But there are circumstances when your child or young person may be entitled to help with transport. 

Who gets home to school transport?

Early years

‌Local authorities are not legally obliged to provide transport to an early years setting or school for children under five, but they may do so in some circumstances. If you believe that they should consider providing transport, perhaps because your child has a disability and there is no other way for them to travel, you should contact the local authority. 

All school age children and young people

The local authority should provide free transport for any child aged 5 to 16 who lives too far from their nearest suitable school; this is over two miles for under 8s, over three miles for over 8s. There are extra rules for help with transport if you are on a low income or the route to school is unsafe.  

Occasionally primary age children will get transport to school if their parents are medically unfit to take them. 

‘Free transport’ can mean a bus pass to use local bus services. 

School age children with SEND

Children with SEND can qualify for free home to school transport if they are unable to walk to school due to their disability or special educational need. Your child does not need to have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan to get free transport.   

Children with SEND are not automatically given transport by the local authority. They will then look carefully at your individual case. They will be looking for evidence that this is the nearest suitable school or that your child realistically can’t walk there.  

You will need to reapply for home to school transport in certain circumstances, for example if your child changes school or address but each local authority’s rules are slightly different on this so check out their online information 

If you express a preference for a school on your child’s EHC plan and the local authority thinks there is another suitable school nearer your home, they may argue that they should not cover the transport costs. This might happen for example if you live in the east of the city but prefer a special school in the west. You may find you have to challenge the local authority’s decision about transport in this case. See ‘Challenging transport decisions’ below. 

Young people with SEND aged 16 to 19

 Local authorities must publish details of their transport offer for young people aged 16-19 but they are not obliged to provide it in the way that they must for children aged 5-16. They will consider each case on an individual basis.  

They should prioritise young people with SEND or those from low income families who might otherwise not be able to get to college, but transport may not always be free.   

A young person with SEND starting a college course before their 19th birthday is covered by the rules for 16-19 year olds.  

Young people with SEND aged 19 to 25

A young person starting a course over the age of 19 is considered to be an adult learner 

Though local authorities are not obliged to provide transport to college for over 19s with SEND, local authorities do have a duty (under the Education and Skills Act 2008) to “encourage, enable and assist” young people with learning difficulties and disabilities to participate in education and training, up to the age of 25. 

For these adult learners, they must make arrangements “as they consider necessary”. As the local authority does have a duty to secure the special education provision in an EHC plan, having an EHC plan may support a 19-25 year old’s application for transport as “necessary”.  

For details of eligibility for home to school transport in your area see: 

Types of transport to school

Children with SEND are more likely to get actual transport to school such as a taxi or minibus than the free bus pass often offered to other children.  

If your child is offered a taxi or minibus, they will often be sharing with other children and young people and this can add to the journey time.  

Free transport provided by the local authority must be safe and suitable, so some children will also get an escort. The local authority should ensure that enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are carried out and that training has been given to all drivers and escorts.  

Be aware that your arrangements may change. If the local authority changes the provider of its school transport, for example, you may find that there is a new driver, a new escort or even a new route. 

As young people with SEND get older, they will be encouraged to learn to travel to school independently where this is possible and switch over to walking or using local buses with a bus pass. Sometimes, the local authority provides independent travel training to help them do this. It is an important life skill to learn if they can. 

Challenging transport decisions

If you are unhappy with a decision about transport for your child, you can appeal. There are timelines and processes around appeals, and you can find the details in your local council’s home to school transport policy.  

You may wish to get advice if you are appealing a home to school transport decision. 

SENTAS is a school transport advocacy service that offers free information and advice on home to school/college transport via a advice line or email. Or you can call the Amaze SENDIASS advice line.