Home to School Transport Policy (0 to 25 Year Olds)

Last updated: 4 May 2023

3. Statutory school age (5 to 16 - Mainstream and SEND)

Statutory school age begins with the start of term following a child's 5th birthday and ends on the last Friday in June in the academic year in which they turn 16.

Children of statutory school age need to attend a school or educational setting on a full-time basis; this is defined as 190 days (or 380 sessions) each academic year.

There are 4 categories of students of statutory school age living in Buckinghamshire and attending their nearest suitable school who are eligible for Council funded travel assistance:

  1. children who live beyond the statutory walking distance
  2. children from low income families (where extended rights apply – see section 3.5)
  3. children whose walking route to school is unsafe
  4. children with Special Educational Needs (SEN), a disability or a mobility difficulty

The nearest suitable school is defined as ‘the nearest qualifying school with places available that provides education appropriate to the child's age, ability, aptitude, gender and any special educational needs they may have’. A ‘qualifying’ school is:

  • a maintained school or nursery, or a special school approved under s.342 of the Education Act 1996
  • a pupil referral unit or alternative provision academy
  • an academy

You can work out which school is your nearest suitable school online.

When determining the nearest suitable school for transport purposes, it does not take into account whether a child is qualified for grammar school. Therefore the geographically nearest suitable school may be an upper/all-ability school. In these instances if a child chooses to attend a grammar school, Council funded transport cannot be provided to that school.

Parents/carers should always express a preference for their nearest suitable school on their application. The Admissions and Transport team will determine places available and therefore families do not need to be concerned about whether their child is likely to secure a place at the nearest suitable school.

Parents are not required to name the nearest suitable school as their first preference when they make their school application, but it must be listed as one of their preferences to ensure that if they cannot be offered a place at the nearest suitable school, then transport could be provided to the next nearest school.

If parents do not express their nearest suitable school as one of their preferences, and instead choose a place at a school which is not the nearest suitable school, the pupil will not be eligible for Council funded travel assistance unless the extended rights apply (see section 3.5).

Also see section 3.8 a) on those living closest to a non-Buckinghamshire School.

The previous information on “places available” does not apply to admissions to Special Schools or Additionally Resourced Provision.

3.1 Types of travel assistance

The travel assistance offered by the Council may take the form of:

  • a public bus or train travel pass
  • a Personal Transport Budget
  • a Council arranged coach/bus service
  • a Council arranged minibus
  • a Council arranged shared taxi
  • a Council arranged solo taxi, based on a travel assessment undertaken by the Council
  • Passenger assistant support, based on a travel assessment undertaken by the Council

In order to determine the most appropriate travel option for pupils and the most cost effective means of travel assistance, the Council will use a range of criteria. These are described in the following sections.

In some exceptional circumstances, a Personal Transport Budget may be offered to mainstream (non-SEND) pupils who are eligible for Council funded travel assistance, as an alternative to Council organised transport. However, in these instances Council funded and organised travel assistance is always available if this is the preference. Also see section 7.1 on Personal Transport Budgets.

3.2 Statutory Walking Distances

The statutory walking distances are as follows:

  • up to 2 miles (if below the age of 8)
  • up to 3 miles (if aged between 8 and 16)

If the distance between home and school is more than these limits, the pupil is eligible for transport assistance.

3.3 Calculation of distances and available routes

For eligibility purposes, the statutory walking distances will be calculated with reference to the shortest walking route a pupil can walk safely (accompanied as necessary). A route might include footpaths, bridleways and other tracks which are not passable by motorised transport.

For pupils who fall within the 'Extended Rights' eligibility criteria the 6 mile and 15 mile upper limits are not walking routes (see section 3.5). These routes are those which are passable using a suitable motorised vehicle. In short, the two upper limits will be measured along road routes.

3.4 Pupils who live beyond the statutory walking distance

Travel assistance will be provided free of charge for those pupils of statutory school age who are travelling over the statutory walking distance to/from the nearest open entrance gate of their nearest suitable school. Pupils may be required to use public transport and in these cases they will be provided with a free bus pass or train travel in order for them to use the service.

3.5 Extended rights for pupils from low income families

A pupil may be eligible for extended rights under the 'low income' provisions. The Council defines low income families as those where a child receives free school meals because their parents or carers receive at least one of the benefits listed below:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit – provided you are not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190
  • Universal Credit - with an annual earned income of £7,400 or less (after tax and not including any benefits you get)
  • The guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

If you are not entitled to free school meals, another benefit that is accepted is entitlement to the maximum level of Working Tax Credits. This means that there is no reduction due to income in the Working Tax Credits elements section of your HM Revenue & Customs award notice for the current tax year and your annual income is no more than £16,190.

Where extended rights apply, pupils aged 8 to 10 from low income families who live more than 2 miles (rather than 3) from their nearest suitable school become eligible for funded home to school transport from the Council.

Secondary school age pupils from low income families who attend schools between 2 and 6 miles from their home will be eligible for Council funded home to school transport even if the school they attend is not their nearest suitable school, providing it is one of the three nearest schools which the pupil is qualified to attend (for example a mainstream pupil is not qualified to attend a special school even if it is one of the 3 nearest schools and therefore it would be discounted).

Secondary school age pupils from low income families who attend a school between 2 miles and 15 miles away from home will be entitled to Council funded home to school transport if their parents/carers have expressed a wish for them to be educated at that particular school based on the parents/carer’s religion or belief and, having regard to that wish, there is no nearer suitable school. This applies to parents/carers with a particular religious or philosophical belief, including those with a lack of religion or lack of belief.

3.6 Pupils whose route to school is unsafe

If the route to school is unsafe to walk, and if the pupil lives within the statutory walking distance of and is registered at the nearest suitable school, the Council will provide funded suitable travel arrangements.

All walking routes are assessed in accordance with the Road Safety GB and RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) guidelines. The Council will assess the route at the times the pupil would be using it and will take into account:

  • the age of the pupil
  • whether risks might be less if the pupil were accompanied by an adult and whether that is practicable
  • the width of the road and the existence of pavements
  • the volume and speed of traffic
  • the conditions at different times of the year

3.7 Transport to schools that are not the nearest

If a place cannot be offered at the nearest suitable school when this has been expressed as one of the preferences, then travel assistance to the next nearest suitable school will be offered. Where the Council allocates a school place which is not a preference we will only consider providing Council funded transport if the nearest suitable school was expressed as one of the preferences.

3.8 Home to school transport provision in specific circumstances

There may be specific circumstances where Council funded travel assistance could be provided. These are outlined below:

a) Those living closest to a non-Buckinghamshire School

Where the nearest suitable school is outside of Buckinghamshire, pupils will be offered transport to the nearest Buckinghamshire school, unless there is an out of county school that can be treated as if it were a Buckinghamshire School for transport purposes (subject to normal eligibility rules). We call these schools “Equivalent Schools.” An Equivalent School is the nearest out of county school where most parents/carers in a specific area have in the previous year chosen to apply to and have been allocated a place. Transport is provided there as it is closer than a Buckinghamshire school. A list of these out-of-county Equivalent Schools will be published on the Buckinghamshire Council website each year in time for the annual admissions process. Currently the out of county Equivalent Schools are Icknield School, Lord Williams School and Wheatley Park School, all of which are in Oxfordshire.

b) Reception intake (outlined in section 2: Non statutory school age 0-4)

c) The pupil will be attending a linked junior/combined school

A linked junior/combined school is a school that has an existing arrangement with an infant school within the catchment area. The school gives priority in their admissions to pupils applying from the linked infant school. If the pupil is attending an infant school, and they make an application to the linked junior/combined school, then transport will be provided even when this is not the nearest school. Transport would also be provided to the nearest suitable school (subject to the normal rules)

d) pre-existing primary transport serves the pupil's local area

At primary age, where there is established school transport to the catchment primary school, travel assistance will be provided subject to the normal eligibility rules. The catchment school that transport is provided to, may not be the nearest school to the pupil’s home but it will be the nearest catchment school if there is more than one.

e) Other exceptional circumstances

Parents/carers of pupils who do not meet the eligibility criteria above, may have reasons why they think their child should be provided with travel assistance, other than a), b), c) or d) above, which they want the Council to consider. The Council has a 2 stage appeal process for parent/carers to challenge decisions about transport eligibility. See 10.21 How to challenge a decision.

Each appeal must be made in writing. The appeal will be considered and transport may be provided at the discretion of the Council.

Discretionary assistance will be:

  • dealt with on a case-by-case basis
  • granted for a set period of time
  • is subject to review more frequently than other circumstances
  • may cover the whole cost of transport provision or be a contribution to the cost of the travel assistance

3.9 Criteria for home to school transport for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)

Pupils who have SEND may require assistance with getting to school or to another educational setting. This may be over and above the provision made for other pupils. Having an Education, Health and Care Plan does not automatically mean that a child will be eligible for travel assistance. The Council considers the individual needs of pupils, including professional advice, and will consult with parents/carers and teachers about transport needs and assistance. Where appropriate the pupil will also be consulted.

The Council will take the following into account when determining eligibility for transport assistance for pupils with SEND:

  • mobility
  • medical needs
  • behaviour
  • vulnerability (including age, young parents and those at risk of disengaging from employment, education or training)
  • practicality
  • travel training
  • nearest suitable school

This list is for guidance only, and satisfaction of one or more of these factors does not automatically support entitlement to transport assistance.

When determining the most appropriate type of travel assistance for pupils with SEND, the Council will consider the following:

  • age of the pupil
  • nature and severity of the pupil's SEND
  • availability of public transport
  • length and nature of the journey
  • most cost-effective mode of transport
  • safety of handover arrangements

3.10 Elective Home Education

Where parents/carers decide to provide Home Education for their children instead of sending them to a school, this is called Elective Home Education (EHE). In the case of EHE, no assistance will be available from the Council in connection with any transport need arising.

3.11 Education other than at school (EOTAS)

Education other than at school (EOTAS) must be agreed by the Council. Where the Council arranges for a student to have education other than at a school, the Council will provide transport subject to the normal eligibility criteria as detailed in this Home to School Transport Policy.