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

Last updated: 11 June 2024

3. Statutory school age (5 to 16 years - 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 statutory school age students 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

Where a child has an EHCP, the school named in the EHCP will normally be considered to be their nearest suitable school. For exceptions see section 10.2.

The nearest suitable school used for the transport eligibility assessment may not be the same as the catchment school or nearest school for admissions purposes. The parent/carer can work out which mainstream secondary school is their nearest suitable school online.

The transport eligibility online checker referred to above returns results for Buckinghamshire mainstream secondary schools and the equivalent schools as set out in 3.8a. However, when school applications are processed, where a preference is expressed for and a place is offered at the nearest suitable school, and this school is out of county, then this is considered in the school transport eligibility assessment.

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

'Places available' does not apply to admissions to Special Schools or Additionally Resourced Provision.

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.

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 needs assessment undertaken by the Council
  • Passenger assistant support, based on a travel needs assessment undertaken by the Council

In order to determine the most appropriate travel option for pupils/students 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 exceptional circumstances, considered on a case by case basis, a Personal Transport Budget may be offered to the parent/carer of 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 used to determine whether a pupil is eligible for Council funded travel assistance.

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 the nearest suitable school is more than these limits, the pupil is eligible for Council funded travel assistance.

Where a pupil lives within the statutory walking distance of their nearest suitable school and is not eligible for Council funded travel assistance on any of the other grounds set out in this policy, the parent/carer is responsible for making suitable arrangements for their child’s travel to school.

3.3 Calculation of distances and available routes

For eligibility purposes, the statutory walking distances are measured using the shortest walking route a pupil, accompanied as necessary, can walk in reasonable safety. This is not necessarily the shortest distance by road. The route might include footpaths, bridleways and other tracks and may access alternative pedestrian entrances to school 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 (that is, funded by the Council) for those pupils of statutory school age who are travelling further than the statutory walking distance from their home to/from the nearest open entrance gate allowing pedestrian access of their nearest suitable school. When calculating the walking distance, where two schools are closely co-located, we will use all entrance gates which are used by pedestrians for both schools in our measurements.

Pupils who live beyond the statutory walking distance may be required to use public transport and in these cases the Council will provide a bus or train travel pass in order for them to use the relevant public transport 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 their parents/carers are not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190
  • Universal Credit - if they apply on or after 1 April 2018 their household income must be no more than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including any benefits they get)
  • The guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

If the pupil is 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 their HM Revenue & Customs award notice for the current tax year and their 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 Council funded home to school travel assistance.

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 travel assistance 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 three 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.

When assessing whether a child lives within the 6 or 15 mile upper limits, the Council will measure road routes only.

3.6 Pupils whose route to school is unsafe

A pupil is eligible for Council funded travel assistance if they attend their nearest suitable school, and

  • it is within the statutory walking distance of their home, and
  • the nature of the route means they could not be expected to walk there in reasonable safety, even if accompanied by their parent/carer, and
  • there is no alternative route within the statutory walking distance that they would be able to walk in reasonable safety, even if accompanied by their parent/carer.

All walking routes are assessed by the Council 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 consider:

  • the age of the pupil
  • whether risks might be less if the pupil were accompanied by their parent/carer
  • the width of the road and the existence of pavements
  • the volume and speed of traffic
  • the conditions at different times of the year

Where a route previously assessed as unsafe is reassessed and determined to be safe (for example by reviewing the route, through route improvements, upgrades or maintenance, the building of new footpaths or installing pedestrian crossings, etc.) the transport eligibility for all pupils who are using the previously assessed unsafe walking route will be reviewed. Pupils who are no longer eligible once the route is reassessed as safe will be given one half term’s notice before Council funded travel assistance is withdrawn. It will then be the parent/carer's responsibility to make suitable travel arrangements for their child.

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 travel assistance 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 provided at the Council’s discretion and 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 the normal school transport eligibility criteria). 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: Under statutory school age 0-4 years)

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 catchment resident 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, subject to the normal school transport eligibility criteria. Transport would also be provided to the nearest suitable school (subject to the normal criteria).

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

At primary school age, where there is established school transport to the catchment primary school, travel assistance will be provided to that school, subject to the normal school transport eligibility criteria. 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 10.22 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) or mobility issues

Pupils who have SEND or mobility issues may require assistance with getting to school or to another educational setting. This may be over and above the provision made for other pupils. Pupils with SEND who attend their nearest suitable school/setting and satisfy the distance, unsafe walking route or low income assessment criteria set out above are eligible for Council funded travel assistance.

Having an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) does not automatically mean that a child will be eligible for travel assistance.

A pupil with an EHCP will not usually be provided with Council funded travel assistance unless they meet the statutory eligibility criteria, or they live within the statutory walking distance limits and the pupil has a special educational need, disability or mobility issue which prevents them from walking to school in reasonable safety, even if accompanied.

The Council considers the individual needs of pupils, including professional advice, and will consult with parents/carers and teachers about travel 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:

  • distance to nearest suitable school
  • medical needs
  • behaviour that challenges, impacting on reasonable safety
  • mobility issues
  • whether the pupil is able to walk to school in reasonable safety if accompanied by their parent/carer
  • vulnerability (including age, young parents and those at risk of disengaging from employment, education or training)
  • low income family criteria
  • practicality

This list is for guidance only, and satisfying one or more of these factors does not automatically support entitlement to Council funded travel 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
  • travel training readiness
  • pupil's ability to use public transport independently

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 pupil/student to have education other than at a school, the Council will provide transport subject to the normal eligibility criteria as detailed in section 3.9 of this Home to School Transport Policy.