The Saga of SEN Transport

SEN Transport - the very words send a shiver down many a parent’s spine; this aspect of the Jungle can keep parents awake at night.

Is my child eligible? How do they measure the distance to the school? Are the drivers trained? Will my child get an escort? Will they know what to do if my child has a seizure? The list is endless.

As a mum to three children who use transport, I know just how much of a nightmare it can be.  I also know that when it is delivered well, what an amazing difference it makes to families.

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The negative experiences:

  • We have had taxis turn up late - because the escort got stuck at the hairdressers
  • We have had taxis turn up late - because the driver had pulled an all-nighter on an airport run
  • We have had taxis not use booster seats - for a 4 year old child - on a busy motorway
  • We have had non-English speaking escorts - for a child with communication needs - for an hour long journey
  • We have had taxis arrive with no knowledge whatsoever of my child’s needs.  One lovely lady had planned a really great “spot the landmark” game to help the journey pass - for my blind son.  No one had thought to mention this when the tender went out.

The list is endless and this is just the actual transport providers.  If I had to write a list on the negative experiences from a local authority point of view, it would probably become a rant rather than an informative post.

The customer service from our SEN Transport team here in Kent has in the past been - well words fail me.

School bus

The positive experiences:

  • A driver making contact as soon as he received the contract to come and meet us before the transport started; turning up with photos of his car, contact details, etc.  (this was not compulsory but purely because he "got" this and knew it would be easier for all)
  • A driver providing us with a One Page Profile - this was possibly my number one favourite
  • A driver who insists on taking the kids to a fast food chain on the last day of term, along with his wife and grandchildren
  • An escort who is happy to liaise with the school
  • An escort who happily collects a child from the door rather than parking 100m down the road.  This may sound like asking for too much but when your other children have SEN or are young, having to leave them to escort your other child to the car can be a recipe for disaster.

All of these are above and beyond their duties, (although the Guidance does recommend that drivers meet the family) but it is because they are human that it works.  They empathise with our family but more importantly, they actually genuinely like children.

So, is there any guidance for the Local Authority, like a Code of Practice?

Yes, there is.  It is the Guidance on Home to School Travel and Transport.  There is a lot of "should" rather than must in there (a bit like the new draft Code of Practice) but there are some very clear guidelines on transport for children with SEN.

Which children are eligible for Transport?

Children who attend schools beyond the statutory walking distance

  • The statutory walking distance is 2 miles for children under 8 years old and 3 miles for children of 8 or over.
  • The measurement of the “statutory walking distance” is not necessarily the shortest distance by road. It is measured by the shortest route along which a child, accompanied as necessary, may walk with reasonable safety. As such, the route measured may include footpaths, bridleways, and other pathways, as well as recognised roads.

Children with SEN, disabilities or mobility problem

  • Some children with SEN and/or a disability may, by reason of their SEN and/or disability, be unable to walk even relatively short distances to school.
  • This means that local authorities must make suitable travel arrangements for children with SEN, a disability, or mobility problem if their SEN, disability, or mobility problem means that they could not reasonably be expected to walk to the school 

Children whose route to school is unsafe

  • In assessing the comparative safety of a route, a local authority should conduct an assessment of the risks a child might encounter along the prescribed route (including, for example, canals, rivers, ditches, speed of traffic along roads, overhanging trees or branches that might obscure fields of vision for the pedestrian or motorist, etc.).
  • The assessment of a route should take place at the times of the day that pupils would be expected to use the route.

There are other categories of children (those with parents on low income, etc) and their details can be found in the Guidance.

My personal favourite part of the guidance is section 52:

  1. For a local authority to meet the requirements of this duty, travel arrangements must be “suitable”. The suitability of arrangements will depend on a number of factors. Best practice has shown that for local authorities to consider travel arrangements to be suitable, they must enable an eligible child to reach school without such stress, strain, or difficulty that they would be prevented from benefiting from the education provided. For arrangements to be ‘suitable’, they must also allow the child to travel in reasonable safety, and in reasonable comfort.

If only best practice was compulsory rather than a recommendation, life would be so much better for all concerned.

Where can you go to for more advice and information?  

  • IPSEA (I don't know where I'd be without them) have provided a checklist for parents and also an overview of the Guidance in language we can relate to.
  • You can also ask us questions via the comments.

We'd love to hear about your experiences: Ready, steady, RANT!

Debs Aspland
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Very helpful post. Our experience so far of transport has been very positive – drivers and escorts great. It just struck me reading the guidelines that the three mile limit for children over 8 is bit steep. I know many parents would drive their kids to school if it was three miles away, or use the bus or bike, but some can’t do that. I do a lot of walking, but feel pretty tired after walking for an hour. Just picturing trying to teach an 8 year-old who’d just done this in the pouring rain. And if you had to… Read more »


Transport has caused us nothing but problems, taxis turning up late, drivers speeding, taking my child to the wrong location, being verbally abusive and allowing him to get out of the car into a busy main road. Transport department, funnily enough also from Kent, are trying very hard to ignore the problem despite emails quoting good practice.


I feel and share your frustrations with regard to getting a suitable service for SEN transport. We had one brilliant family run service provider for 10 years , it was bliss knowing your children are safe and happy on the way t school every day. Then chaos , turmoil, heartbreak and neglect when the wonderful family business lost the contract. This new service provider was a disaster, children couldn’t cope with the new change, meaning they had be escorted to school separately by taxi, children start refusing to. GO to school, the usually happy children became quieter and not their… Read more »

Benedicte Symcox

I’m going to start with a “happy”! Two of my children use transport. The third is at residential school and I’ve chosen not to involve the transport team for him. The local authority’s input? Not so good. They gave the wrong information about one child to the transport team, and both companies were told they had to transport my children the day before school was due to start – not great for one who is autistic, or the other who uses a wheelchair. But… both companies have been wonderful. I have good contact details and any phone calls are friendly… Read more »


Where to start… The drivers are, on the whole, lovely but the staff in the office just don’t seem to get it. My son finishes school earlier on a Friday than every other day of the week and the taxi company has forgotten this at least 5 times last term and yet again on the first Friday back this term. My son then sits for an extra half an hour to an hour until he is collected, when he could be home relaxing. I called to inform them that my son would be off school from a certain date but… Read more »


After initially being informed my son would get fortnightly transport to his new residential placement, it was suddenly withdrawn with no notice whatsoever to only the beginning and end of each half term. Thankfully the taxi company told me or my son would have been left abandoned at school on a Friday evening (although school is geared up for weekends and could have kept him, can you imagine the distress and potential repercussions in a new placement for an autistic child?) The LA certainly didn’t have the courtesy to let me know. Due to the oddities of the carer’s allowance… Read more »


Really useful post Debs, there is transport available at D’s SN school but I prefer to take her, having witnessed first hand instances when it can go wrong.
T will be going to a MS secondary school and transport will be an issue, useful links within, thank you.

Graham Manfield

We have only used home to school transport since September last year when our profoundly deaf daughter transferred to a secondary school with a deaf support centre six miles from our home. We asked for details of transport arrangements a year before as she finds change really difficult (as detailed in her SSEN). Despite repeating this many times, we discovered, two weeks before the start of term, that the council’s published policy had been amended FIVE years earlier and they hadn’t updated their website or shared this with parents. All of our careful preparation was rendered useless and the start… Read more »

Alison Holgate

We have had no alternative to move our son from a school which was not meeting his needs to another one which seems better suited. We have supplied evidence of the failure to the IDSS manager who refuses transport saying the school should be suitable . Err I knew that thanks – but it wasn’t !
We are waiting for transport appeal on 16/06 and if that fails are waiting to go to tribunal – where I will have a wonderful time asking the manager to define ” suitable “

Carolz Mack

Hi, My little girl has been receiving home to school transport via the LA for the last 17 months. When I first applied I went through all of her medical needs and initially transport was granted, with a last pick up at 08.35 (school starts @ 08.50) and a first drop off at15.25 (school finishes @ 15.10). Never once did the transport turn up at 08.35 (due to traffic conditions that time in the morning) and my other child who was 3 at the time was continually late for nursery. When I spoke to the SEN transport office and explained… Read more »

Tania Tirraoro

Thanks for your comment – As you have been through such a saga, I would now advise that you seek advice from or the Contact a Family SEN helpline. Also SOS!SEN as they can all give you legally backed advice, which we cannot. Good luck!

Graham Manfield

My LA has revised their policy without any consultation notwithstanding a clear duty to do so incuded in the statutory guidance.Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) they also failed to apply it to this year’s application process so it restricts remedies (e.g. meaningful referral to the LGO). I also discovered some time ago that the training for drivers and escorts was not fit for purpose. Finally, the LA did not put anything in place to manage my daughter’s recent additional disability until I formally complained. I’m meeting with the strategic lead shortly. He seems willing to listen so perhaps some progress but… Read more »