School transport guidance update: How has your disabled child or young person been impacted?

With Cerebra, IPSEA, SOS!SEN and Contact.

We’ve been hearing from many parents about the difficulties they've been experiencing trying to secure home-to-school SEND transport for their children with EHCPs, especially when they reach 16. Many LAs are introducing, or already have implemented, charging for Post-16 travel, which can make it unaffordable and therefore impossible for some families to get their young people to their (often hard-won) placement.

Last year Eleanor Wright, of SOSSEN, wrote for us about updated government Home to School Transport Guidance and the concerns she had. The guidance has since been slightly amended but concerns remain. SOSSEN has joined other charities, Cerebra, IPSEA and Contact to research your experiences of SEND transport to gauge the impact of the changes.

Tell us about Home to School SEND Transport experiences, by Cerebra, SOSSEN, IPSEA and Contact

We’ve previously expressed concerns about the Department for Education’s revised school transport guidance, Travel to school for children of compulsory school age: Statutory guidance for local authorities (see our previous posts on the Special Needs Jungle and Cerebra websites). We’re inviting families to complete a short school transport survey so that we can learn more about the impact of the revised guidance.

When the Department for Education published an updated version of the guidance on 25 January 2024, we hoped that it might address some of our concerns. On a positive note, the guidance no longer recommends using a formal letter to record a parent’s agreement to pay for transport to their preferred school (which would have left parents unable to challenge the arrangement at the Tribunal). But the Department hasn’t corrected what the guidance says about parents having to accompany their disabled children.

Restrictive and onerous for families

The guidance still places the onus on parents to accompany children of all ages to school. It includes a presumption that work, caring or family commitments will not normally be considered good reasons for being unable to accompany a child. It also expects parents to make ‘other suitable arrangements’ for their child’s journey to school.

Essentially, the guidance says the daily pressures of fitting work and family commitments around the school run apply to all parents in the same way and it’s up to parents to “fulfil their various responsibilities”.

However, the guidance doesn’t acknowledge that the pressures on parents of disabled children are different because their young people will need to be accompanied to a much higher age than their non-disabled peers. So we think the guidance may discriminate against disabled children and their families, as they’re likely to be disproportionately disadvantaged by these requirements. We also think the guidance is inconsistent with legislation1, case-law2 and earlier guidance,3 which have established that parents can only be expected to do what is ‘reasonably practicable’ to accompany children on the walk to school.

In our view, the guidance on accompaniment requires urgent review to uphold school transport and equality law and to protect the rights of disabled children and their parents.

Have you been affected?

We’d like to hear from families who have been seriously affected by the changes to the school transport guidance. For example, do you have a disabled child aged 11-16 who’s been refused school transport because you live within three miles of their school and you’re expected to accompany them? If so, we’d be very grateful if you could complete our survey – it should only take a few minutes.

Your feedback will help us to understand how the revised guidance is affecting families and what we can do to challenge it.

Note: this Cerebra/ SOSSEN/ IPSEA/ Contact survey, NOT by SNJ.

References

  1. Section 508B and Schedule 35B of the Education Act 1996
  2. See R v Devon County Council ex p George [1989] AC 573 (concerning unsafe routes, but likely applicable to eligibility for transport due to SEND or mobility problems).
  3. See Department for Education, Consultation on home to school travel and transport guidance: Government response (July 2014), para 52, which explained that the 2014 guidance would require local authorities to consider whether it was ‘reasonably practicable’ for a parent to accompany their child.

Also read:

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One comment

  1. Maria Dean

    My Son is Autistic, learning difficulty, selective mute and stealth dyslexia with an EHCP. The school is an hour walk, due to my operations I cant manage the walk. My Son who is 14, doesnt like the outside world, wouldnt get on a bus at busy times. I have had a report from the SEND manager supporting us, also the assisted travel asked me for proof from my GP about my health, I did get that, paid out money for that, gave it to them but still rejected my claim for travel. My Son has had a lot of time off, refusing to go out. We get no support from anyone.

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