Transport to school and college

Information for families in England

Who can get free transport?

The local authority where you live may be able to provide your child with free or partially subsidised transport to their school. By law, local authorities have to make free transport arrangements for certain groups of eligible children. Who is eligible will depend on different factors, including:

  • Distance between home and school.
  • Safety of the route.
  • Family and social circumstances.
  • Health, special educational needs and/or disability.

There are additional rules for families on low incomes and for parents wanting a particular faith school. Local authorities may provide free or subsidised transport to other children who do not fall into these groups. Information on school and college transport should be in your local authority's Local Offer [PDF].

Are all children with special educational needs (SEN) or a disability entitled to free transport?

The law says that local authorities must provide transport to pupils who would be unable to walk to school because of their SEN, disability or mobility problems. It does not matter how short the distance is, or whether a pupil has a statement or EHC plan. Some children with SEN may be able to walk to school. Local authorities must assess a child's transport needs individually.

What kind of transport is provided?

Local authorities can provide different kinds of transport, including a dedicated taxi or minibus service with or without an escort, car mileage allowance, bus passes, or travel cards.

How does the local authority decide which kind of transport is most suitable for my child?

The local authority should consider your child's individual needs. You should provide clear information about your child's SEN, disability and any health needs when you apply for transport. The local authority should decide if your child requires special arrangements such as an escort, or equipment such as specialised seating. To be suitable, transport must be safe and 'non stressful'. This means that your child arrives at school ready to learn.

Can the local authority refuse transport if my child has a statement or Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan?

If the local authority considers that there is a suitable school that is nearer than your preferred school, they do not have to provide free school transport. If your child has an EHC plan, the local authority may agree to name your preferred school on condition that you provide transport.

If your child has SEN, the nearest suitable school may not be the closest school to your home - it will be the nearest school that can meet your child's needs.

Can the local authority refuse transport for a child who gets higher mobility Disability Living Allowance (DLA)?

Local authorities cannot have policies that introduce additional criteria for transport, for example refusing transport to children receiving higher mobility DLA, children whose parents have cars, or children without EHC plans. This is unlawful.

Where can I find information about school transport?

Local authorities must publish their 'Home to school transport policy' every year. They should have a clear policy on transport for children with SEN and disabilities. This should be on their website or telephone the local authority. Ask them to send you a copy.

To see what the law says about local authority duties to provide school transport, see Home-to-school travel and transport guidance.

Will my child get transport to college?

The local authority must have a transport policy which sets out how they will support young people aged 16 -18 to get to school or college. The policy must also say what help is available for students with SEN and disabilities. Local authorities do not have to provide free help to this age group and may ask families to contribute to the cost of transport.

Local authorities must also set out how they will help disabled adult learners over 18 to get to a place of education and training.

Help could mean a taxi or bus, discounted fares, travel cards or travel training. Local authorities should always consider the young person's individual needs before making a decision. Transport needs should be discussed as part of an EHC needs assessment.

The college may be able to help with transport. Social services may agree to fund transport in some situations.

Government statutory guidance is here: Post 16 transport to education and traning.

What if I am not happy about a transport decision?

If your son or daughter has been refused transport, or offered unsuitable transport, the local authority must have an appeal procedure. Details should be in the transport policy, or ask your local authority school transport department.

If an appeal is unsuccessful, further action may be possible. Please contact our helpline for advice about your child's situation, your rights and the next steps you can take.

Information for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Although this information is relevant to England only, we do support the whole of the UK. If you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland get into contact with your local offices to find out how we can help you, visit the In your area section.

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