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Local authorities are required to arrange free, suitable, home-to-school transport for children of compulsory school age who are eligible, to their nearest suitable qualifying school.

Compulsory school age begins with the start of the term following a child’s fifth birthday and ends on the last Friday in June in the academic year in which they turn 16.

Pupils of compulsory school age are entitled to free school transport if they both: 

  • live beyond the statutory walking distance
  • attend the school designated by their Local Authority to serve the child’s home address

A qualifying school is a:

  • maintained (publicly funded) school or nursery
  • non-maintained special school
  • pupil referral unit
  • city technology college, or
  • an academy

Free school transport is not an automatic entitlement for children who attend special schools or have SEND. The normal entitlement criteria would still apply. In some cases, where transport is provided for children with special needs, the type of transport will be in line with the recommendations made by the professionals involved in placing the child.

Parents must arrange for their children to travel in safety between their home and the transport picking-up and setting-down points. Parents are also responsible for their children while they are waiting for transport and when they leave the transport at the end of the day.

If a child lives within statutory walking distance, close enough to walk but cannot, parents can provide evidence of mobility issues or the relevant special educational needs that prevents them from walking safely to school. The local authority will decide if transport will be provided. 

If a child does not meet the local authority's criteria, Section 508c of the Education Act 1996 does afford local authorities the power to help children who might not be typically ‘eligible’. In some cases, the local authority may work with the parents and the school to find an alternative solution, with a sharing of costs.

If the decision is not in favour of providing transport then each local authority will have a transport appeal process.

More information about home to school transport for children and young people with SEND in Southend can be found on the Local Offer.

IPSEA the Independent Provider of Special Education Advice also have an information page about Transport to School or College

SENTAS are the Special Educational Needs Transport Advocacy Service that provides families with Information on home to school transport including the legislation and statutory government guidance that surround this issue.