Your child is eligible for free travel to school from your local authority (LA) if:

  • they are eligible for free school meals, or 
  • a parent with whom they live receives maximum Working Tax Credit, 

and your child:

  • is aged at least 8 but under 11, and attends their nearest suitable school and it is more than 2 miles from their home, 
  • is aged 11 to 16 years, and attends one of their three nearest suitable schools provided it is more than 2 miles but not more than 6 miles from their home, or 
  • is aged 11 to 16 years, and attends a school that is more than 2 but not more than 15 miles from their home that you have chosen on the grounds of their religion or belief if, having regard to that religion or belief, there is no suitable school nearer to their home.

When your LA assesses whether your child lives more than 2 miles from school, the route it measures must be the shortest route along which a child, accompanied as necessary, may walk in reasonable safety. This is not necessarily the shortest distance by road. The route may also include footpaths, bridleways, other pathways and alternative entrances to the school.

When assessing whether your child lives within the 6- or 15-mile upper limits mentioned above, the LA should measure road routes only. There is no expectation that a child would walk these distances and so walking routes should not be used for assessing eligibility (para 34 of the Travel to school for children of compulsory school age 2024 Guidance).

If, during the course of an academic year, your child stops being eligible for free school meals, or you stop receiving maximum Working Tax Credit, your LA should continue to provide free travel to school for the remainder of that academic year. It should not simply stop (see para 35 of the Guidance).

Eligibility is partly decided on Working Tax Credit, and this is being phased out by the introduction of Universal Credit. However, your child’s eligibility will not be affected by the roll out of Universal Credit (as confirmed in para 37 of the Guidance). If you currently claim maximum Working Tax Credit, this means you will have an earned income of no more than £7,400. Your child will become eligible for free school meals (if they are not already) when you are transferred to Universal Credit, so their eligibility will be decided based on free school meals and the other criteria set out above.

(You can find more information about eligibility for free school meals in Free School Meals: guidance for local authorities, maintained schools, academies and free schools.) 

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