Local authorities (“LAs”) 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 (section 508B of the Education Act (“EA”) 1996).

Eligible children fall within four categories, set out in Schedule 35 EA 1996:

Children with SEN, a disability or a mobility difficulty

Children whose route to school is unsafe

Children who live beyond the statutory walking distance

Children from low income families

Follow the links above to find out more information about each category. If a child meets the criteria for any one of these categories, they should be entitled to home to school transport.

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

A qualifying school is a:

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

For a child with an EHC plan, an independent school can also be a qualifying school if this is the only school or the nearest school named in Section I of the EHC plan (Paragraph 15(3) Schedule 35B EA 1996).

Children who receive education somewhere other than at school (for example, at an alternative provision for children who are excluded or have medical needs which mean they cannot attend school) can also qualify as eligible children.

What are travel arrangements?

"Travel arrangements" are defined in section 508B(4) EA 1996 and pages 48-51 of the government’s statutory guidance ‘Home to School Travel and Transport Guidance 2014’.

’Home to school travel arrangements’, in relation to an eligible child, are travel arrangements in both directions between the child’s home and the relevant educational establishment.

They include arrangements for the provision of transport, and any of the following arrangements – but only if they are made with parental consent:

  • provision of one or more escorts (whether alone or together with other children) when travelling to or from the relevant educational establishment
  • payment of the whole or any part of a person’s reasonable travelling expenses
  • payment of allowances in respect of the use of particular modes of travel
  • voluntary arrangements made by the parent.

Travel arrangements in relation to an eligible child must not give rise to additional costs and must include appropriate protection against those costs.

The Home to School Travel and Transport Guidance (paras 34 and 35) defines suitable travel arrangements. In particular:

  • 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.
  • They must enable the child to travel in reasonable safety and comfort although this does not necessarily mean a door-to-door service. However, arrangements that entailed a child walking an unreasonably long distance to catch a public bus would be unlikely to be 'suitable'.

The guidance suggests maximum reasonable journey times of 45 minutes for primary school children, and 75 minutes for secondary school children. It notes, however, that for children with SEN and/or disabilities, journeys may be more complex and a shorter journey time, although desirable, may not always be possible. The child’s age and disability would have to be taken into account in considering what is suitable. Breaks might be needed when children live a long way from their school.

Those who operate the travel arrangements such as bus drivers and escorts must be subject to enhanced DBS (formerly CRB) checks and should have undertaken disability equality training.

If you haven’t been able to find the answer to your question on this page, see the pages on the different categories of ‘eligible children’ linked above, or take a look at our FAQs.