If a child has special educational needs (“SEN”), a disability or mobility problems which means they cannot reasonably be expected to walk to school, then they are an ‘eligible child’ and are entitled to home to school transport, provided that the local authority (“LA”) has made no suitable arrangements for attendance at a nearer school or boarding accommodation.

It may not be reasonable to expect a child to walk to school because of a physical disability, but it may also be because (for example) they lack a sense of danger.

If a child is eligible because they have SEN, a disability or mobility problems, whether or not they live within statutory walking distance of the school is not relevant.

If their SEN or disability does not hinder their ability to walk to school, they may be eligible under one of the other categories set out on the page about children of compulsory school age.

For children with education, health and care (“EHC”) plans, it is not uncommon for LAs to ask parents to pay for transport when there is a dispute over the placement which should be named in the EHC plan, particularly when the placement at the parent’s preferred school may cost more than the LA’s nearer alternative school.

However, parents should only enter into such an agreement if the school which the LA wishes the child to attend is in fact suitable and the LA can show that the parents’ preferred school would be an inefficient use of the LA’s resources. You should consider:

  • Is the school the LA is proposing suitable for the child, and able to provide them with a place if they were asked to do so?
  • If yes, would the parent’s preference cost significantly more than the LA’s preference (including the costs of travel to both schools)?

If the answer to both of the above questions is yes, then the LA is entitled to ask the parent to pay the cost of transport. Section I of the EHC plan would be likely to say, “The LA considers the child’s needs can be met at A School, the nearest appropriate school to the child’s home, but in accordance with parental preference, the child will attend B School on the condition that the parents arrange, and if necessary pay for, his transport to and from B School”.

If the answer to either the first or second question is no, then the parent’s choice of school should be named unconditionally. The parent’s choice of school is then deemed to be the nearest suitable school, and the LA must provide transport if it is necessary.

If the LA has written a sentence into Section I of the EHC plan stating the parents must provide transport when you do not consider the conditions above have been met, you should consider appealing to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) to get this sentence removed so your preferred school is named unconditionally for the purpose of receiving transport.

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