If your 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, as long as the local authority (LA) has not made suitable arrangements for your child to go to 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 also may not be reasonable to expect them to walk because (for example) they lack a sense of danger.

If your child is eligible for transport because they have SEN, a disability or mobility problems, whether or not they live within statutory walking distance of the school is not relevant. They will still be eligible for transport even if they live within the statutory walking distance, as confirmed in the Travel to school for children of compulsory school age 2024 Guidance (para 14).

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.

Your LA must follow the legal process confirmed in case law when it is considering asking you to do this. You should only enter into such an agreement with your LA if both the school which the LA wishes your child to attend is in fact suitable and the LA can show that your preferred school would be an inefficient use of the LA’s resources.

You should consider these two questions:

  • Is the school the LA is proposing suitable for your child, and able to provide them with a place if they were asked to do so? If no, your choice of school must be named in the EHC plan. This school will be deemed to be the nearest suitable school, and the LA must provide transport to it if your child is eligible.

If yes, then we ask:

  • Would the school you prefer cost significantly more than the LA’s preference (including the costs of travel to both schools)?

If no, then again your choice of school must be named in the EHC plan and the LA must provide transport to it if your child is eligible.

If yes, then the school you prefer can be named in the EHC plan together with the LA’s choice but your LA is entitled to ask you to pay the cost of transport to the school you prefer.

If this is the case, 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, their transport to and from B School”. In this situation, case law has stated that if a parent offers to pay for the transport to school to reduce the cost of their choice of school placement, then the Tribunal must either consider naming more than one school in the EHC plan or naming the parent’s choice of school with a condition that the parent will pay for the transport.  

If your LA has written a sentence into Section I of the EHC plan stating you 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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