Changes to school transport policy

10/4/2021 10:21:39 AM

Home to School Transport Policy Review 2021

What you told us

Over the last 18 months, we have received a wide range of feedback about SEND transport and our Home to School Transport Policy. We have received feedback directly from parents and carers of SEND students, as well as parent and carer representatives.

The main themes in the feedback we received were:

  • the distance-banded charging model for post-16 SEND transport was not popular with families. This is largely because parents/carers of children with SEND are more likely to need to attend a school that is further than their home so that the needs of their child can be met
  • the distance-banded charging model for post-16 SEND transport was also felt to be unfair, because whether the student attended their educational setting full-time or part-time was not taken into account 
  • that some parents/carers also felt that the process for applying to receive support for transport funding was difficult 
  • that many parents/carers felt that the Home to School Transport Policy and the Council’s website and other information on SEND transport was not very clear or easy to understand 

 

What we did as a result

Policy review

We started a policy review in Summer 2020 with the aim of improving information for parents and carers, and to consider the feedback we received from families. We also wanted to ask for views on options for transport arrangements for students aged 16-19 with SEND who are eligible for transport assistance.

Having listened to feedback from families, how transport for 16-19 year olds with SEND is arranged and paid for was a key element for consideration. We worked with parent and carer representatives to develop three potential options.

 

Public consultation

We held a formal public consultation over eight weeks from 12 October to 7 December 2020.  We used a variety of methods to raise awareness of the consultation and let people know how they could get involved. This included a social media campaign and newsletters to parents and carers of SEND students.

The consultation set out three transport arrangement options for 16 – 19 year old students with SEND. We asked respondents to express their preferred option. We also asked how clear the Policy and Policy Statement were to understand. In the responses we received, we found that: 

  • parents and carers indicated they wanted more choice and freedom to organise their own transport 
  • most respondents expressed a clear preference for Option 2: Choice of a Personal Transport Budget or Council-organised transport for an annual fee 
  • most respondents stated that the proposed Policy and Policy Statement were either partly or fully clear and easy to understand 

However, some respondents commented that certain sections of the proposed Policy and Statement were less clear than others.

The proposed Home to School Transport Policy and Post-16 Transport Policy Statement was reviewed and updated based on all the public consultation and free text responses we received, as well as all the feedback received from parents, carers and families over the last year.

 

The new Policy

The Home to School Transport Policy consultation outcome report, draft Home to School Transport Policy and associated Post-16 Transport Policy Statement 2021/22 were considered by the Council’s Cabinet on 30 March 2021 and were agreed as the Council’s new policies for travel assistance.

The new Home to School Transport Policy and Post-16 Transport Policy Statement are designed to provide more choice and freedom for families in relation to their transport arrangements, particularly for students with SEND.

The new Policy includes clear provision for financial support including:

  • the option to apply for a reduced fee for Council organised transport when making the transport application, if financial hardship can be demonstrated 
  • an appeal process for families who are experiencing severe financial hardship, to ensure that no student is prevented from accessing education due to financial barriers 

Improving our communication

We have updated our website information and have developed two printed leaflets for parents that set out the post-16 SEND transport options in clear language. These leaflets will be distributed through special schools and educational settings to provide families with information that is clear and easy to understand.

We are also communicating through a variety of methods with all key stakeholders to inform them about the new Home to School Transport Policy and associated Post-16 Transport Policy Statement 2021/22.

 

Suspension of charges for post-16 SEND transport for 2020 to 2021

We have taken the exceptional decision to suspend the Post-16 SEND transport charging policy for the academic year 2020 to 2021 only. We have taken this decision to support families in the difficult economic climate caused by COVID-19. 

All Post-16 transport provided by us for students with SEND will be at no charge to parents/carers for the academic year which ends in July 2021.

Review the policy statement for post 16 2020 to 2021.

 

2018 to 2019 policy review - summary of changes

In March 2019, the council's cabinet agreed a series of changes to the home to school transport policy, including a contribution charge towards the cost of Post 16 SEND transport.

This review followed a public consultation which ran from 31 October 2018 to 4 January 2019.

 

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