Transport to school
Changes in home to school transport arrangements
The Education and Communities Committee agreed in September 2019, changes to the mainstream school transport policy. This was following a series of engagement events with parents.
In preparation for these changes, we wrote to parents of pupils affected providing them with advanced notice of one of the following:
- that they will be unaffected by the changes;
- due to consistent measuring of qualifying distances (over 2 miles from their catchment school) or the availability of an acceptable walking route, that they will no longer qualify for free school transport from August 2020;
- in the case of St Columba’s High School pupils, the arrangements which need to be made to reserve a place on a subsidised bus from August 2020;
- the arrangements for pupils who are in receipt of free school meals / clothing grant who live over one mile away from their catchment secondary school, and the payment of a transport grant from August 2020.
In the coming weeks, we will work with schools to provide maps of acceptable walking routes to schools to assist those who will no longer receive free transport from August in order that they can plan their routes to and from school.
It is worth remembering that there is no change to the qualifying distances to school transport or to the ASN transport policy and Inverclyde’s policy remains more generous than what is statutorily required of us. The policy will now be applied in in a more consistent and equitable way which affects a number of pupils across our schools.
Parents in receipt of free school meals / clothing grant will be entitled to a transport grant from August 2020 if their child lives beyond 1 mile from their secondary catchment school, which is an enhancement to the current policy. Details of this will be provided to them when they apply in the summer.
Below, you can find FAQ’s to help you understand some of the changes.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. I have just received a letter about my child’s school transport, what’s changing?
The qualifying distances for free school transport have not changed.
This means that if your child is in primary school and they live over one mile from their catchment school, free transport is provided.
For pupils who live more than two miles from their catchment secondary school, free transport is provided.
However for a number of years and for a variety of reasons we have provided school transport for some secondary pupils who live under two miles from their school which was outwith the current policy. This was because there was no acceptable walking route to school or because the location of their school building had been changed.
2. Why is this happening now and when will any changes take effect?
The Council agreed in September 2019 to make it fairer for all pupils by applying the policy in a more consistent way. We have been working since then to reduce any unfairness in the school transport system.
As part of this work we have used a more accurate measuring tool called GIS (Geographic Information System) to make sure we have accurate measurements from the school gate to your home by an acceptable walking route. We have also identified a number of acceptable walking routes which were previously not available.
For those pupils who are not entitled to free school transport, maps will be made available at their child’s school in the next few months to give parents and pupils enough notice and time to plan their route to and from school from the start of the new school term in August 2020.
3. What is an acceptable walking route and who decides?
Inverclyde Council assess Walked Routes to School using national guidance. The assessment of a walked route is carried out at a time when children would normally be making the journey to or from school and is conducted on the basis that reasonable caution and basic road safety rules will be followed by people using the route and that the child will be accompanied by a responsible adult if required. In line with the guidance, three practical elements are assessed to identify whether or not a walked route is acceptable -
- Footways and Paths – these must have an adequate useable walking width and be of hardstanding (e.g. tarmac, aggregate, beaten earth, etc.)
- Lighting – there must be provision of lighting which lights the footway or path
- Crossing points – we will consider lines of sight, crossing times, traffic gaps and traffic counts in our assessment.
If the identified route satisfies the criteria it is considered to be an Acceptable Walked Route to School. A bespoke ‘Walked Route to School’ map can be provided for anyone who is unsure of the recommended route from their home to their child’s school and we are working to develop an online system which will allow for easier access to walked routes.
Parents are asked to note that the issue of personal safety is a subjective test and is not considered as part of the walked route assessment as it is for the parent to determine what they deem safe for their child and what subsequent action to take to address their concerns (i.e. arrange accompaniment, or make alternative transport arrangements).
4. Who was consulted?
We undertook a series of consultation events in June 2019 in each of the secondary schools in Inverclyde to talk through the proposals such as moving to bus passes and having more accurate ways of measuring distances. All parents were invited to attend. We then used the feedback from these events to help us plan for the changes we are now making.
5. My child is currently entitled to free school transport because of their additional support needs/medical needs, how will this affect them?
There will be no change if your child currently receives free school transport because of their additional support needs/medical needs.
6. My child is entitled to free school transport but you are going to provide them with a bus pass instead of a place on a dedicated bus. Why?
The current transport policy states that free transport could be provided in the form of a bus pass. The Council continues to identify routes where it is possible for bus passes to be used on a public service route. Not all free transport will be provided by a bus pass.
A bus pass is only considered where:
- there is an adequate, reliable bus service which will get your child to school on time and home at the end of the day;
- there is an acceptable walking route to the bus stop; and
- where no changes of bus is necessary (for example, changing bus services in a town centre).
We are working with local bus companies to make sure arrangements are in place before we issue a bus pass. One of the advantages of a bus pass on a public service route is that it can be used outwith the school day and at weekends.
7. My child is not entitled to free school transport and my letter is asking me to register interest in a place on a subsidised bus service. What does this mean?
If you have received a letter stating you are not entitled to free school transport, in a few cases and because of the nature of the route to school, parents will be asked firstly to register their interest which we will confirm with you in May 2020. We will provide a subsidised bus if there is sufficient demand and it is cost effective to do so. Parents will be charged termly for each child in advance to reserve a place on the bus at a cost of £7.25, per child, per week. If there is no demand, the service will be withdrawn.
We recognise that if you have more than one child travelling on a subsidised bus, there will be a significant increase in costs. Therefore, if this reflects your circumstances, please contact the office on 01475 712850 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
8. My child currently receives free school meals and a clothing grant. How will these changes affect me?
In September 2019, the Council improved the provision for free school transport for pupils in receipt of free school meals and a clothing grant. Parents of pupils who live beyond 1 mile (instead of 2 miles) from their catchment secondary school and who receive free school meals and a clothing grant will also receive a transport grant (currently £7.25 per week, per child). More details of this will be provided when the clothing grant leaflets and application forms are made available before the summer holidays.
9. I did not receive a letter for all my children. Why?
There may be circumstances where one or more of your children have been using transport, but were not registered to do so. Please contact us if this is the case.
10. Will I be able to register for a seat on the bus for individual days/journeys?
No. In order for the Council to achieve best value in our bus contracts and keep costs down, we need to purchase contracts on at least a termly basis.
11. Will privilege passes still be available?
If there are spaces available, we will still offer privilege places which will be allocated in the same way as they are now. The cost of a privilege pass will be the same as the price of a weekly bus pass (currently £7.25 per week, per child).