Local authorities or councils must make arrangements to provide free transport to and from school for pupils living in their area. There are legal duties about when this has to be provided. Local authorities can decide to provide transport in situations where they don’t have a legal duty to do so. This means that transport policies may be different in different areas of Scotland.
Local authorities take several different things into account when deciding who they will provide free transport for. These include:
Distance from the school – normally, local authorities will offer free transport to school to pupils who live further away than the ‘statutory walking distances’ (2 miles for children under 8 years old, 3 miles for pupils above 8 years old).
Type of school – free transport may only be provided to your child’s local school, or a school where the council has offered your child a place (such as a special school that meets their needs).
Your child’s support needs – depending on the circumstances and the specific needs of your child, the council may arrange transport for a child with additional support needs.
If you make a successful placing request, the local authority has no legal duty to provide transport for your child to get to that school, though it can do so if it wishes.
This means that if you are considering putting in a placing request, it is useful to discuss transport beforehand and find out whether you would be responsible for making transport arrangements and paying the costs of this if the request was successful.
If the placing request is to an independent special or grant-aided special school in Scotland (or a school elsewhere in the UK) your local authority should meet the fees and ‘other necessary costs’, such as transport, for your child to attend.
Responsibility for children’s safety and supervision on school transport lies with your local council. Escorts may be employed to be with your child in a taxi or bus, who should receive training if necessary and must be fully checked through Disclosure Scotland.
- asked to be involved in conversations about transport for your child when discussing school placement
- ask the local authority or council to consider your child’s safety, age, and their additional support needs when deciding what kind of transport is best
- ask the local authority about their arrangements for providing escorts
- ask the local authority about transport even if they do not legally have to provide it. Sometime arrangements can be made if school transport is leaving from near where you live.
Possible conversation starters for planning transport:
- Will an escort be needed for my child? If so, what training will they have?
- What plans are in place for if my child has a medical emergency on the way to/from school?
- How will I be able to speak to the transport provider?
- Who should I talk to if there are any problems with the transport?