School transport

The duties and powers of local authorities in England to provide home to school transport are governed by the Education Act 1996, as amended. In addition to the legislation there has been case law on school transport, and the Government has issued guidance on the interpretation of the law and on good practice.

Local authorities are under a statutory duty to have regard to guidance on home to school travel and transport issued by the Secretary of State for Education. The guidance provides a summary of the statutory duties on local authorities when making home to school travel arrangements. It sets the circumstances in which local authorities must provide free transport and it also notes that local authorities have discretionary powers to make provision for children for whom they are not obliged to make provision. Revised Government guidance on school transport was published in July 2014.

The Free school transport website provides information about which children of compulsory school age are eligible for free school transport:

All children between 5 and 16 qualify for free school transport if they go to their nearest suitable school and live at least:

  • 2 miles from the school if they’re under 8
  • 3 miles from the school if they’re 8 or older

If there’s no safe walking route, they must be given free transport, however far from school they live.

There are also particular provisions for children with special educational needs and for families on low-incomes.

The guidance sets out what constitutes a qualifying school for these purposes:

  • community, foundation or voluntary schools;
  • community or foundation special schools;
  • non-maintained special schools;
  • pupil referral units;
  • maintained nursery schools; or
  • city technology colleges (CTC), city colleges for the technology of the arts (CCTA) or academies, including free schools and University Technical Colleges (UTC)

For children with SEN, an independent school can also be a qualifying school where this is named on the child’s Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan) or statement, or it is the nearest of two or more schools named. 

DfE guidance

Home to school travel and transport guidance

Statutory guidance for local authorities July 2014

This is statutory guidance from the Department for Education. This means local authorities are under a duty to have regard to it when carrying out their duties in relation to home to school travel and transport, and sustainable travel. 

Local authority policy search by postcode

Help with home to school transport

Find out if your child is eligible for help with the cost of home to school transport through your local council website.

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