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Have your say on the review of home to school transport

Let us know what you think about proposed changes to our home to school transport service.

This consultation included an online public survey as well as various in-person meetings and events. 324 people gave us feedback either through the survey or at the events.

A report including this feedback was considered by our Cabinet meeting on 14 June 2023. It agreed with all of the proposals, except the fare increase for the DCC concessionary bus scheme, which was reduced to £2 instead of the proposed £2.80. For more information you can read the full report in the Cabinet agenda and minutes from Wednesday 14 June 2023.

What's happening and why

We looked at potential changes we can make to our home to school transport service to meet the challenges of increasing demands and operating costs, whilst also exploring opportunities which provide greater flexibility for parents, support the independence of our young people and deliver an environmentally friendly service. 

We asked for your views to help shape and refine these proposals for change. As each child, young person and family's circumstances are different, we want to understand what you think about each proposal and how they may affect you. We are also aware that our schools and transport providers will have views too.

An external review of the home to school transport service in 2021 has revealed that we are out of step with other similar councils in how home to school journeys are arranged. For example, we have a higher percentage of single person transport journeys and passenger assistants. We also have a lower take up of personal travel budgets which can enable families to make their own transport choices for their child.

The review also identified that in some instances, we currently go beyond our legal requirements (statutory duty) for home to school transport services. For example, we provide a subsidised concessionary seats scheme to some pupils who do not meet statutory eligibility criteria for free transport. This is adding pressures to our budget and we are having to carefully consider what we can afford to spend money on in the future. 

At the current time, we are forecast to spend almost £25 million on providing home to school transport services this year (2022/23). This is nearly £5 million more than originally budgeted. It is also expected that next year's budget will increase by a further £4.8 million.

The increasing cost is due to a number of reasons, which are largely explained by:

  • increasing demand for home to school transport, especially in relation to children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) and other special transport requirements
  • increasing transport costs caused by rising fuel prices, wages and inflation which result in increasing contract prices

The review of the home to school transport service has identified opportunities to make some changes which will help to make the service more flexible and efficient, while ensuring the needs of children and young people are met in a safe, effective, and sustainable way.

The proposals will ensure any child or young person who is eligible for the service under the council's statutory duty will continue to receive support to travel to school, however the consultation is putting forward proposals which will potentially change how some children might travel to school.

About the home to school transport service

The home to school transport service is a statutory (legally required) service which supports over 9,000 children and young people in the county, getting them to and from school each day. It is a complex operation that involves over 1,000 transport routes, supported by over 350 transport providers, ranging from large bus companies to local taxi services.

By law, we must provide home to school transport to children of compulsory school age (five to 16) who meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • live beyond two miles to the nearest suitable school (below the age of eight)
  • live beyond three miles to the nearest suitable school (age eight to 16)
  • live beyond two miles to the nearest suitable school for pupils aged eight to 11 from low income families (for example in receipt of free school meals)
  • live between two to six miles to one of the three nearest qualifying schools for pupils aged 11 to 16 from low income families   
  • live between two and 15 miles to a church school where this is the nearest school preferred on the grounds of religion or belief for pupils aged 11 to 16 from low income families
  • live any distance for pupils with a disability or mobility requirement (there are no statutory distances)

We are also required to make transport arrangements for those children who cannot reasonably be expected to walk to school because of their mobility, disability or associated health and safety issues.

Find full details in our  Home to primary, secondary and special school and college travel and transport policy (PDF) [253KB]

Key statistics at the time of the review in 2021:

  • The number of pupils in receipt of home to school transport is approximately 9,000 (with latest data at February 2023 showing that this has increased by a further 10%).
  • The number of transports providers available was just over 300.
  • The number of transport contracts was over 1,000, of which approximately 50% were Special Educational Needs contracts.
  • 93% of SEND contracts have a passenger assistant provided (benchmark 64%).
  • 41% of SEND related contracts were single passenger vehicles (benchmark 38%).
  • The latest data (February 2023) identifies that the number of single passenger journeys in all categories has increased from 286 per day in 2019 to 376 per day in 2023.
  • The average number of passengers per SEND school route is 2.94 (benchmark 3.37).

The proposals in detail

There are five priorities for change. In developing these, we have been guided by the following principles:

  • providing sustainable transport in line with our environmental policies
  • providing safe travel options aligned with the needs of children and young people
  • supporting the development of the skills and the confidence of young people to travel independently
  • providing an efficient, value for money service

How to have your say

The closing date for comments was 5.00pm on Wednesday 12 April 2023.

What happens next

Your feedback will be considered as part of developing the proposals and plans to implement changes to the Service. A further report will be made to our Cabinet in summer 2023 which will set out the findings from this consultation and recommendations on how to take forward the proposals.

We will keep all our parents, carers, schools and transport providers fully up to date with what's happening and involve them in planning services and making decisions where it is appropriate to do so.

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