Cabinet agrees changes to Home to School transport services

Buckinghamshire County Council’s Cabinet has agreed a series ofchanges to the way the county’s home to school transport service operates.

The recommendations for change were prepared following a recent public consultation which asked residents and organisations for views on how home to school transport services are delivered in Buckinghamshire. They were agreed by Cabinet on 4 March.

The changes aim to modernise services, making sure they remain high quality and are sustainable for the future. They will also address the unsustainable budget pressures which increasing demand on services has caused. Between April 2018 and November 2018, demand has increased budget pressure on this service from £1.4m to £1.9m.

Some of these changes will take effect at the start of the next academic year, in September 2019, while others are expected to be phased in over the next few years.

There will be no change to arrangements for more than 5,000 pupils who are eligible for free travel. The revisions only apply to children and young people who are not eligible for free statutory home to school transport.

The main changes are as follows:

How we provide school transport– Many school and public bus services currently duplicate routes. Starting from September 2019 we will aim to reduce this. We will work with service providers to make routes more efficient and offer children and young people more flexibility in their travel options. We will be working to ensure that routes are reliable; that children’s safety is prioritised in any arrangements; and that children will be assured of places on any public routes.

Phasing out two historic local transport arrangements– in Ivinghoe [relating to Cottesloe School and Tring School] and Evreham [relating to Chalfont Community College]. Parents in these two areas who choose a school which is not the nearest appropriate one for their child, will be required to pay for transport. This brings these arrangements in line with the rest of the County meaning fair and consistent transport charges are applied to families. This will take effect from September 2020.

Charging for transport for pupils with SEND aged over 16– A contribution to the cost of home to school transport for children with SEND (who are older than 16) will be introduced from September 2019. This will replace the free transport offer currently in place. Costs for SEND transport have increased by over £3m in the last five years (from around £6m to £9m). Students with SEND who attend college can apply for a bursary to assist with costs.

Eligible children with SEND aged between 14 and 19 years old will be offered an increase in provision of independent travel training, which we expect will enable us to reduce transport costs.

Mike Appleyard, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: “These changes have been very carefully considered and mean transport charges will be applied in a fair and consistent way to families across the county.

“Most people will be unaffected by the changes but we want to ensure anyone who is will be managed in as fair and considerate a way as possible.

“We would, of course, prefer not to cause any inconvenience to families currently using home to school transport services. However, our costs have been rising with increased demand. If we are to continue to offer a high quality service which is safe and sustainable for our children to use in the future, we need to change the way we do things.”

The webcast of the Cabinet meeting is available here, together with the agenda and supporting documentation (including consultation results and recommendations):