School and college transport
Information from Contact a Family
Who can get free transport?
The local authority may be able to provide your child with free or partially subsidised transport to their school. By law, local authorities have to make free transport arrangements for certain groups of eligible children. Who is eligible will depend on different factors, including:
- Distance between home and school.
- Safety of the route.
- Family and social circumstances.
- Health, special educational needs and/or disability.
There are additional rules for families on low incomes and for parents wanting a particular faith school. Local authorities may provide free or subsidised transport to other children who do not fall into these groups. Information on school and college transport can be found by doing a search in Kingston Local Offer website https://kr.afcinfo.org.uk/local_offer
Are all children with special educational needs (SEN) or a disability entitled to free transport?
The law says that local authorities must provide transport to pupils who would be unable to walk to school because of their SEN, disability or mobility problems. It does not matter how short the distance is, or whether a pupil has a statement or EHC plan. Some children with SEN may be able to walk to school. Local authorities must assess a child’s transport needs individually.
What kind of transport is provided?
Local authorities can provide different kinds of transport, including a dedicated taxi or minibus service with or without an escort, car mileage allowance, bus passes, or travel cards.
How does the local authority decide which kind of transport is most suitable for my child?
The local authority should consider your child’s individual needs. You should provide clear information about your child’s SEN, disability and any health needs when you apply for transport. The local authority should decide if your child requires special arrangements such as an escort, or equipment such as specialised seating. To be suitable, transport must be safe and ‘non stressful’. This means that your child arrives at school ready to learn.
Can the local authority refuse transport if my child has a statement or Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan?
If the local authority considers that there is a suitable school that is nearer than your preferred school, they do not have to provide free school transport. If your child has an EHC plan, the local authority may agree to name your preferred school on condition that you provide transport.
If your child has SEN, the nearest suitable school may not be the closest school to your home – it will be the nearest school that can meet your child’s needs.
Can the local authority refuse transport for a child who gets higher mobility Disability Living Allowance (DLA)?
Local authorities cannot have policies that introduce additional criteria for transport, for example refusing transport to children receiving higher mobility DLA, children whose parents have cars, or children without EHC plans. This is unlawful.
Where can I find information about school transport?
Local authorities must publish their home to school transport policy each year and they should have a clear policy on transport for children with SEN and disabilities. This should be on their website or telephone the local authority. Ask them to send you a copy.
Will my child get transport to college?
The local authority must have a transport policy which sets out how they will support young people aged 16 -18 to get to school or college. The policy must also say what help is available for students with SEN and disabilities. Local authorities do not have to provide free help to this age group and may ask families to contribute to the cost of transport.
Local authorities must also set out how they will help disabled adult learners over 18 to get to a place of education and training.
Help could mean a taxi or bus, discounted fares, travel cards or travel training. Local authorities should always consider the young person’s individual needs before making a decision. Transport needs should be discussed as part of an EHC needs assessment.
The college may be able to help with transport. Social services may agree to fund transport in some situations.
Government statutory guidance is here: Post 16 transport to education and traning.
What if I am not happy about a transport decision?
If your son or daughter has been refused transport, or offered unsuitable transport, the local authority must have an appeal procedure. Details should be in the transport policy, or ask your local authority school transport department.
Information from Contact a Family
The exclusion process
When can a pupil be excluded from school?
Schools can discipline pupils if they break the rules. The school behaviour policy should set out how they will do this. For ongoing challenging behaviour, or more serious ‘one-off’ offences, pupils may get a fixed period (temporary) exclusion, or a permanent exclusion.
Who makes the decision to exclude a child?
Only the head teacher, or acting head, can exclude a pupil.
My child was excluded today, what happens next?
The school will usually ring to tell you your child is being excluded and ask you to take them home. The head must also write to you straight away (law says ‘without delay’). The letter or email must say:
- why your child is excluded
- how long the exclusion is for, or that it is permanent
- when they will be allowed back in school (for a fixed period exclusion)
- how their education will continue while they are not in school
- how you can challenge the exclusion.
What can I do if I disagree with my child’s exclusion?
You can write to the school governing body to give your views. You can also ask to meet with them. For longer fixed term exclusions, the governors will automatically meet. Their role is to check that the head followed the exclusion procedures properly and made the right decision.
Can the decision be changed?
For an exclusion longer than five and a half days the governors have the power to allow your child back into school. If the governors do not reverse a permanent exclusion, you can ask for an Independent Review Panel (IRP) to look at the decision. The Independent Review Panel can ask the governors to reconsider the exclusion. If your child is disabled, you can also make a disability discrimination claim to the First Tier Tribunal for Special Educational Needs and Disability.
Common queries on exclusion
The school keep asking me to take my child home. They say it isn’t an exclusion.
Whenever a child is sent home because of their behaviour, even for a short time, this must be recorded as an exclusion. The school shouldn’t ask you to take your son or daughter home just to ‘cool off’ after an incident, or because there is no adult support available. This is an unofficial exclusion, which is illegal, even if you agree to it.
The school want my child to come to school part-time only.
Sometimes a part-time timetable can be helpful, for example, to ease a pupil back into school after a long absence. This should only be done with your agreement. The school should discuss with you when the arrangement will be reconsidered and when your child can return to school full-time. A part-time timetable should be to help your child. It should not be put in place because the school does not have enough support. Unless they are ill, your child should be in school for the full school day, like other pupils of their age.
The school keeps excluding my son/daughter who has special educational needs (SEN). Is this allowed?
The head can exclude your son/daughter if the offence is considered too serious for lesser punishments such as detention. However if your child’s behaviour is related to SEN or disability, the school should first consider whether there are better ways of managing behaviour or giving extra help. If your child needs more help than the school can give, they may need Education, Health Care Plan.
My son/daughter has an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. Can they be permanently excluded?
Yes, if the head decides your child has seriously broken the rules and that they would be a danger to others if they stayed in school. However, exclusion should always be a last resort and the school should take into account a pupil’s SEN or disability if this was a factor in the exclusion. If there are concerns about your child’s behaviour, an early review of their EHC plan should be arranged.
Finally – if you are worried about exclusion
If there are problems in school, exclusion can give you the chance to discuss your worries with school staff and other professionals and may be the first step to getting the support your child needs.
Advice about school absence
For parents of children with long term medical conditions, school attendance and maintaining continuity in their education can be a major issue.
Information from Contact a Family
This information is written with reference to the law in England, but the general principles apply to all UK nations.
Absence for medical reasons
All parents have a duty to make sure their child attends school regularly. All children are likely to have short absences from school when they are ill, but some children with a disability or health condition will have lengthy or repeated periods off school.
Lengthy absences could be for a variety of reasons, such as surgery or other treatment, or conditions such as ME/Chronic fatigue syndrome.
Short, repeated absences could be due to having frequent hospital appointments or because of a condition involving intermittent crises or flare ups between periods of being reasonably well. Children with an impaired immune system may have more absences with coughs and colds than other children. Mental health conditions can be a reason for both lengthy and recurrent absences, and some children and young people develop school phobia or refusal.
Keeping the school informed
It is important to keep closely in touch with the school about your child’s health. You should inform them in advance of any medical appointments or planned treatment.
If your child is unable to go to school because of a mental health condition, such as severe anxiety, let the school know in writing, rather than just keeping them at home. A GP’s note may help in such cases.
What help is available if my child is off school for medical reasons?
Your child might not be well enough to do much work, but continuity and maintaining a sense of normality is good.
For short absences, your child’s school should keep in touch and send work home if they are off for more than a day or two. Some schools have a bank of activities available to download from their website. Others may provide some outreach support, for instance the child’s support assistant coming and doing some work with them at home. While your child is off, the school should help them keep in touch with classmates, for example by writing, over the phone, through photos or class newsletters, over skype, and so on.
If your child is admitted to hospital they will attend the hospital’s school, where they’ll have lessons on the ward or in a separate schoolroom. The hospital education team should liaise with your child’s school.
The local authority must provide alternative education for children aged five to 16 who are at home sick for more than 15 school days. This should be either full time or as much as the child can manage. It can be provided in a number of different ways, including:
- A home tutor.
- Online learning.
- A small unit for children with medical needs.
Before arranging alternative education, the local authority may need a referral from your child’s school or a letter from a consultant stating that your child is not well enough to attend school. The teams coordinating alternative education have different names in different areas. Common names are ‘home and hospital tuition’ or ‘EOTAS’ (education otherwise than at school).
There is no duty on local authorities to make provision for children below or above compulsory school age, though some may do. If your child has an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan, you can insist that the plan makes provision for school absences. In some cases an EHC plan may specify home-based education.
Going back to school after absence
It is important to have a reintegration plan for when your child goes back to school. You should discuss this with the school, the home or hospital tuition service and any medical professionals involved in the child’s care. It may be possible to have a gradual return, for instance through part-time attendance for a limited time.
The school will need to look sensitively at what information is shared and how. Some children may not want to answer questions about why they were off or for people to make a fuss. They may overstretch themselves because they do not want to appear different. It is also important to guard against potential bullying or isolation, for example if the child has mental health issues or if they can’t do what they used to be able to.
The school could look at providing some extra help for your child, either one-to-one or in a small group. The school may also provide additional pastoral support via a learning mentor or an in-school counselling project. The focus should be on your child’s reintegration into school, not just academic ‘catching up’.
If your child is doing public exams, the school should look at what access arrangements, such as rest breaks, are required. The school might be able to make special consideration if your child has missed an exam due to illness.
All schools have a duty to support children with medical needs and must publish a policy. If your child has an ongoing medical condition, the school should draw up an individual healthcare plan for them with the involvement of health professionals, including the school nurse. This will set out who will give medication, what to do in an emergency and any other special arrangements that need to be made, for example access to a quiet rest area or an accessible toilet. It is important that the plan is shared with all staff.
If your child has a special educational need, the return to school can be a good time to review their support plan or to ask for a formal review of the EHC plan. For instance, you can ask if more or different support is needed. It may also be worth looking at whether mental health difficulties, such as anxiety or school phobia, are the result of an unidentified learning difficulty.
Can I be fined or prosecuted if my child is off sick?
No. You cannot be penalised for a genuine medical absence. Schools must authorise an absence where a child is ill or has a medical appointment.
Government guidance recommends that schools should authorise medical absences unless they have reasons to doubt that they are genuine, and that schools should not ask for unnecessary medical evidence. You shouldn’t be asked for a doctor’s note for every single absence, but it will be helpful to share information with the school about your child’s condition and the likely effect on attendance.
How schools deal with attendance issues varies in practice. Some schools send out automated letters when attendance drops below a certain level. This can be alarming and distressing, but there’s nothing to worry about if the absence is authorised. Always ask for a copy of the attendance record and check the status of individual absences.
Can my child be excluded from school completely if they are too ill to attend?
No. The school cannot exclude your child, or simply take their name off the register, for health reasons. Your child can only be removed from the register for health reasons if:
- A doctor has confirmed that they will not be well enough to go back to school before the end of year 11.
- You or your child agree that they will not be returning to school in the future.
You should not be put under pressure to remove your child from school or to home educate them.