Review of Surrey County Council’s Home to school transport consultation

enter site Contents Page

Child’e home address change – Spelling mistake.

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the Local Offer (www.surreysendlo.co.uk). – This link doesn’t work.

Reference to the Education Act 1996 and S 54 of ASCL 2009 and new s509AB(6) and Post 16 Transport and education and training Statutory Guidance Feb 2014 – Lot of Jargon here, I know what it means but would most parents?

“This policy applies only to children and young people, aged 0-25, with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or Statement of Special Educational Needs (SSEN) who are resident in Surrey (or children in the care of the council). The policy describes the transport assistance the Council provides to a child or young person from their home address or collection point, to their school, college, or placement. The home address is defined as the address they habitually and normally live at.” – A child doesn’t need a EHCP/Statement to qualify for transport assistance on grounds of SEND.

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The appeals process provided should be a last resort. The council expects its staff to work collaboratively with parents to resolve concerns constructively. The intention of this policy is to ensure that all children and young people are appropriately supported to access suitable education.

Its not for the LA to tell the parents when to appeal, it is their right to appeal when they want to.

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The council is committed to working in collaboration and partnership with our parents and carers. This two-way process ensures both parties work together to put the most suitable and cost-effective level of support in place. The council wants to work with parents and carers to build a closer trusting relationship, which aims to meet their child or young person’s needs.

I applaud the sentiment of this, however if the LA have a duty to provide the transport under law, there is no duty for the parents to provide transport. According to 508B of the 1996 Education Act, the LA can ask the parents to provide transport in exchange for a reimbursement of costs, however this is voluntary it cannot be enforced. Please see 508B in full at the end of this review.

It will be expected that parents and carers will share the responsibility to transport their children where possible, and that the council’s offer will be flexible to aid parents to do this. The council recognises that all children need differing levels of support, and so both the council and parents and carers require a collaborative approach.

Please see previous comments

The council expects parents to recognise the finite resources available and that it may not be practical to meet all expectations, and it commits to working in partnership to explain these limits and the alternative options available.

There is law surrounding home to school transport. The LA needs to adhere to this law, if this means they have to spend more than their internal allocated budget, then so be it, this is not the problem of the children and families.

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  1. The council provides free bus passes for disabled children and young people (with companions in some circumstances), and this scheme is designed to support children and young people to get to their school, college, or placement.

Bus passes for companions would only be with parental consent as set out in 508B of the 1996 Education Act, this cannot be enforced by the LA.

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Parents with authorised mileage allowances or personal budgets: temporary assistance may be provided in those instances where parents or carers in receipt of authorised mileage allowances or personal budgets and cannot transport their child to and from school due to a short-term illness.

If the LA ever refused to provide transport in this instance the parents could simply withdraw their consent to provide transport and the duty would then fall onto the LA anyway.

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Where a pupil travels on his or her own, the council encourages parents and carers (or a person known to the pupil and aged 18 or over) to act as his or her passenger assistant. Payment is not made in such cases.

What does it mean by “payment is not made in such cases?

The LA cannot enforce the parents or carers to act as a passenger assistant for home to school transport. Once again section 508B

The following options are in order of priority, and parents/carers will be expected to work collaboratively with the council in order to find the right solution to meet their family’s and child’s needs. There is an expectation that the most appropriate and cost efficient option will be adopted each time – See previous comments.

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Transport assistance may take one of the following forms, depending on needs; not all options will apply:

1) Information, advice and guidance;

2) Use of the free disabled bus pass;

3) The allocation of a travel buddy;

4) Training to travel independently (walking and using public transport);

5) Collaborative transport assistance (i.e. Parents transport one way and the council the other);

6) Mainstream child transported instead of SEND child;

7) Support parents/carers to transport child to school through the Independent Travel Allowance;

8) Provision of a private bus service (central collection to drop-off location); or

9) Provision of individual bus or licensed private car hire for groups of children/young people.

10) Provision of individual bus or licensed private car hire for solo travellers.

This is the order of priority according to the LA, as stated previously parents have to volunteer to transport their children, i.e. accompaniment on public transport or fuel allowance according to 508B of the 1996 Education Act. If parents don’t consent, LA’s cannot enforce.

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Parents and carers are required to ensure their child/young person is assessed by the council’s expert contractor who has an understanding and track record of working with SEND children and young people. Refusal to allow an assessment may lead to the withdrawal of all other forms of transport assistance until an assessment has been completed.

This section refers to Independent Travel Training, I would love to see the LA’s case in law on the above statement. The parents may be protected under 508B of the 1996 Education Act against this.

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Collaborative travel assistance

The council recognises the best method of transport for a child or young person is via their parents. Therefore, the council adopts the principle of collaboration.

The council recognises that due to work or other caring responsibilities, it is not always possible for some parents/carers to transport their own children all the time. However, the council believes that parents may be able to transport their child or young person for some of the journeys per week. In these cases, the council expects parents to undertake the routes they can complete consistently. The council will then collaborate with parents and carers to provide assistance (see above) in order to fulfil in the journeys parents/carers are unable to complete. Parents will need to ensure all journeys are covered as the council is unable to provide cover, except in exceptional circumstances (i.e. parent/carer has a medical need).

This model has been developed to provide the best possible support for children and young people and to support parents in directly engaging with their child’s education. The Independent Travel Allowance will be available to parents who meet the scheme’s criteria to assist them in undertaking their elements of the shared transport.

While this model has been developed to support parents directly engaging with their children’s education, it could also be seen as the LA trying to pass on their responsibilities to the parents. This section of the policy is not legally enforceable. As stated lots of time in the review, this can only be done with parental consent, if they don’t give consent this cannot be enforced.

Change requests to travel assistance

The council recognises that its approach of promoting independent travel and increased partnership with parents needs a level of collaboration. The council equally recognises that the needs of children and young people, as well as their families, change. In these circumstances, the council will be sympathetic to changing needs and will work to jointly review the level of assistance required going forward, which may result in a different level of travel assistance being provided (based on the evidence of change, need, or circumstances). Depending on the nature of the changes it can take up to two weeks to implement, although the council will endeavour to adapt arrangements sooner.

It is not down to the LA to be sympathetic, if they have the legal duty to provide transport and the parents withdraw consent to provide transport then the legal duty is the LA’s and they must provide transport.

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Journey times

The recommended journey time for a pupil travelling to a school/college is 45 minutes for children under the age of eight, and 75 minutes for children aged eight and over; however, this may be affected from time-to-time by traffic pressures, road works, and other environmental and operational conditions. It may be deemed acceptable for a trip to exceed these journey times if it is considered that the additional time does not place undue stress, strain or difficulty on the pupil that would prevent them from benefitting from the education.

The journey times quoted are not recommended journey times, they are maximum journey times. I would like to see in law where the LA have found that it is “deemed acceptable for a trip to exceed these journey times if it is considered that the additional time does not place undue stress, strain or difficulty on the pupil that would prevent them from benefitting from the education.” This is a very loose interpretation of the guidance by the LA and I do not believe would stand up to either close scrutiny or a legal challenge should it be necessary

The statutory government guidance actually states:

“Best practice suggests that the maximum each way length of journey for a child of primary school age to be 45 minutes and for secondary school age 75 minutes, but these should be regarded as the maximum. For children with SEN and/or disabilities, journeys may be more complex and a shorter journey time, although desirable, may not always be possible”.

If a home to school journey time exceeded the maximum journey times, then it would be down to the LA to demonstrate that a shorter journey time was not possible, if for example a mini bus collecting several children exceeded the journey time, then more transport with less collections would have to be arranged to reduce the travel time.

In consultation with the pupil’s school, it may be necessary to issue periods of fixed or permanent exclusion from transport. Parents and carers will be responsible for transporting their own children during any period of exclusion from transport. Non-provision of transport during these periods does not mean that the council is not fulfilling its statutory duties, merely that transport arrangements were made but, because of behavioural issues, had to be suspended or temporarily withdrawn.

If the poor behaviour on transport is down to a child’s SEND then more suitable transport arrangements may have to be made by the LA, for example 1:1 transport with a personal assistant. If the LA excluded a child from transport without exploring other options, this could be disability discrimination.

Local authorities have a duty to spend public funds in the most appropriate and cost- effective manner. Routes will be reviewed regularly. Separate routes, taking pupils to several different schools, may be brought together into a single route where this is appropriate. Longer routes will be reviewed periodically with the respective schools to ensure that concentration and attentiveness are not compromised by any change to pupils’ journeys.

Please see previous comments on maximum journey times.

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For parents or carers who do not wish their child to be filmed, it may not be possible to provide taxi or bus-based transport assistance.

I would like to see where the LA have evidence of this in law.

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Annex 2 – Advanced Needs/Exceptions Protocol – Described as the 90%-10% model

Can a parent go through this stage and then make an official appeal? Or by choosing this do you lose appeal rights? If so I would recommend parents use the official appeal system. Furthermore they say parental situations cannot be used in this appeal, this should be able to be considered through official appeals channel.

 

Section 508B of the 1996 Education act as inserted by section 77 of the 2006 Education and Inspections Act

“77 LEAs in England: provision of travel arrangements etc for children

This section has no associated Explanatory Notes

(1)After section 508A of EA 1996 (inserted by section 76 above) insert—

“508B LEAs in England: travel arrangements for eligible children

(1)A local education authority in England must make, in the case of an eligible child in the authority’s area to whom subsection (2) applies, such travel arrangements as they consider necessary in order to secure that suitable home to school travel arrangements, for the purpose of facilitating the child’s attendance at the relevant educational establishment in relation to him, are made and provided free of charge in relation to the child.

(2)This subsection applies to an eligible child if—

(a)no travel arrangements relating to travel in either direction between his home and the relevant educational establishment in relation to him, or in both directions, are provided free of charge in relation to him by any person who is not the authority, or

(b)such travel arrangements are provided free of charge in relation to him by any person who is not the authority but those arrangements, taken together with any other such travel arrangements which are so provided, do not provide suitable home to school travel arrangements for the purpose of facilitating his attendance at the relevant educational establishment in relation to him.

(3)“Home to school travel arrangements”, in relation to an eligible child, are travel arrangements relating to travel in both directions between the child’s home and the relevant educational establishment in question in relation to that child.

(4)“Travel arrangements”, in relation to an eligible child, are travel arrangements of any description and include—

(a)arrangements for the provision of transport, and

(b)any of the following arrangements only if they are made with the consent of a parent of the child—

(i)arrangements for the provision of one or more persons to escort the child (whether alone or together with other children) when travelling to or from the relevant educational establishment in relation to the child;

(ii)arrangements for the payment of the whole or any part of a person’s reasonable travelling expenses;

(iii)arrangements for the payment of allowances in respect of the use of particular modes of travel.

(5)“Travel arrangements”, in relation to an eligible child, include travel arrangements of any description made by any parent of the child only if those arrangements are made by the parent voluntarily.”