Consultation on a new home to school travel policy

three young people walking in school uniforms

A consultation on a new home to school travel policy for children and young people, including those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), has launched in Hackney. 

The proposals are looking to balance the Council’s commitment to provide quality, inclusive and fair arrangements to support Hackney’s children and young people, and in particular those with SEND, with the efficient use of public resources. 

Hackney’s new proposed policy will, where possible, encourage pupils and students with SEND aged 16 or more to gain greater independence. Young people with significant special educational needs and disabilities or with mobility problems will continue to be able to access organised transport such as school buses and taxis. 

The proposals include offering independent travel training to those it would benefit, more pick up points rather than door to door collections, personal travel budgets, cash payments and reimbursements, and allocating passenger assistants only where necessary. The proposals will not change or remove travel assistance in the discretionary areas previously supported by the Council. 

The proposals aim to support Hackney’s SEND Strategy for 2022-2025, and follow the requirements of Department for Education guidance, which explains the roles and responsibilities of local authorities, parents / carers and settings in home to school travel arrangements. 

The new proposed home to school travel policy seeks to find sustainable solutions in response to the significant increase in the number of children and young people with SEND, and in particular those with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) observed in Hackney and across London in general. 

As part of the proposed policy, the Council will offer independent travel training for pupils of secondary school age who have SEND and are entitled to home to school travel assistance. Being able to travel independently is an important life skill for a young person to learn if they can do so, and can improve their self-esteem and confidence. Being less reliant on parents and carers to take them to places can also offer young people more opportunities to take part in social and community activities. 

The independent travel training is voluntary and will be offered after discussing its benefits with parents and carers. The programme is personalised to meet the needs of the young person. Young people will not lose any existing travel entitlements unless and until they are confidently able to travel independently. Travel training will also be the Council’s main travel offer for students with SEND aged 16 and over. 

In the last three years alone, the number of pupils in need of school transport arrangements rose by 18%, from 610 in 2020-21 to 720 at the end of summer term 2023. There were 238 pupils travelling on the Council’s own school buses, 352 in private hire taxis and minibuses and 130 pupils where their parents had accepted the offer of a personal travel budget. The average cost of transport is £9,300 per pupil a year. If a child is on school transport for their school career up to the age of 16, the total cost can rise to over £110,000 per pupil. The average cost per pupil in a taxi is £12,700 a year. 

The rising demand for travel assistance for children and young people in Hackney, combined with cost increases across the board, meant that in 2022-2023 there was an overspend of over £1 million. The budget for home to school travel in Hackney in the 2023-2024 financial year is £5.8 million. Discretionary transport costs (travel support that Hackney provides for children and young people who are not of compulsory school age, the majority of them with SEND) amount to over £1 million a year.

Caroline Woodley, Mayor of Hackney

Every child is entitled to an education and no child should be prevented from accessing education because they cannot get to school. We want all our children and young people to have access to the right support at the right time and to be able to travel easily to a great, inclusive, local school which meets their specific needs.

We want our home to school travel policy to be clear and effective, promoting sustainable and independent forms of travel. We hope this will allow our young people to become more confident, independent and learn life skills that can support their long term wellbeing and allow them access to more opportunities. We will continue to provide tailored support to those families that need it.  

I would like to encourage everyone to share their views on the current home to school travel and transport service in Hackney, and what changes they would like to see.

Caroline Woodley, Mayor of Hackney

As part of its longer term strategy, the Council is also continuing to invest in creating additional high quality SEND places within the borough’s mainstream, specialist and early years settings, further reducing the need for families to travel outside of the borough to have their children’s needs met. 

The Council is seeking views from all residents potentially affected by the policy, as well as feedback on the existing travel arrangements available to children and young people in Hackney. Face to face and online sessions will take place with parents and carers to discuss the experiences and needs of local families, and in particular those with children with SEND. 

The consultation is open until 26 April. Its findings will help shape the final policy that will be approved by the Cabinet later this year. Those interested can read the draft policy here and the FAQs here, and have their say online, on the Council’s consultation page