Skip to main content

London Borough of Islington Home to School Travel Assistance Policy

This home to school travel assistance policy explains what help is on offer to get children and young people who live in Islington to education or training provision. 

This policy has been developed with full regard to Government guidance and legislation. If there are any unintended differences between this Policy and the underlying legislation, then the legislation will take precedence, wherever the legislation imposes a higher duty on the local authority.

This policy is for people aged 5-16. Please read the first two sections as they apply to everyboody.  Then read the section that best describes the reason why travel assistance may be needed.

Paper copies are available from the SEN Team on request by emailing SEN@islington.gov.uk or by phoning 020 7527 5518.

See the Annual Policy Statement in respect of Guidance for Young People in Post 16 Education and Training

The local authority’s duties to provide transport assistance

The law says that the local authority must provide such free home to school travel arrangements they consider necessary to facilitate the attendance at school of eligible children resident in their area.

This means arrangements to enable a child to travel to school for the beginning of the school day, and to return home at the end of the school day.

 The local authority is not required to make arrangements for travel:

  • between school and any appointments (e.g. dentist, hospital)
  • between institutions during the school day,
  • to attend extra-curricular activities and other commitments outside of school hours.

The local authority is not required to make home to school travel arrangements for an eligible child where:

  • Suitable home to school travel is provided by someone else e.g. travel provision made available to children by Transport for London.
  • A child is eligible for free home to school travel but a parent nevertheless chooses to make their own arrangements for the child’s travel to and from school. (This should not be a barrier for a parent of an eligible child requesting transport assistance at a later time if they require it, however).


The home to school travel arrangements must be free of charge to the parent of any child eligible to receive help under this policy.

Within this policy, a child’s ‘home’ is considered to be their current, permanent place of residence. Transport will only be assessed from one home residence. Where a child has more than one residence, for example when parents live separately, transport will only be considered from the address where the child spends most of their time.

The local authority’s expectations of families

Islington local authority together with local families, schools and their partners have agreed what families should reasonably be expected to do regarding home school travel, as follows:

  • Children and young people will attend their nearest suitable local school or college.
  • If a student cannot travel to school or college on their own, the parent or carer will accompany them to school where it is reasonable to expect them to do so.
  • If a parent or carer cannot accompany their children to school or college themselves (e.g. because they work or have other children at different schools) they should make other arrangements such as:
    • getting other family members or friends to help
    • making arrangements with other parents at the school
    • arranging formal childcare via a childminder, breakfast club or play centre
    • asking an employer for flexible working arrangements
    • moving a child to the nearest suitable local school.
  • Families will make use of any suitable home to school travel that is provided by someone else, e.g. free travel on London buses made available to children by Transport for London.
  • Parents or carers will make sure students of compulsory school age receive a full time education and, if they are registered at a school or college, that they attend every day, arrive on time and are ready to learn.
  • Pupils and their families should consider the environmental and social impact of home school journeys. E.g. walk, cycle or make use of public transport where it is appropriate.
  • Families should support their children to learn and practice the skills they need to become independent travelers. This includes:
    • how to be safe when walking in public
    • how to behave in the community
    • how to use public transport
    • co-operating with schools and others that offer travel training
  • When transport assistance is agreed by the local authority, families and children will follow the rules set out in the relevant agreement form provided by the local authority, (e.g. the code of conduct, personal transport budget agreement).

Travel assistance for children under 5

Children of pre-school age are not normally provided with any travel assistance.

The legal duty to provide home to school travel assistance applies to children of compulsory school age (5-16), who need to travel to receive full time education or training.

Applications for children aged under 5 with an Education Health and Care Plan, who are starting school as if they were already of compulsory school age will be assessed in the same way as for other children aged 5-16 with special educational needs / a disability / mobility problems.

Here are some examples that help explain the eligibility for children aged under 5:

  • Child A is 3 years old and attends a nursery class based in a primary school. It is 3 miles from her home. Child A is not eligible for free home to school transport as she is not of compulsory school age
  • Child B is 4 years old with complex medical needs and special educational needs and has an EHC Plan. He has been placed by the Local Authority in special school that is 2.6 miles from his home. Child B is eligible for free home to school transport because his disability impacts his ability to travel to his nearest suitable school. When he is compulsory school age his eligibility would be reassessed.
  • Child C is 3 years old. His parents are looking at schools for when he is compulsory school age. They are considering local schools and several schools that are over 4 miles from his home although local schools have places available.  Although a school is over the statutory distance Child C would not be eligible for free home to school transport if his parents choose not to accept a place at his nearest suitable school with available places.

We expect that pupils and families will make use of public transport where it is appropriate. Children under five can travel free at any time on the TubeDocklands Light Railway (DLR), buses, trams and London Overground as long as they are accompanied by an adult with a valid ticket.

Travel assistance for students aged 5-16 due to distance

The law says that a child under the age of 8 is eligible for free home to school travel to their nearest suitable school if it is more than 2 miles from their home.

A child aged 8 years or over is eligible for free home to school travel to their nearest suitable school if it is more than 3 miles from their home.

When we use the term ‘suitable school’ we mean a qualifying school that is suitable for the child’s age, ability, aptitude, and any special educational needs they may have,

The local authority measures the statutory distances using a computerised distance measuring system to calculate the distance from home (the start point) to the school (the end point). The distance in miles is accurate to three decimal places, based on the shortest route along which a child, accompanied as necessary, may walk safely. This is not necessarily the shortest distance by road. The route may also include footpaths, bridleways, other pathways and alternative entrances to the school.

Families can also use tools available online to get their own rough calculation of the walking  distance between their home and school. Free tools include:

Other help with transport

Children and young people and their families may find it easier to travel to their education setting on foot or by public transport. Children aged five to ten can travel free at any time on Tube, DLR, buses, trams and London Overground as long as they travel with an adult who has a valid ticket (up to four children can travel free with one adult), or if they have a 5-10 Oyster photo card.

They can also travel for free, unaccompanied and without a photo card on trams and buses. Children aged 5 to 10 who are travelling unaccompanied on the Tube, DLR or London Overground will need a 5-10 Oyster photo card to travel free. 

Children aged 11 to 15 years can travel free on buses and trams and at child rate on Tube, DLR and London Overground services, provided they have an 11-15 Oyster photo card. 

Here are some examples that help explain the eligibility based on distance.

  • Child A is six years old and attends her nearest suitable school. It is 2.3 miles from her home. Child A is eligible for free home to school transport. When she is 8 years old the statutory distance changes from 2 miles to 3 miles and so she will no longer be eligible for free home school transport to this school. The transport assistance agreed with the parent is a contribution towards the adult bus fare.
  • Child B is seven years old and attends a primary school that is 2.6 miles from her home. However, there is another suitable primary school just 1.2 miles from her home which has places available. Child B is not eligible for free home to school transport, as she is not attending her nearest suitable school.
  • Child C is eleven years old and attends his nearest suitable school. It is 2.6 miles from his home. Child C is not eligible for free home to school transport because his school is under 3 miles away. 2.6 miles is not beyond the statutory walking distance for a child of his age.
  • Child D is twelve years old and attends his nearest suitable school. It is 4 miles from his home and so beyond the statutory walking distance for a child of his age. He is able to get to school on his own and can travel free on buses using an 11-15 Oyster photo card. Child D is not eligible for free home to school transport from the Local Authority because free transport assistance is already on offer through Transport for London.

Travel assistance due to special need, disability or mobility issue

A student may be considered eligible for free home to school transport assistance if:

  • they attend their nearest suitable school; and
  • it is within the statutory walking distance of their home but they cannot reasonably be expected to walk because of their special educational needs, disability or mobility problems.

Each application will be considered on an individual basis and will take into account the following factors:

  • the nearest suitable school
  • the student’s age and their need to be accompanied
  • the impact of the student’s Special Educational Needs or Disability (SEND) mobility difficulties or a temporary medical condition on travel
  • the health and safety issues of the student’s Special Educational Needs or Disability (SEND) mobility difficulties or a temporary medical condition on travel
  • the suitability of the route
  • travel time and the distance travelled
  • household income
  • other family circumstances

The child or young person’s additional needs are considered a disability as defined by the Equality Act 2010.

Some children and young people may have a temporary medical condition. The impact of this medical condition on their ability to travel to school will need to be evidenced by medical professionals. Any travel assistance will only be provided for the length of time required to meet the temporary need.

Having a disability, and Education, Health and Care Plan or attending a special school does not automatically provide entitlement to travel assistance.

Here are some examples that help explain eligibility due to a special educational need, a disability or mobility problem.

  • Child D is fourteen years old and has cerebral palsy. She attends her nearest suitable school. It is 2.75 miles from her home. The nature of her condition requires her to use crutches to walk, and she walks very slowly and carefully to ensure she is balanced. The journey to school by walking and public transport bus takes over an hour and she arrives at school exhausted. The local authority decides that Child D is eligible for free home to school transport.
  • Child L is 10 years old and has an autistic spectrum condition. He attends his nearest suitable school which is 2 miles from his home. He is unaware of danger, frequently becomes distressed and can act unpredictably in noisy environments. He has to be accompanied and to hold an adults hand even on very short journeys. His walk to school cannot avoid busy roads and several road junctions that are both busy and noisy. From the information provided and gathered through the assessment, the local authority assess that his parents would not be able to keep him safe on this journey. Child L is eligible for free home to school travel.

Accompaniment

When assessing whether a child can reasonably be expected to walk to school, the local authority will consider whether the child could reasonably be expected to walk if accompanied and, if so, whether a parent can reasonably be expected to accompany their child.

Where a child does need to be accompanied, the general expectation is that they will be accompanied by a parent unless there is a good reason why it would not be reasonable to expect a parent to do so. For example, a single parent has a medical condition or disability or both parents have a medical condition or disability which would prevent them from accompanying the child along a walking route that would be considered unsafe without adult supervision.

Other help with transport

Children and young people and their families may find it easier to travel to their education setting on foot or by public transport. Children aged five to ten can travel free at any time on Tube, DLR, buses, trams and London Overground as long as they travel with an adult who has a valid ticket (up to four children can travel free with one adult), or if they have a 5-10 Oyster photo card.

They can also travel for free, unaccompanied and without a photo card on trams and buses. Children aged 5 to 10 who are travelling unaccompanied on the Tube, DLR or London Overground will need a 5-10 Oyster photo card to travel free. 

Children aged 11 to 15 years can travel free on buses and trams and at child rate on Tube, DLR and London Overground services, provided they have an 11-15 Oyster photo card.

Travel assistance due to unsafe walking routes

A child may be eligible for free home to school travel if:

  • they attend their nearest suitable school; and
  • it is within the statutory walking distance of their home; and
  • they cannot reasonably be expected to walk there because the nature of the route means it would be unsafe for them to do so.

The local authority will consider whether it is reasonable to expect a parent to accompany their child along a route which they consider unsafe. We will do this by arranging for an assessment of that route to be carried out, walking it at the times of day and on the days of the week that the child would travel.

The safety of a route will be assessed in line with Road Safety GB’s ‘Assessment of Walked Routes to School’ published in 2016. The guidance says:

  • A child should be accompanied as necessary
  • Personal safety issues of children travelling alone are not considered.
  • Local authorities are not legally obliged to provide free transport just because parents perceive the route to be unsafe on the grounds of personal safety and security.
  • Case law has found that assessments must look at the relationship between pedestrians and traffic only.
  • The presence of street lighting on a route is not considered to be a factor

Transport assistance has not previously been awarded to an Islington child or young person due to an unsafe walking route, as it is possible to find routes to school that are safe when a child is accompanied.

Here is an example that help explain where eligibility based on unsafe walking routes.

  • Child E is twelve years old. He attends his nearest suitable secondary school. The only walking route to his school is along an unlit canal tow path and a busy road with a footpath. There are several bus routes he can use for free. His parents are concerned about the risks posed by other older children and traffic. The local authority carries out an assessment of the route and decides it would be safe for him to walk to school if accompanied or to take a bus for part of the journey. Child E is not eligible for free home to school transport.

Accompaniment

When assessing whether a child can reasonably be expected to walk to school, the local authority will consider whether the child could reasonably be expected to walk if accompanied and, if so, whether a parent can reasonably be expected to accompany their child.

Where a child does need to be accompanied, the general expectation is that they will be accompanied by a parent unless there is a good reason why it would not be reasonable to expect a parent to do so. For example, a single parent has a medical condition or disability or both parents have a medical condition or disability which would prevent them from accompanying the child along a walking route that would be considered unsafe without adult supervision.

Travel assistance for students aged 8-16 due to low income

The local authority is not required to make home to school travel arrangements for an eligible child, where suitable home to school travel is provided by someone else e.g. travel provision made available to children by Transport for London.

Children aged five to ten can travel free at any time on Tube, DLR, buses, trams and London Overground as long as they travel with an adult who has a valid ticket (up to four children can travel free with one adult), or if they have a 5-10 Oyster photo card.

They can travel for free, unaccompanied and without a photo card on trams and buses. Children aged 5 to 10 who are travelling unaccompanied on the Tube, DLR or London Overground will need a 5-10 Oyster photo card to travel free. 

Children aged 11 to 15 years can travel free on buses and trams and at child rate on Tube, DLR and London Overground services, provided they have an 11-15 Oyster photo card.

A child is eligible for free home to school travel if they are eligible for free school meals or if a parent with whom they live receives maximum Working Tax Credit and:

  • they are aged 8 to 10 years, attend their nearest suitable school and it is more than 2 miles from their home; or
  • they are aged 11 to 16 years, and attend one of their three nearest suitable schools which is between 2 and 6 miles from their home; or
  • they are aged 11 to 16 years, attend a school that is between 2 and 15 miles from their home that their parents have chosen on the grounds of their religion or belief and, having regard to that religion or belief, there is no suitable school nearer to their home.

Whilst free school meals are given to all primary aged children in Islington schools, this does not mean that the child is eligible for free school meals. For the purpose of determining eligibility, details will be shared with Islington’s ‘Free School Meals Team’.

Where, during the course of a school year, a child ceases to be eligible for free school meals, or a parent ceases to receive maximum Working Tax Credit, the local authority will continue to provide free home to school travel for the remainder of that school year.

When the local authority assesses, for the purposes of extended rights, whether a child lives more than 2 miles from a school, the route they measure must be the shortest route along which a child, accompanied as necessary, may walk safely. This is not necessarily the shortest distance by road. The route may also include footpaths, bridleways, other pathways and alternative entrances to the school. But, when assessing whether a child lives within 6 to 15 miles from their school, the local authority should measure road routes only.

The introduction of Universal Credit has not changed the way eligibility for extended rights to home to school transport is determined. It will remain the case that children will be eligible for extended rights if they meet the criteria set out in above.

Here is an example that helps explain the eligibility based on low income:

  • Child F is eleven years old and eligible for free school meals. His nearest suitable school is 2.5 miles from his home. His second nearest suitable school is 3 miles away. His third nearest is 5 miles away. Child F would be eligible for free home to school travel to any of these schools. The local authority does not need to provide transport for this eligible child as free transport by bus is already available from London Transport. Children aged 11 to 15 years can travel free on buses provided they have an 11-15 Oyster photo card.

Accompaniment

When assessing whether a child can reasonably be expected to walk to school, the local authority will consider whether the child could reasonably be expected to walk if accompanied and, if so, whether a parent can reasonably be expected to accompany their child.

Where a child does need to be accompanied, the general expectation is that they will be accompanied by a parent unless there is a good reason why it would not be reasonable to expect a parent to do so. For example, a single parent has a medical condition or disability or both parents have a medical condition or disability which would prevent them from accompanying the child along a walking route that would be considered unsafe without adult supervision.

Travel assistance for students attending a school of their Faith

There is no eligibility to transport assistance for pupils on the grounds of religion or belief, except as provided above in relation to low income families. However, the local authority has discretionary power to provide free home to school travel for pupils attending a school that is based on a particular faith, which the parents wants the child to attend. Each application for travel assistance on grounds of religious beliefs/faith will be assessed on a case by case basis.

Travel assistance due to exceptional circumstances

The local authority has discretionary power to provide free home to school travel in exceptional circumstances. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis and will always require supporting evidence.

Examples of exceptional circumstances may include where:

  • a child has been forced to move into temporary accommodation or a refuge and the local authority wants to provide them with continuity by enabling them to continue attending their current school
  • a child’s parent is unable to take their child to school because they are suffering from serious illness and there is no family member / friend who can take on this responsibility
  • a parent’s disability may prevent them from accompanying their child along a walking route that would be considered unsafe without adult supervision and there is no family member / friend who can take on this responsibility
  • child protection concerns identified through a Social Care assessment of the family’s social care needs

Parents can apply for travel assistance due to exceptional circumstances using the application form in the usual way. We recommend that prior to completing an application, the parent contacts the SEN Team to discuss the type of supporting evidence needed. This could include the parent giving consent to the local authority to contact a housing provider, a health professional or a social worker for supporting information. The SEN Team can be contacted by emailing SEN@islington.gov.uk.

Here is an example that helps to explain the eligibility based on exceptional circumstances:

  • The local authority has received an application for home to school transport from a lone parent who has 3 children. A child aged 8, another aged 6 and a 2-year-old. The school aged children are not eligible under any of the other categories for transport assistance. The parent finds it very difficult to take the children to school and look after the 2-year-old who has a complex disability and medical needs that require constant supervision. The parent also has mobility issues. The local authority suggests to the parent that they provide travel assistance for both of the school aged children to allow the parent to take care of the 2-year-old. The parent is happy with this arrangement.

Accompaniment

When assessing whether a child can reasonably be expected to walk to school, the local authority will consider whether the child could reasonably be expected to walk if accompanied.

Where a child does need to be accompanied, the general expectation is that they will be accompanied by a parent unless there is a good reason why it would not be reasonable to expect a parent to do so. For example, a single parent has a medical condition or disability or both parents have a medical condition or disability which would prevent them from accompanying the child along a walking route that would be considered unsafe without adult supervision.

Other help with transport

Children and young people and their families may find it easier to travel to their education setting on foot or by public transport. Children aged five to ten can travel free at any time on Tube, DLR, buses, trams and London Overground as long as they travel with an adult who has a valid ticket (up to four children can travel free with one adult), or if they have a 5-10 Oyster photo card.

They can travel for free, unaccompanied and without a photo card on trams and buses. Children aged 5 to 10 who are travelling unaccompanied on the Tube, DLR or London Overground will need a 5-10 Oyster photo card to travel free. 

Children aged 11 to 15 years can travel free on buses and trams and at child rate on Tube, DLR and London Overground services, provided they have an 11-15 Oyster photo card.

Types of travel assistance provided

It is up to local authorities to decide how to provide free home to school travel to eligible children.

Examples include:

  • Travel pass/ Oyster card - Funding a travel card to help pay for train, tube, London over-ground train or funding for an adult travel pass when a child needs to be accompanied by an adult on free public transport.
  • A seat on a school bus - Buses usually pick up 6 - 22 pupils from different locations who attend a particular school. The child or young person will spend considerable time on the bus. All drivers and escorts are directly employed by Islington Council or recruited from registered and trusted Agencies.
  • A seat in a taxi – Taxi’s will normally pick up 2-5 pupils from different locations who attend a particular school. All taxis, drivers and escorts will be sourced by a qualified, registered provider, working to contractual standards set by the Council.

There are a range of alternative ways in which the local authority can meet their duties, with parental consent. Examples include:

  • Walking Bus - a small group of pupils walking together with adult support
  • A Travel Assistant - An experienced and trained adult to support the pupil walk and /or travel by public transport.
  • Skills for Independent Travel - a programme of training and support delivered by experienced Independent Travel Training provider working to contractual standards set by the Council. (Islington is currently running a pilot programme to gage demand and need for the future)
  • A Personal Travel Budget (PTB) - A sum of money provided to parents to organise their child or young person’s home to school travel arrangements in a way which best meets their circumstances. A personal transport budget could be used in many different ways. For example
    • To pay for a bicycle to enable a parent and child to cycle to school
    • To a mileage allowance to the parent to use a car club electric vehicle
    • To pay towards the costs of breakfast club
    • To pay towards the costs of employing someone to take the child to school.

The local authority’s decision about the type of travel assistance offered will be informed by:

  • the reasons why travel assistance has been agreed
  • the distance and time taken to travel using different modes of transport
  • the travel assistance arrangements already in place for other children at the same school
  • the start and end times of schools, colleges or training courses
  • the preferences of the child / young person and their family
  • the resources and funding available to the Council

The type of transport assistance offered will be regularly reviewed and may change over time.

Here is one example to help explain which home to school transport assistance may be provided.

  • The local authority has received an application for home to school transport for a child with special educational needs.  This child is an eligible child. The parent would prefer to take the child to school himself, because the child gets distressed when travelling with anyone else, but is unable to because he must take their other child to school. The other child is not an eligible child. The local authority suggests to the parent that they provide travel arrangements for the non-eligible child to allow the parent to take the eligible child to school. The parent is happy with this arrangement, and it is cost-effective for the Council.

Appeals

Islington local authority has a two stage process to enable parents to appeal against the decision about the eligibility for home to school travel. Parents wishing to appeal against the decision not to award free or subsidised travel, should use an appeal form.

Stage One: Review by a senior officer

Appeals can be submitted up to 20 working days from the day the family received the local authority’s home to school travel decision.

The request should:

  • be made in writing
  • explain why the parent(s) believe the local authority should review its decision
  • include any information they would like to be considered as part of the review.

Senior officer(s) within the local authority will review the decision in light of the information provided.

Within 20 working days of receipt of the parents’ written request a senior officer will review the original decision and send the parent a detailed written notification of the outcome of their review; clearly explaining:

  • whether they have upheld the local authority’s original home to school travel decision; and
  • how the review was conducted and how the decision was reached; and
  • the factors they took into account in reaching that decision.

Where the original decision has been upheld, they will also explain how the parent may escalate their appeal to stage two of the appeal process.

Stage Two: Review by an independent appeal panel

Parents have 20 working days from receipt of the outcome of stage one to notify the local authority in writing that they wish to escalate the matter to stage two; and to provide any additional information that they wish to be considered in light of the stage one decision.

Within 40 working days of receipt of the parent(s)’ request, an independent appeal panel will consider written and verbal representations from both the parent and officers involved in the case; and will give a detailed written notification of the outcome (within 5 working days), clearly explaining:

  • the nature of the decision reached; and
  • how the review was conducted (including the standard followed e.g. Road Safety GB); and
  • information about other departments and/or agencies that were consulted as part of the process; and
  • what factors were considered; and
  • the rationale for the decision reached

The independent appeal panel members should be independent of the original decision making process (but are not required to be independent of the local authority) and suitably experienced (at the discretion of the local authority), to ensure a balance is achieved between meeting the needs of the parents and the local authority, and that road safety requirements are complied with and no child is placed at unnecessary risk.

Where the panel have upheld the home to school travel decision, the parent may complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman if they believe the local authority has refused help unfairly, made a mistake or not handled their application or appeal for home to school transport correctly.

If an appellant considers the decision of the independent appeals panel to be flawed on public law grounds, they may apply for a judicial review.

Flowchart of the appeals process

Reviewing this policy

This policy will be kept under review and will be updated when necessary. Any proposed changes to the policy will include consulting for at least 28 working days during school term time:

  • schools whose pupils will be affected by the proposed changes, including those located in other local authority areas; and
  • the local SEND Parent Carer Forum
  • parents whose children will (or may) be affected by the proposed changes, including those whose children attend school in a neighbouring authority, and those whose children may be affected in the future; for example, because they live close to, or may in future attend, a school affected by the proposed changes.

The local authority will give careful consideration to the impact any proposed changes may have on parents’ school choices, and the financial impact they may have on affected families.

Wherever possible, any changes to the policy will be introduced gradually so that, for example, children who begin attending a school under one set of travel arrangements can continue to benefit from those arrangements until their needs can be reviewed. Where a review leads to a change in eligibility or the mode of transport assistance a plan will be agreed about how the change will be made.