Information and guidance for parents and guardians of children who use school transport
We provide home to school transport from the agreed drop off and pick up points at the start and end of the school day. Transport is provided for eligible pupils to schools and academies, special schools, faith schools, further educational establishments, colleges and pupil referral units.
If you are the parents or guardians of children who use school transport this information clarifies some details about the school transport arrangements made for your child.
Bus passes will be issued within six weeks of the start of the academic year. Passes will be delivered to the school and will then be given out to all new pupils. Until all passes are delivered, all operators have been told not to refuse travel. The pass will expire at the end of the pupil’s time at the school and should be kept for travel in future academic years.
If passes are lost or stolen, you must get a replacement from Transporting Somerset at a charge of £10 to cover administration costs. Please see ‘Request a replacement school bus pass‘ for more information.
For pupils who don’t qualify for free school transport you can apply for a spare seat on a vehicle on a paying basis. For more information, please see ‘Request school transport on a paying basis’.
We provide free school transport to pupils between 4 and 16 who attend the nearest, or transport area school for their home address, and who live over the statutory walking distance from that school. That is, two miles for children under eight and three miles for children aged eight and over.
If you live within the statutory walking distance of the school it is your parental responsibility to make sure your child attends school.
The ‘transport area’ is the school catchment area as at September 2012.
School transport entitlement to a particular school can change, depending on the year group the pupil is in and where the nearest school for that year group is in relation to their home address.
If a pupil is assessed as not being entitled to free school transport, it is the parents’ responsibility to re-apply for transport in a subsequent year group if they think entitlement may have changed. Parents will not be told about a change in entitlement.
The raising of the participation age
The Government requires young people to participate in education and training once they have finished their compulsory secondary education. This is a ‘quick guide’.
The law does not increase the statutory school leaving age. Our policy says that only pupils of statutory school age are eligible for free school transport.
For more information about transport to school or college for a year 12 or 13 pupil, visit our county ticket page.
Low income families
For pupils from low income families, free school transport is available under certain circumstances.
Low income is defined as any child who qualifies for free school meals or families receiving the maximum level of Working Tax Credit.
Entitlement to free school meals is defined as
We regularly review benefit information to make sure your child still qualifies for reduced rate or free transport.
Transport in exceptional circumstances
Please apply using the application form stating your exceptional circumstances. If you are applying under exceptional grounds, evidence will be required to support your application. Please read the School Travel Policy in Downloads before applying and for details of the evidence required. Please email email@example.com for more information.
Pupil referral units
Transport is also provided to pupils attending a pupil referral unit, providing they live over the statutory walking distance from the unit, and in some exceptional cases where there is evidence that they cannot walk to school, even if they are appropriately supervised.
Transport on religious grounds
As of September 2018, there is no longer statutory assistance to support children attending a denominational church or faith aided school for reasons of religion or faith alone.
If you are applying for low income travel assistance on religious grounds, you will be requested to provide proof that the child regularly attends church in the same religion or faith as the school you have chosen. This must be evidenced by a declaration signed by the parish priest or minister, or other local official of the named religion. The minimum attendance at services is at least once a month for a period of no less than six months.
We regularly review benefit information to make sure your child still qualifies for low income travel assistance on grounds of religion or belief. Please see the information above on low income families.
Before you apply please read the information about your responsibilities listed below.
Please see our ‘Qualifying for school transport’ information about whether your child qualifies for school transport.
We will assess your application once we have received confirmation from the school that your child has been granted a place.
When your application has been assessed, we will let you know if your child is eligible. We will tell you about the transport arrangements and send you a bus pass for your child (if applicable).
If your child is starting school for the first time or starting at a new school in September, we will automatically assess your child’s eligibility when you apply for their school place.
If you applied for your child’s school place using a paper application form the eligibility for school transport will be included in your outcome letter.
The school place outcome letters and emails are sent out on 1 March (or next working day) for secondary and upper school places and 16 April (or next working day) for starting school, junior and middle school places.
If you applied for your child’s school place online you will receive a second email within 10 working days of your school place outcome email if your child is entitled to transport and you will be told about your child’s travel arrangements before the start of the next academic year. If you do not receive a second email this means your child has been assessed as not entitled to free school transport.
It is your responsibility as a parent or carer to make sure that your child gets to and from the pick-up and drop-off points safely. You are also responsible for your child while they are waiting for the transport to arrive and after they have left the vehicle at the end of the school day.
The pick-up or drop-off point may be up to half a mile from home for a child under 8 years old and up to 1 mile from home for children over 8. If the pick-up or drop-off point is further away than the recommended distance, we will offer you a petrol allowance to transport your child to and from the bus stop.
For pupils who receive school transport from their home address, usually for children with an Education, Health and Care Plan (previously known as a Statement of Special Educational Needs) or on medical grounds, a parent or carer must be at home to bring their child out to the transport in the morning and receive their child from the school transport in the afternoon.
We ask that all pupils are waiting at the bus stop 5 minutes before the vehicle is due to arrive. We also ask that children wait for 20 minutes after the bus is due, in case the vehicle has been delayed due to traffic. We always try to tell parents about any delays we know of.
If your child misses the arranged transport in the morning you must make your own arrangements to get them to school. If your child attends an after school club or is unable to use the transport at the end of the normal school day, you must make your own arrangements to get your child home. This includes after school detentions.
Even if your child travels on their own in a taxi, you must still make your own arrangements if they are staying late at school, because we only schedule transport at the end of the normal school day.
If your child uses a public service vehicle, their bus pass may allow them to travel later than the normal end of the school day.
Transport is provided to and from your child’s home address, town or village. If transport is required to a different address, town or village, you are responsible for making these arrangements.
If your child uses school transport and invites a friend home for tea who does not travel on the same bus as your child, unfortunately, the friend would not be able to travel on the bus for safety and insurance purposes.
If transport is unable to run because of adverse weather conditions and you can transport your own child to school, it is your responsibility to collect them from school at the end of the day. We will update our Transport affected by bad weather page with the latest information about school and public transport during a period of bad weather.
We aim for a maximum length of journey of approximately 45 minutes each way for primary age children and 1 hour and 15 minutes each way for middle or secondary age children unless they are travelling to a special school outside Somerset.
If your child does not qualify for free school transport, we can offer spare seats on our contracted transport on a paying basis.
We can only offer vacant seats on our vehicles, which means we may not be able to offer a seat to everyone.
We cannot guarantee how long the seat will be available for, as it may be needed for an eligible child, or a route review may change the number of available seats. If we have to withdraw the paid-for seat, we will give you at least two weeks notice.
Paying for school transport allows your child to travel from the agreed pick up and drop off point on the existing route to and from school, at the start and end of the normal school day. We cannot divert or add stops to existing routes to accommodate pay seats.
If there are no spare seats we will add you to a waiting list and will contact you if a seat becomes available.
Paying for school transport
To use school transport on a paying basis, we will send you a pay agreement to complete, which outlines the terms that transport is provided on and you will be told the cost.
We subsidise the charges but they do increase every September.
You can pay for transport annually, or the cost can be spread over instalments. You can also pay by monthly direct debit. We ask for payment in advance. Please be aware, as part of the pay seat application, if you choose to pay by the direct debit option you will be consenting to Somerset County Council carrying out a full credit check with an independent credit reference agency, which will be recorded, and subject to the result we reserve the right to withdraw this option.
If your child stops travelling during the year, please tell us in writing immediately and you will be refunded any money we owe you.
Once we have received your completed pay agreement and your payment or direct debit mandate, we will make the transport arrangements and tell you the details.
We will reduce the charge if your child has not used the transport for 10 consecutive days because of ill health, but not for holiday absences or non-attendance. To qualify for this reduction, you must tell us about your child’s absence and we will confirm it with the school.
We cannot refund any costs if the vehicle cannot run for reasons beyond our control, such as adverse weather conditions.
If we fail to receive your payment for school transport the transport will stop being provided immediately. Any debts incurred will be passed to our solicitor for retrieval.
Paid seats for September
If you have made an application for a paid seat for a school place from September, we will aim to tell you the outcome before the start of the academic year, but we recommend that you have alternative travel arrangements in place because there is no guarantee that a pay seat will be provided.
Passes will be issued within six weeks of the start of the academic year. Passes will be delivered to the school who will distribute them to all new pupils. Until all passes are delivered all operators have been instructed not to refuse travel. The pass will expire at the end of the pupil’s time at the school and should be retained for travel in future academic years. Passes should be carried at all times, even if the driver does not check them daily, because spot checks will be carried out.
If your child’s bus pass is lost or stolen, please see our ‘Request a replacement bus pass’ information.
Reduced rate paid seats
If you receive any of the following benefits, you will be entitled to the reduced rate of transport.
We may require proof of the relevant benefits to make sure your transport fees can be reduced.
If your child uses school transport and invites a friend home for tea who does not travel on the same bus as your child, unfortunately, the friend would not be able to travel on the bus for safety and insurance reasons.
If your child receives school transport you are responsible for telling us if any of your circumstances change, such as if you move house, if your child changes school or if your phone number changes.
Where entitlement is claimed using false information, we will withdraw school transport with immediate effect. As well as recovering any bus passes, we reserve the right to take action to recover our costs, based on the pro-rata cost of a Pay Seat. You must make a new application for school transport.
If your child does not qualify for free school transport, we may be able to offer spare seats on our contracted transport on a paying basis.
If you move house your child’s eligibility to school transport may change, so please tell us your new address so that we can re-assess your transport entitlement and update our records.
It is also important for us to have accurate contact details for you, so we can tell you about any changes to your child’s transport arrangements. This includes having an up-to-date phone number we can use to contact you in an emergency or to tell you about any late running transport.
If your child changes school or no longer needs school transport, please tell us so that we can keep out records up to date.
If you pay for your child’s school transport and they no longer need it, you must tell us in writing so that we can cancel the seat and arrange any necessary refund.
It is really important that we know about any problems with school transport, such as a vehicle running early or late, if a vehicle fails to operate and any behaviour issues.
We only know about a problem if we’re told about it. Please give us specific details so that we can discuss any issues with the contractor or the school. If you prefer, you can tell us anonymously. We will deal with all matters reported to us in confidence.
Email us firstname.lastname@example.org
Behaviour on school transport
We want to provide school transport that is safe and stress-free for all passengers. One of the major worries that parents have is that there will be poor behaviour on school transport. We take this very seriously and we are working hard to overcome concerns. We spend a lot of time working with schools and operators to make sure any problems are dealt with effectively. We will always work with the school involved to try to solve the problem.
To overcome the concerns of parents, we have a co-ordinated approach to dealing with behavioural problems, including:
If you know about a behavioural problem on school transport, please contact us as soon as possible.
When we receive information about a behavioural problem we will contact the school and work with them to try to solve it. We take poor behaviour, including bullying, very seriously. We deal with reports of problems in many ways:
If your child has left property on a school transport vehicle, please contact the operator directly to arrange to collect it. If you don’t know who the operator is or want their contact details, please contact us and we will tell you.
We make school transport arrangements by contracting the work to local transport operators and by using public service vehicles. All vehicles used to transport children are subject to rigorous safety checks throughout the year, and as part of the contract with our operators, all drivers and passenger assistants must attend our driver training seminars. Seat belts are installed on all our contracted vehicles and booster seats are provided for children travelling on taxis who are required by law to have one, although parents must tell us that a booster seat is needed. Suitable harnesses are provided for children travelling in wheelchairs.
Where necessary a passenger assistant will be provided to help children. All drivers and passenger assistants who work on school transport must have an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate.
We continually monitor the safety of the vehicles we use, including passenger loadings and behaviour, and pick-up and drop-off points. All vehicles used for school transport are checked by our Vehicle Quality Control Officer at the contractors’ premises and as part of a rolling programme of unannounced spot-checks at schools with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and the police.
Public service vehicles have a more rigorous MOT than a car and have to have regular documented checks. Taxis are checked twice a year; once at their MOT and again when they are assessed for their Hackney or Private Hire licence plate.
All drivers and passenger assistants must hold an enhanced DBS certificate before they can transport children. All drivers and passenger assistants transporting pupils with special educational needs attend our training for passenger care, wheelchair handling, emergency aid, child protection and behaviour management. They also get support visits from our safety team.
Coach and minibus drivers also receive training in behaviour management and safety on buses. Once drivers and passenger assistants have received their DBS certificate, we will issue them with a photo identity badge. This badge is your assurance that they are cleared to work with children.
If you would like more information about vehicle safety or the driver training programmes we run, or if you have any concerns you would like to discuss, please contact us.
In some circumstances we will grant parents or guardians a petrol allowance to drive their own child to school or to the nearest bus stop. This may happen if there is no existing transport network in the area, or if the child has a specific need which can be best met by the parent or guardian. We will pay for the 4 journeys required: from home to school or the bus stop and return in the morning; and from home to school or the bus stop and return in the afternoon.
We will calculate the mileage from your home address to the school by the shortest available driving route. This distance will be multiplied by the number of journeys necessary and we will pay you the current standard rate, 18p per mile, to give you your daily rate.
We reserve the right to agree petrol allowances individually, up to a maximum threshold, where this provides best value. This will be reviewed each year to allow other travel strategies to be employed. Parents being offered a petrol allowance will be asked to complete and return a reply slip confirming they have the correct licence, MOT and insurance for conveying children on all school transport journeys.
Medical Needs form
North Petherton – Robert Blake route assessment
Sustainable School Travel Strategy – Setting the Scene
School Travel Policy
Priest/Minister’s certificate for school transport on denominational grounds
Guide to behaving responsibly on school transport
School transport costs 2019/20
Post 16 Local Transport Policy Statement 2019-20
Catching the school bus – primary school
Catching the school bus – middle, secondary and upper school
Special educational needs transport
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