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Cabinet to consider feedback following consultation on proposed changes to Home to School transport service

School travel assistance

03 July 2023

Girl entering school bus

Proposed changes to the Council’s Home to School transport service will be considered by Councillors next week following feedback from residents.

At their meeting next Tuesday (11 July), West Northamptonshire Council’s Cabinet will discuss proposals to revise the service for children up to the age of 16 following an eight-week public consultation, which welcomed comments from over 1,450 parents, children, young people and other stakeholders.

Key proposals to change the policy include:

  • reviewing the non-entitled transport scheme, which currently enables parents to pay for seats on Council-run school bus services for children not eligible for free places
  • increasing the cost of a bus seat from £600 to £1000 to ensure it better reflects the actual cost of providing the service which has increased substantially over the last few years
  • only offering seats if spare capacity is available on existing contracted services
  • removal of Travel Assistance for some Year 11 Pupils who move home during the academic year
  • revised suitable walking route criteria which hasn’t been reviewed in over 10 years

Following feedback from residents, the Council will retain entitlement to free transport to a child’s linked school and is no longer proposing to remove discretionary travel assistance for mainstream pupils in Reception Year who have not yet turned 5 years.

All proposals being put forward would apply from September 2024 and only affect those applying for a bus place from this period and beyond. The proposed changes do not cover Home to School Transport policies for students aged 16 and over, which will be reviewed later this year, following a fuller review of all bus services.

The review of the service is the first to take place in a decade and seeks to ensure it is delivered in line with other local councils and at a reasonable cost. It will help overcome some of the challenges including a significant increase in demand from users and rising operating costs caused by high fuel prices and inflation. It also explores opportunities for a more flexible, environmentally friendly service that increases choices for parents and better supports the independence of young people.

We are extremely grateful to all those who took the time to share their views in our Home to School transport consultation. We received a huge 1,460 responses, all of which have been considered and reflected in the new proposals put forward for Cabinet to consider.

The current policy has not been reviewed in over 10 years and there has been no increase in fee to reflect rising operating costs and inflation. During this time most schools within West Northamptonshire have also moved to academy status and are no longer under local authority control.

There are also a range of statutory obligations which the council must meet in relation to the provision of Home to School transport, and the current policy includes enhanced arrangements over and above our statutory duty. As a result, the current policy and the associated enhancements must be reviewed.  

We are committed to working with parents, children and young people, schools and bus companies to explore ongoing and practical solutions for our school transport service and work is ongoing to find suitable solutions in order to create a fairer, simplified and more efficient service which meets the needs of our community. We look forward to further progress and thank parents, carers, and schools for their involvement in the consultation and their continued help and support.
Cllr Phil Larratt, Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport, Highways and Waste

The full Cabinet report can be viewed on the WNC website. For more information on Home to School Transport please visit the School travel assistance webpage.

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