School transport funding announced

Local transport authorities are to receive more than £40 million funding to support dedicated school and college transport for the autumn term.

This government funding is intended to help create extra capacity and allow hundreds of thousands more students to use alternatives to public transport, while social distancing measures remain in place. The government says it will review further arrangements in the future should it be necessary.

The government went on to say students and staff who have the option to walk, cycle or use a scooter are encouraged to do so.

The announcement of the funding follows comments from the industry that without government support, there could be a lack of school transport provision.

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, said: “For those that have no other option than public transport, this investment for local authorities will mean more students will be able to travel on dedicated home to school and college transport, creating even more capacity where it is needed most.”

Local transport authorities will be allocated the funding to reflect the number of children and young people in the local area and how far they have to travel. This includes students travelling to education or training, as well as anyone supervising or escorting students to education provision.

Students returning to further education in September will also benefit from this investment. Local authorities have been advised to work with providers and set out their travel arrangements for 16-19-year-olds, taking into account that students in further education often rely more on public transport and travel further to get there.

Local authorities continue to have a statutory duty to provide free home to school transport for all eligible children of compulsory school age, including children who attend their nearest suitable and whose special educational needs and disabilities mean they are unable to walk there. This will continue alongside the offer of other modes of transport for more students.

Local authorities will be provided with new detailed guidance next week which has been developed with the sector and Public Health England, which sets out details they need to plan for transport arrangements in September.

CPT’s Chief Executive, Graham Vidler, said: “Buses and coaches get more than a million children to school each day. Ensuring that a safe home to school network is fully running will be a crucial component of a successful return to school in September, and we are pleased the government has recognised this with additional funding.

“With less than four weeks to go until schools reopen, it is vital that local authorities adopt a pragmatic approach to engagement with operators, and fully utilise the coach capacity that is available locally. Local authorities will also want to ensure that all contracts meet the true costs of running home to school services to ensure that services remain sustainable.”

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