Transport for Pupils with Special Educational Needs

The law regarding provision of free home to school transport applies to all children – not just those with SEN and/or a disability.

If a child or young person is on roll at a school, it is the parent/ carers responsibility to ensure that they attend school. Generally, parents/carers are expected to make their own arrangements for ensuring that their child gets to and from school and most children are able to get to and from school by walking, cycling or by public or private transport.

The Local Authority has a statutory duty to provide transport as set out in Education Act 1996. The law requires that a Local Authority arrange free, suitable, home to school transport for children of compulsory school age, who are eligible, to their nearest suitable school.

Having SEN and or a disability is one of the criteria for being an eligible child.

Compulsory school age:

Compulsory school age starts from the beginning of the term after the child’s 5th birthday and ends on the last Friday of June in the school year that the child turns 16 years old.

Where a young person is over 16 years old and attending school or college the law requires a Local Authority to have home to school/ college transport arrangements in place to enable them to attend education or training.

Nearest suitable school:

The nearest suitable school is the nearest qualifying school with places available that provides education appropriate to the age, ability and any SEND of the child.

Qualifying schools - community, foundation or voluntary schools or special schools; non-maintained special schools; pupil referral units; maintained nursery schools; or city technology colleges (CTC), city colleges for the technology of the arts (CCTA) or academies, including free schools and University Technical Colleges (UTC).

For children with SEN, an independent school can also be a qualifying school where this is named on the child’s Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

Parent/ carers may chose a different school to the nearest suitable school as long as the school will still meet the needs of the child as outlined in the EHCP. However the parent/carers may then become liable for the transport costs to that school.


There are 4 categories of eligibility all of which only relate to children of compulsory school age and are listed below.

  1. Statutory walking distances eligibility.

Local authorities are required to provide free transport for all pupils of compulsory school age (5-16) if their nearest suitable school is:

  • beyond 2 miles (if below the age of 8); or
  • beyond 3 miles (if aged between 8 and 16)
  1. Special educational needs, disability or mobility problems eligibility.

Local authorities are required to make transport arrangements for all children who cannot reasonably be expected to walk to school because of their mobility problems or because of associated health and safety issues related to their special educational needs (SEN) or disability.

Eligibility, for such children should be assessed on an individual basis to identify their particular transport requirements. Usual transport requirements (e.g. the statutory walking distances) should not be considered when assessing the transport needs of children eligible due to SEN and/or disability.

  1. Unsafe route eligibility

Local authorities are required to make transport arrangements for all children who cannot reasonably be expected to walk to nearest suitable school because the nature of the route is deemed unsafe to walk.

In assessing safety, local authorities should consider a range of risks, such as: age of child, volume and speed of traffic, street lighting, road width, canals, rivers, ditches, and things such as overhanging trees or branches that might obscure fields of vision for the pedestrian or motorist.

An authority should also consider whether it is reasonable to expect the child’s parent to accompany the child along a route which would otherwise be classified as being unsafe.

  1. Extended rights eligibility

Local authorities are required to provide free transport where pupils are entitled to free school meals or their parents are in receipt of maximum Working Tax Credit 12 if:

  • the nearest suitable school is beyond 2 miles (for children over the age of 8 and under 11);
  • the school is between 2 and 6 miles (if aged 11-16 and there are not three or more suitable nearer schools);
  • the school is between 2 and 15 miles and is the nearest school preferred on the grounds of religion or belief (aged 11-16).

Exceptional Circumstances Criteria.

  • Children and young people who do not meet the criteria for statutory transport assistance may be eligible for help under the Exceptional Circumstances Criteria (ECC). Portsmouth City Council recognises the difference that transport assistance can make to the lives of some vulnerable children and young people.

Details of how to apply for transport under both statutory and exceptional circumstances can be found at:

Portsmouth home to school/college transport information

Further useful links:

Home to school Travel and Transport Guidance - a summary of the statutory duties with which local authorities must comply when making home to school travel arrangements.

Post-16 transport to education and training - Statutory guidance for local authorities

IPSEA Transport page


Portsmouth SEND IASS can support families through this process.

Tel: 0300 303 2000

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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