Apply for a spare seat
Updated news on our discretionary travel scheme – September 21
The Government is committed to ensuring that disabled school and college students have the same opportunity to travel on mainstream services with their peers as non-disabled children do. This is why PSVAR (Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations) were introduced in 2000 to improve accessibility onboard buses and coaches designed to carry over 22 passengers.
It is now written in law that from 1 January 2020 we cannot sell seats on vehicles that have more than 22 seats and are not accessible to people who are disabled.
However, due to the impact on school transport and children who are not entitled to free school transport, the Department for Transport (DfT) have allowed a temporary exemption for two terms, until 1 April 2022.
We may be able to offer your child a spare seat on existing school transport under our discretionary travel scheme if they:
- Live closer than the minimum distance for their age (two miles for children up to eight years old, three miles for children aged eight and older)
- Are not attending their catchment or nearest school
The following rules will apply from September 2021:
- The home to school transport policy will remain the same as before and spare seats will be available to children who are not entitled to free school transport where we can offer them
- There will be a charge for any seat that is offered as detailed in our information sheet for 2021-22
- The offer of a spare seat will depend on availability, based on the capacity of a vehicle and the number of eligible children that we need to transport
However, it is very important to understand that the current relaxation of the law implemented by Ministers and the Department for Transport (DfT) will expire on 1 April 22. This means that as it currently stands we will not be able to sell spare seats on vehicles that have more than 22 seats and are not accessible to people who are disabled for the Summer Term (April 22 to July 22) - this applies to most coaches where you have to step up onto the vehicle, so most ‘normal’ school buses. We are currently working with the DfT to try and get a temporary extension until the end of July 22 – so please check this website page for further updates.
See our School Transport Policy for information about the priority order for allocating spare seats.
Although we'll do our best to offer a discretionary place, as per the terms and availability outlined above, the Council is not responsible for school transport if your child is not attending the catchment or nearest school or they live within the qualifying distances outlined above. Although we will try and give priority to those who have received transport in the previous academic year, if we cannot offer a seat because there is no space or we are trying to maintain some social distancing, I am afraid our decision is final and there will be no right to appeal.
The Council has never guaranteed transport for anyone who purchases a seat under our discretionary travel scheme and if, during the school year, the seat is needed for a pupil who is entitled to school transport, the discretionary place for your child can be withdrawn at a week’s notice. In these circumstances if the place is withdrawn before half term a pro-rata refund will be made of half the contribution made.
We will be able to sell spare seats on accessible vehicles which have a low-floor entry, but as these usually operate as a local bus service you would need to purchase your ticket direct from the operator.
It is very important to always have an alternative plan of getting your child to school if we have to withdraw your seat at a week’s notice.
Make a school transport application for 2021-22
You may find the alternative travel options listed here helpful.
Pupils attending their appropriate school who do not qualify under the general policy for free transport may also be able to get help if:
- A combination of factors exist relating to the physical nature of the route which makes it unavailable to walk, accompanied as necessary
- Their family has had to move due to an emergency beyond the family’s control
- The child has mobility problems or a severe medical condition which means they are unable to walk to school, accompanied as necessary
See sections 5.2 and 5.3 of our transport policy for more information
Contact Norfolk County Council if you have questions about your child’s eligibility for free school transport.