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Who can get free school transport

Some 5-16 year olds in Norfolk will qualify for free travel. This depends on how old your child is, which school they go to and where they live, and whether they have any special educational needs or mobility issues.

All applications are assessed against the criteria set in our home to school transport policy.

Your child will be entitled to free school transport, if they:

  • Are of compulsory school age (5 to 16 years old) on 1 September or
  • If they will be 5 before 1 September 2020 when applying for school year 2019-20 or
  • If they will be 5 before 1 September 2021 when applying for school year 2020-21 and
  • Attend the nearest catchment school or the nearest appropriate school with a place as designated by Children’s Services and
  • Live more than 2 miles, measured by the nearest walking route to school, when under the age of 8
  • Live more than 3 miles walking distance from school, when aged 8 or over

We will also provide transport for children who are unable to walk to school due to mobility problems or a severe medical condition. This is unless they live close enough to school to be able to make their own way, using a wheelchair or suitable alternative.

We do not provide midday journeys for children attending school part-time.

Families in receipt of a qualifying low income benefit

Free school transport may also be available for families receiving certain benefits.

Children of primary school age from low income families

For children aged eight years and over, who attend their nearest catchment or appropriate school, the qualifying distance will remain two miles if either:

  • They are entitled to free school meals due to their family receiving a qualifying low income benefit
  • Their parents are receiving the maximum level of Working Tax Credit (when reduction due to income is £0.00)

Children of secondary school age from low income families

Children of secondary school age will be entitled to free transport if they:

  • Go to one of three appropriate schools closest to home, between two and six miles away or
  • Go to a school, preferred on grounds of religion or belief that is the nearest of its kind to their home, between two and 15 miles away and
  • Are entitled to free school meals or
  • Have parents who are receiving the maximum level of Working Tax Credit (when reduction due to income is £0.00)

Evidence to submit with your application

When you apply, you must include a scan, photocopy or screenshot of a recent letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) showing that you are entitled to one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance (income related)
  • Guaranteed Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit (where earnings element is less than £7,400 annually)
  • The maximum level of Working Tax Credit (when reduction due to income is £0.00)
  • Child Tax Credit but not Working Tax Credit and your annual income, assessed by HM Revenue and Customs, (does not exceed £16,190)

Download an example of a qualifying/non qualifying Working Tax Credit

If you only have a Tax Credit Annual Review Notice for the current financial year, because you notified the DWP that your circumstances haven’t changed since your last full Tax Credit Award, you must send a photocopy or scan of all the following information:

  • Your original Tax Credit Award
  • Your Annual Review notice
  • Your written or emailed confirmation that you have informed the DWP that your circumstances have not changed since your last full Tax Credit Award

We cannot return original documents. Anything you send us is scanned and/or securely destroyed.

Apply for school transport

Raising the participation age to 18

In 2015, the Government increased the age at which young people must continue in education or training to 18.

Although young people must now remain in education or training until they are 18, the government has not increased the age range of free transport available to eligible young people in line with this. Free transport is still only available to eligible children and young people up to age 16.

For further information on raising the participation age please see the Department for Education website.

The standard home to school transport policy applies to free schools.

Travel assistance to free schools can only be considered if a pupil is attending their nearest school or a qualifying school under the low income legislation, provided other criteria such as the minimum distance to be entitled are met.

If travel to school will be solely dependent on one means of transport, eg by car, it is very unlikely that we could help in an emergency, even in exceptionally difficult circumstances.

Apply for a spare seat – updated news on our discretionary travel scheme for 2020/21

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

However, new government rules mean we can't take any payment from parents for transport on vehicles that have more than 22 seats and which are not accessible to people who are disabled.

Therefore we're having to severely restrict the number of seats we can offer under this scheme – for many routes we won't be able to offer any discretionary places.

The following rules will apply from September 2020:

  • 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 2020-21
  • 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, as always, but also depending on the type of vehicle that is being used on that route
  • If an accessible vehicle is being used on the route (a vehicle which is low floor, not a coach, usually operates as a local bus service) then there is no limit to the number of spare seats we can offer, assuming there is space. However if the service is a registered local bus service, it's unlikely we would sell any spare seats as you would need to purchase direct from the bus operator.
  • If an inaccessible vehicle is being used on the route (usually a coach, where you have to step up onto the vehicle, like most ‘normal’ school buses) then we can offer up to 20% of the seats to ineligible children where we have space. This option though is only available until July 2021. This deadline has been set by government and is something we can't change.
  • If a vehicle of less than 22 seats is being used on the route, then there is no limit to the number of spare seats we can offer, assuming there is space

Clearly this means there will be a reduced number of spare seats available. Even if the bus isn’t full, we cannot offer any more spare seats if the 20% limit has been reached on a vehicle that is not accessible.

We've tried to contract-in accessible vehicles but these are not generally available and costs are significantly higher even where they are. The local authority only has a legal duty to provide transport for those who are entitled to free school transport. Therefore we can't incur additional cost for ineligible children as we don't have the budget for that.

Each year when you apply for a discretionary place on school transport you are reminded that this place can't be guaranteed and that you should have an alternative means of getting your child to school if the seat is no longer available. That is even more so the case now.

There are also more issues to consider with the current coronavirus situation, in that we're not able to have as many children travelling on a school bus at the same time.

While spare seats under the discretionary travel scheme are technically available, we won't be offering any until we are sure that the restricted capacity on each vehicle allows it. This is very unlikely to be before the schools go back in September, and more likely to be not until the end of that month.

See our School Transport Policy for information about the priority order for allocating spare seats.

Make a school transport application for 2020-21

We'll do our best to offer a discretionary place, as per the terms and availability outlined above. However, we may not get back to you until the end of September with a decision, so it's important you have a plan in place to get your child to school.

You may find the alternative travel options listed here helpful.

Other help

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
  • They are too young or vulnerable to walk to school alone and parents can’t accompany them due to mobility issues or severe medical conditions.

See sections 5.2 and 5.3 of our transport policy for more information

Email information@norfolk.gov.uk If you have questions about your child’s eligibility for free school transport.

In some cases parents will provide their own transport to and from school instead relying on us to make transport arrangements.  These arrangements are only agreed for eligible pupils if contracted or public transport is not available and it is the most cost-effective option.

The level of allowance is based on the mileage for two return journeys each day and on the condition that the driver is acting as a volunteer.

The current fuel allowance is 50p per mile.

Payments are calculated on mileage for two return journeys a day.

Example:

  • School is five miles from home
  • A return journey is 10 miles
  • Drop-off and pickup journeys total 20 miles
  • 20 x 50p = £10.00 per day fuel allowance

Allowances are paid monthly in arrears on receipt of a claim form authorised by the establishment to confirm attendance.

Submit your claims to:

Travel and Transport
Norfolk County Council
County Hall
Norwich
NR1 2SG

Contact the county council where you live for help.

Suffolk County Council 
Cambridgeshire County Council
Lincolnshire County Council

If your county council can’t help, you can apply to Norfolk County Council under the discretionary travel scheme. You’ll need to pay fees for any assistance we provide.

We don’t provide transport or assistance for pupils to get to work placements or activities outside of normal school hours.

Talk to the person who arranged the placement or activity about travel arrangements.

We do not have to provide transport for pupils to attend induction days.

We may authorise transport if requested by the school and there is space on existing contracted services.

Please note if a travel pass is authorised for induction days this may not be the same service allocated to a pupil from September.  Also, even if the same service, a new timetable may be in operation.

If the transport is a public service, then pupils are expected to pay the daily fare to the operator.

If transport is required for induction days please contact your school.

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