IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR ALL CHILDREN WHO CURRENTLY USE (OR WILL IN THE FUTURE) THE SCHOOL BUS SERVICE.
The council has recently consulted with parents regarding proposed changes to school transport. A public meeting has been arranged by Councillor Kate Hollern and Will Straw to discuss the changes. The meeting will be held at Darwen Library Theatre on Tuesday 20th January at 6pm. I would urge you to attend this meeting as these changes could affect all parents whose children use school transport now or in the future. Thank you.
Home to school transport consultation
The Council has reviewed home to school transport and is seeking your views on a number of proposed changes to ‘discretionary transport’ for pupils attending mainstream schools. Discretionary transport is the term used to describe services that the Council pays for, even though it is not legally required to provide them. Free home to school transport is not affected and is not included in the consultation.
The proposed changes are part of a wider review of services that the Council is carrying out in order to make cuts of £31m over the next three years. This is in addition to the £70m cuts it has already made. No final decisions will be made until after the consultation.
The home to school transport policy reproduced on the website is correct at the time of publication and is subject to review.
Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council will meet the travelling expenses of some pupils whose parents/carers live within the borough and who attend the nearest suitable school (as determined by the Council). Ordinarily the Council will not regard schools maintained by neighbouring councils as the nearest suitable school.
Please note that where specific school bus services are offered for children who receive bus passes (i.e. are entitled to free transport), first consideration for boarding is given to the bus pass holders and only if spare capacity/seats are then available, will fare paying pupils be allowed on to the bus.
The grounds upon which help may be given are listed below.
- Travelling expenses may be paid where the shortest nearest available walking route, accompanied as necessary, as determined by Blackburn with Darwen Council between the pupil's home and the school is:
- two miles or more for pupils aged four but under eight years of age
- three miles or more for pupils aged eight years and over
- two miles or more for children aged eight but under 11 years of age from low income families (where children are entitled to free school meals or whose parents are in receipt of their maximum level of working tax credit).
- two miles but less than six miles from one of their three nearest appropriate schools for children aged 11 to 16 from low income families (where children are entitled to free school meals or whose parents are in receipt of their maximum level of working tax credit).
- where a parent has expressed a preference for a school and that preference is based on the parent's religion or belief and the child is aged 11 to 16 and the preferred school is more than two miles but less than 15 miles (where children are entitled to free school meals or whose parents are in receipt of their maximum level of working tax credit).
- Travel passes will only be issued to pupils for attendance at the nearest appropriate school as determined by the Council.
- Applications for a travel pass are sent out automatically to the parents of children who qualify for assistance under the transport policy criteria. If you have not received an application form one month before the travel pass is required and you feel you qualify please contact the Transport Team.
- Where a travel pass has been issued it must be returned to Transport Services immediately in the event of any change of circumstances, including the following:
- where the pupil changes their address
- where the pupil leaves the school before the date on which the travel pass expires.
- where absence for any reason of one month or more can be anticipated or has occurred.
- For secondary school pupils the application form must be accompanied by one passport type photograph.
Other forms of transport can be offered by the Council at its discretion even though there is no legal requirement to do so. This is known as ‘Discretionary School Transport’.
Previously, under Discretionary School Transport the Council provided free denominational transport – i.e. transport to the nearest faith school based on the above criterion, even when the faith school was not the “nearest suitable school”. Legally, the “nearest suitable school” is only defined as a school with places available that provides education appropriate to the age, ability and aptitude of the child (and any special educational needs the child may have) – not one that can provide an education in accordance with parental faith or beliefs.
Following a review and public consultation, the Council took the decision that all new applications from the academic year 2012/13 will only be eligible for a free bus pass if they meet the statutory qualifying distance requirements and are attending their nearest suitable school (as defined above). This will mean that those children who are not eligible for a free bus pass from the start of the 2012/13 academic year will be charged a subsidised fare per day for the return journey to use the bus service.
This new policy will not affect children who currently receive a discretionary bus pass for travel to a faith school; they will continue to be eligible as long as they attend that school and still meet the relevant distance criteria.
The above is based on current interpretation of legislation. If there are any changes to the relevant legislation then the Council will review and amend its policies as necessary to comply with legal requirements.
Further information is available from Transport Services.