Report on sibling entitlement for school transport
Flintshire’s Cabinet will debate siblings’ entitlement to free school transport, when it meets later this month.
A study on school transport was completed in September last year which identified opportunities for alternative service delivery arrangements and potential efficiency savings.
Legally, the Council is required to provide free home to school transport for learners of compulsory school age attending secondary school who live 3 miles or further from their nearest suitable school and 2 miles or further for primary schools and Flintshire’s Home to School Transport Policy reflects this position.
Where pupils have been unable to secure a place at the nearest suitable school, then free transport is provided to the next nearest suitable school, providing the distance criteria is met and a justification is provided to show why a child is not attending the nearest suitable school.
The particular circumstances for one pupil may not be the same as the circumstances for a sibling when they start in a new school and currently the home to school transport policy is silent on the matter of siblings receiving free transport on the basis of an older sister or brother already receiving free transport to a particular school. There is no legal requirement to provide transport for the sibling if they can attend their nearest school and cannot justify free transport to that school based on the distance criteria.
Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Youth, Councillor Ian Roberts, said:
“This is a difficult situation as Flintshire, of course, wants to provide pupils with as much choice as possible, but in this current climate, we also need to look at the most cost-effective and efficient ways of operating. Flintshire spends considerably more on school transport than other local authorities and, therefore, it is necessary to review our policy, given our financial situation.
“We will consider each application on its own merits and, if the School Transport Policy has changed since any older sibling received free transport, then the younger sibling will be subject to the Policy in force at the time.”
Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Streetscene and Transportation, Councillor Carolyn Thomas, said:
“The Home to School Transport Policy will be applied strictly and siblings will not have an automatic entitlement to transport even if transport is provided for an older sibling. Parents need to be aware that there will be a cost implication. Applications for schools are being returned now for September 2019 and parents need to know the current transport policy when making their choice.”