School transport has been one of the most common problems referred to our Legal Entitlements Research Project in recent months. Our newsletter in January featured an article about Samantha, who had been struggling to get school transport for her 14 year old son, Kelsey. After our success in helping Samantha, we were able to provide similar help to another parent who lives in the same area, Alan, and his 15 year old daughter, Robyn, who has global learning delay and autistic traits.
The Council decided to stop providing school transport for Robyn in August 2014 on the grounds that the family lived within a walking distance of 3 miles from the school. Whilst it acknowledged that Robyn was unable to walk and needed to be transported to school, the Council decided that it was ‘reasonable to expect parents who have a car to transport their child to school’ and that there were no ‘exceptional reasons to deviate from policy’. Alan appealed twice, but the Council stood by its original decision and he contacted the Legal Entitlements Research Project for help.
We looked at Robyn’s case and explained that local authorities are under a duty to provide transport for ‘eligible’ pupils, which includes children who can’t reasonably be expected to walk to school because of mobility problems or health and safety issues related to their special educational needs or disability. As the Council had accepted that Robyn was unable to walk and needed to be transported, it was clear that she was in fact eligible and the Council should have provided school transport.
Councils are entitled to consider whether it’s reasonable to expect a parent to accompany their child along a walking route, but they cannot insist that parents who have a car should be expected to drive their child to school. We advised Alan to ask for a review of the school transport decision, particularly in light of Samantha’s case.
We were delighted when Alan told us that Robyn had received a letter to say that her transport would be reinstated:
“It was fantastic news. The floodgates then seemed to open for the other pupils who had their transport removed and now they all seem to have had their decision changed. I am hugely grateful and it has made life a whole lot better for Robyn and our family”.
One of the Project’s aims is to focus on problems which have the potential to affect a large number of disabled children, so it’s great to see the impact our work has had for families living in this local authority’s area. We’re also really pleased that the Council in this case acknowledged that there was a problem with its school transport decisions and took steps to resolve the issue for families in its area.
If you’d like some legal advice from the Project regarding your child’s access to services, please have a look at the Project Guidelines for further details and complete our online request form. For more information, contact us on 01267 242582.