Agenda item


Purpose: to outline the Council’s approach to reviewing and consulting on its Home to School/College Travel and Transport Policy.  A presentation will be provided for the Committee on the detail of the policy proposals, seeking the Committee’s views, as well as a summary of public feedback so far.



Julie Iles, Cabinet Member for All Age Learning

Mary Burguieres, Assistant Director of Systems and Transformation – Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture

BenedicteSymcox, Operations Lead for Family Voice




Key points raised during the discussion:


  1. The Cabinet Member for All Age Learning informed Members that the public consultation, which involved focus groups and Family Voice, on home to school/college travel and transport would be concluding on 15 December. They explained that the consultation had essentially been divided into two sections: how to better support independence and preparation for adulthood and a review of the discretionary provision. They stated that high-level analysis of the feedback received from the consultation would be undertaken.


  1. The Cabinet Member described that the consultation comprised face-to-face meetings with families, organisations, carers and head teachers, online consultations and focus groups with children.


  1. The Assistant Director of Systems and Transformation summarised the Home to School/College Travel and Transport Policy Public Consultation overview document. Regarding ‘independent travel’, they informed the Committee that this would mean different things for different children at different stages of their lives and that the service had been looking at how independence could be facilitated and better supported. They stated, however, that parents had concerns regarding their children being able to cope with the risks associated with travelling independently.


  1. The Cabinet Member for All Age Learning stated that they would be looking at how to communicate effectively to both parents and children the key benefits of independent travel. Pertaining to ‘collection points’, the Assistant Director of Systems and Transformation explained that these were well regarded and seen as a step towards independence. Providing they were assessed for suitability, the Assistant Director stated that a range of locations could be used as collection points. Finally, the Assistant Director raised her concern that the travel allowance was not well used and there was a need to understand the barriers to uptake and how it could be made more attractive. They identified the key benefits of a travel allowance as flexibility (especially regarding extracurricular activities after school) and shorter journey times to and from schools, whilst the most significant barriers were distance from schools and lack of suitable public transport. They stated that, overall, the council was spending up to three times more than its statistical Local Authority comparators and yet this overspend had not translated into a better service.


  1. The Chairman of the Select Committee asked the Operations Lead for Family Voice how the organisation had been dealing with the issues (above) raised by the Cabinet Member for All Age Learning. The Operations Lead highlighted the difficulty that parents of SEND children had with interacting with their child’s school (due to distance). They stated, firstly, that the travel allowance had been perceived as being unfair and incurring costs for families and, secondly, that the work of Family Voice indicated that the proposed changes to home-to-school travel were likely to cause a loss of trust in the council’s SEND strategy. They stressed the importance of the council maintaining trust with parents and carers for the SEND transformation programme. Whilst Family Voice agreed with the council that decreasing travel distance for all ages was key, the Operations Lead relayed the organisation’s concern that children who had been placed in a specialist nursery were no longer being provided transport, which was preventing some from receiving the early intervention that they needed. They suggested, firstly, that savings could be made within the statutory provision of support and, secondly, decreasing the distance that nursery level children had to travel for specialist placements. They informed the Committee that parents would like a response and advice on how to get the right support.


  1. The Vice Chairman informed Members that a witness statement from the head teacher at Brooklands School reflected the concerns of the Operations Lead and suggested that recommissioning of places close to home should be a priority.


  1. The Assistant Director agreed that travel distance needed to be solved first, but that this would take time. They stressed, firstly, that issues of safety were paramount to parents and, secondly, the service wanted to ensure in its communication with parents that it was striking the right balance between safety and supporting independence. The Operations Lead for Family Voice stated the importance of conveying the right message regarding independent travel to those parents with very vulnerable children.


  1. The Operations Lead for Family Voice asked whether there would be an opportunity for people to give comments before the final decision was made. The Cabinet Member for All Age Learning stated that the consultation would close on 15 December and Officers would pull together the feedback alongside the equality impact assessment. The Chairman of the Select Committee informed the Operations Lead for Family Voice that feedback could still be made following the end of the consultation.


  1. The Chairman asked for Members’ comments on the consultation. A Member of the Committee said they favoured having transport for the whole academic year for a child, regardless of when that child turned eight years old. The Operations Lead for Family Voice stated that a child’s school year was far more relevant than their birthday and they also conveyed parents’ beliefs that transport support should be the same for all the children in that year group. The Chairman stated that they believed in equity of provision and therefore believed if a child was born in September, they would benefit more than a child born in July, for example.


  1. The Assistant Director informed Members that there were no proposed changes to the travel allowance because they believed this did not pose as much of a barrier as travel distance and the availability of suitable public transport.




Actions/Further information to be provided:


i)              Response to parents with advice regarding how to get the right support for their child.



Supporting documents: