Cerebra’s Legal Entitlement and Problem-solving (LEaP) Project, led by Luke Clements the Cerebra Professor of Law and Social Justice at the School of Law, Leeds University, has submitted its response to the Department for Education’s (DfE) consultation on Home to School Travel and Transport Guidance.
Although the legislation on school transport hasn’t changed the DfE decided to revise the current 2014 guidance following a report by the LEAP project on local authorities’ websites published in April 2017 and Contact’s School Transport Inquiry.
An initial draft of the revised guidance was circulated for comment to targeted stakeholders, including the LEAP Project, in August 2018 with the current consultation being launched in July of this year.
Although Cerebra’s LEAP Project welcomes the new guidance as an improvement on the existing version it does, however, believe that there is need for greater clarity on a number of specific points and in particular:
- Some local authorities expect parents of disabled children to accompany them to school irrespective of the child’s age, e.g. to walk a 16-year-old boy to school. We believe that infantilising disabled young people by insisting on parents accompanying them to school irrespective their age amounts to direct discrimination against the young person, and requiring parents to act as escorts under these circumstances constitutes direct discrimination by association. Guidance must make it clear that parents are responsible for escorting a child where it’s age appropriate but local authorities are responsible for meeting any transport needs which arise solely from a disability or special educational need, i.e. when the local authority wouldn’t ordinarily expect a child of that age to be accompanied.
- Explicitly state, as in paragraph 16 of the current guidance, that if a child attends their nearest suitable school and cannot be reasonably expected to walk there because of their special educational needs, disability or a temporary mobility problem then their local authority must provide them with free transport regardless of the distance between their home and school, i.e. statutory walking distances do not apply to these categories of children.
- Make it absolutely clear that local authorities cannot under any circumstances take into account any of the following in deciding whether a pupil is eligible for free school transport: Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payments, a Motability Car or Foster Care Allowance.
- That local authorities must not make transport arrangements that inevitably mean an eligible pupil arrives late for school or has to leave before the end of the school day.
For anyone who is interested in responding to the consultation it ends on 31 October and can be found here.