Consultation on new Travel Assist policy
A plan to consult on a new policy for home to school transport is to go before the city council’s cabinet
The Travel Assist service helps transport almost 6,000 children to school every day, via minibus, taxi and use of bus and train passes. It mostly supports children with special educational needs who can’t be expected to walk to school because of a disability or issues related to their special educational needs.
However, home to school transport is also provided where needed, for children living in temporary accommodation, children in care and other children who may be in low-income families and struggling to get to school without support.
Of the children the service supports, 4,250 are transported using taxis and minibuses, with some of the 600 transport routes having a guided service, for those children assessed as needing a guide whilst on route to school.
Councillor Kate Booth, cabinet member for children’s wellbeing, said: “Reviewing our home to school transport policy is part of our wider look at SEND services across the city and a key part of this is to develop more local special educational provision, reducing the need for children to travel long distances to a suitable education placement. Another important aspect is the need to focus on independence, working with families and young people much earlier in the child’s life to develop important skills, such as travelling independently, and preparing for adulthood. The proposed new policy emphasises these vital changes that can have such a positive impact on a child’s life.
“Birmingham City Council has the largest provision of home to school transport, and the largest guided service, in the country; all through primary and secondary years. It is a massive operation, with transport reviewed in-year and every year, and inevitable changes at the start of every academic year due to pupils moving through the school system and their needs changing.
“However, budget pressures and the challenges of delivering such a large-scale operation means we must continue to review and improve the service. Birmingham has a large number of minibus provision compared to many other local authorities, and there is a huge cost associated with this service so we must ensure scarce resources go to those most in need.”
Key proposed changes include:
- Combining existing policies into one 0-25 age policy
- Increased emphasis on independent travel training
- Increased emphasis on the use of personal transport budgets
- Being clear that statutory guidance means parents are expected to accompany their children to school wherever possible
- Explaining that a child’s ability to travel on non-school journeys would be taken into consideration
The report will go to cabinet on 11 December and if approved a statutory consultation will take place in early 2019, which will include public meetings and online feedback.