Publication - Advice and guidance

School transport guidance 2021

Published: 2 Sep 2021
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills
Learning Directorate
Part of:
Education, Transport

This document updates the guidance to local authorities about the provision of school transport and replaces the School Transport Guidance Circular issued in 2003 (Circular No 7/2003 ).

School transport guidance 2021
Section 2 - What does this mean in practice?

Section 2 - What does this mean in practice?

2.1 - Walking distances

14. In making their arrangements for the provision of free school transport, local authorities will take into consideration the distance between a pupil's home and the pupil's catchment school. Legislation does not prescribe the distance beyond which they must, nor distance below which they must not, provide transport, although the legislation does specify that, where a local authority fails to provide transport to a child living beyond walking distance to the nearest public school willing to accept the child, a parent will be deemed to have reasonable excuse for not ensuring the attendance of that child at school.

15. In general therefore, local authorities may make free travel available to pupils who live beyond the statutory walking distance[12] and are attending the school designated as the nearest appropriate catchment school[13]. The statutory walking distance is defined in section 42(4) of the 1980 Act as being two miles for children aged under eight, and three miles for children aged eight or over.

16. It is for local authorities to determine the nature of the provision they offer, taking into account local circumstances and a combination of factors - including distance - and they may choose to provide free transport over shorter distances.

2.2 - Distance and Safe Walking Routes

17. There will be instances where authorities conclude that the route a pupil, or group of pupils, would have to walk to school, accompanied as necessary, is unsafe and that transport should be provided even though the distance falls short of their normal criteria. Local authorities may define "recommended walking routes" which they assess as safe to their schools to help parents and pupils.

18. Ministers expect local authorities to keep their criteria for providing school transport under review and be flexible enough to take into account factors, relative to the nature of the route, which might affect pupil safety. For any part of the route which includes a public road, relevant factors, where appropriate, could include: volume and speed of traffic; visibility distances for drivers at a particular location; availability of safe crossings and "step offs"; sufficiency of footways, footpaths and subways; adequacy of waiting areas; built-up and wooded areas, and; adequacy of street lighting.

2.3 - Medical Conditions and Additional Support Needs

19. Local authorities are also expected to consider medical conditions and both visible and hidden disabilities affecting a child's ability to walk or travel by bus or, exceptionally, affecting a parent's ability to accompany a younger child on the walk to school.

20. If a child or young person cannot attend their local school because of a short-term or long-term medical condition, the local authority may decide to provide free transport to where education is being provided. It will normally consult the relevant health board when making its decision.

21. Local authorities and other agencies have duties under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended) to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of their pupils. An additional support need can arise for any reason and be of short or long term duration. Additional support may be required to overcome needs arising from the learning environment; health or disability; family circumstances or social and emotional factors. Local authorities should consider if a pupil has been assessed as having additional support needs whether this would also include a need for transport.

22. School transport also needs to be accessible to all and thought should be given to how public transport, including school transport, fits within wider national aims. Some children and young people will require supported transport arrangements because of their additional support needs. Many children and young people with additional support needs will be able to make use of mainstream transport where it is necessary, which ensures their inclusion and encourages independence.

23. In determining individual transport needs, recommendations from school staff, Psychological Services, community and allied health professionals should be considered as well as information from parents or carers.

24. Getting school transport right and making it accessible to all can be an enabler for many young people to reach their full potential and live fulfilling and independent lives. We should not underestimate the role that the school journey can play in building confidence in young people to travel independently, which may help them access higher and further education and, ultimately, employment.

2.4 - Pick-up/drop-off points

25. School transport is not required to be a door-to-door service. Local authorities may therefore require pupils to walk to and/or from a central pick-up/drop-off point, provided that the pick-up/drop-off point is no further from the pupil's home than the authority's normal distance criterion for a child of that age. Parents are responsible for making their own arrangements for their children's travel to and from pick-up/drop-off points, but appropriate measures should be taken to ensure that pick-up/drop-off points are safe and accessible.

2.5 - School Transport and Placing Requests

26. Pupils are not eligible for free school transport if their place at school was allocated as a result of a placing request. Authorities have, however, discretion to offer such pupils any vacant seats there may be on school transport, and to charge them for any such seats.

2.6 - Vacant seats

27. Where there are vacant seats on dedicated school transport services, local authorities must make them available to other pupils, including pupils who do not meet their criteria for free school transport. Local authorities may charge for use of vacant seats. However, in determining charges, local authorities should have regard to the financial circumstances of the parents and whether the charges would cause undue hardship.

2.7 - Denominational Schools and Gaelic Education

28. In the case of denominational schools and Gaelic Medium Education (GME), local authorities' assessment of eligibility for free home to school transport (based on reasonable walking distances) should take into account the relevant catchment areas which such schools use. In the case of GME schools, this reflects the relevant statutory guidance.[14]