Service Transformation

04.11.19

Local councils urge government to rethink school transport as bill set to soar to £1.2bn by 2024

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England, has revealed today that unsustainable costs and demand pressures on free home-to-school transport will cost councils £1.2bn a year by 2024.

Approximately 550,000 school children are currently receiving free home to school travel each year, with 145,000 of them special educational needs and disability (SEND) students.

The LGA is calling on the government to understand the pressures the councils are under and fully fund incentives to include local children with SEND therefore eliminating the need to travel so far to attend special schools.

The Isos Partnership report, commissioned by the LGA and County Councils Network, outlines that that the cost of school transport has increased by £66m over four years from 2014-15 to 2019/18 and estimates a potential rise of £127m, bringing the annual bill to £1.2bn a year by 2024.

Councils have reduced spend on their transport by 12% and cut discretionary transport spending by 27% in order to meet rising costs of providing transport for children.

This has seen the number of children receiving free home-to-school transport reduce by more than 10,000 in five years.

Councils are also reviewing routes to school to ensure greater safety with the installation of new bridges, traffic crossings or pedestrian walkways.

Cllr Judith Blake, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:

“Councils are working as hard as they can to ensure suitable travel arrangements are in place for children who could not reasonably be expected to walk or would otherwise find it difficult to attend school because of distance, mobility, special educational needs or the routes they have to take.

 “This cross-government review of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) support is good news and needs to identify how we can tackle the immense demand pressures councils are facing in providing vital care and support for children and young people with SEND, including home-to-school transport.

“While a special school may be the right setting for a particular child, it is also vital that mainstream schools are incentivised and rewarded for offering a high quality and suitable education for children with special needs.”

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