SCHOOL TRANSPORT – Combined Authority School Transport Provision – Consultation

Please find below information regarding consultation on the provision of school transport. All details on how to participate in the consultation are below and it runs until 15th March.

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority organises and subsidises a range of school bus services for around 25,000 pupils and students across West Yorkshire. These services are provided where suitable public transport services are not available.

The  Combined Authority’s Transport Committee approved a set of guidelines in 2014, to determine whether a subsidised school bus service should be provided. These assume that pupils and students of secondary school age are able to use public transport where this is available.

Note – For the avoidance of doubt, these guidelines are separate and distinct from local council School Transport Policies, which cover eligibility for assistance with transport costs (usually free travel) and are based on statutory walking distances as set out in the Education Act (2002). 

Given on going pressure to reduce local authority budgets, the Combined Authority must ensure that limited public funds are targeted where it is most needed. To ensure this, the Combined Authority’s Transport Committee approved the development of and engagement on revised guidelines in May 2018. Combined Authority officers have worked closely with their Council Children’s Services counterparts in revising these guidelines.

As a result, we are planning to revise the guidelines on the provision of subsidised school bus services from 1 July 2019 and are seeking the views of service users and other interested parties before doing so. The new guidelines would come into effect at the start of the new school year – 1 September 2019.

The  changes are seeking to ensure funding is directed to assist journeys by under 16s to local schools for which a regular bus service is not available and where walking or cycling is unlikely to be a feasible option for most pupils, The proposed changes are summarised as follows;

  • Post-16 – Subsidised school bus services will not normally be provided for young people in the 16-18 age group. In practice, many students in this age group do not travel at fixed times to and from school, and are usually confident public transport users.
  • Distance from school – Subsidised school bus services will not normally be provided where pupils are attending a school that is more than four miles (6.5 km) from their home address. It will be assumed in these cases that this is a matter of parental preference.
    We have developed an online map, which shows the area around schools that would normally be served. It is expected that pupils living outside this area would be provided transport on a commercial basis (see below) or would have longer public transport journeys.  Discretion will be applied where schools are located in rural or semi-rural areas or where services serve rural or semi-rural communities.
  • Requests to serve new areas – Subsidised school bus services will not normally be introduced where currently no public transport link exists. As information on school services is publicly available, it will be assumed that parents have chosen a school in the knowledge that there is no direct public transport link and already have alternative transport arrangements in place.
  • Walking or cycling to school – Subsidised school bus services will not normally be provided for pupils who live less than 1.5 miles (2.4km) (30 minute walk) from their school. Pupils who live within this distance may be expected to walk or cycle to and from school. The online schools map also provides an indication of acceptable walking distances for each school.
  • Commercial school bus services – Subsidised school bus services may be withdrawn where commercial bus operators are willing to provide a service on the basis that parents meet the whole cost of the service (typically £500-£700 per child per year). It is expected that this would only apply to current services that fall outside of the new criteria.
  • Selective schools – Subsidised school bus services will not normally be provided where the school admissions policy is based on academic selection. It is expected that these would be replaced by commercial services as described above.
  • Value for money – Services will be considered for withdrawal or lower-cost alternatives sought where the direct subsidy per passenger trip exceeds £1.50. This typically is the cost for 50 or more regular users of a double deck service. This will replace the current criteria (£3 per mile) as it provides a more realistic measure of efficiency across different vehicle types.

Please note that, in applying the new guidelines, the Combined Authority would take all aspects affecting the journey from home to school into account.

Please note that local councils fund some schools’ services because they meet (or were first introduced to meet) the needs of pupils who qualify for free travel under the local councils’ policies.  Unless local council funding is withdrawn, these services would not be affected without prior agreement with the relevant local council.  If you would like to comment on the changes to the guidelines, please email yourvoice@westyorks-ca.gov.uk. Schools, parents, pupils and others are invited to complete a questionnaire hosted on the Combined Authority’s consultation and engagement website, yourvoice.com.

Schools, parents, pupils and other interested parties are able to have their say on the proposals until 15 March. Depending on the feedback received, the guidelines may be revised, subject the availability of funding. Any new guidelines (reflecting feedback received) will come into effect from 1 July 2019, with the new services running from 1 September.