Home to school transport - use of accessible vehicles and provision of transport for non-entitled and post-16 pupils

We are consulting on our proposal for the future provision of home to school transport for those that are not entitled to receive it for free.

We spend in excess of £24 million per year on home to school transport, and aim to provide a safe and good quality service, whilst balancing costs to ensure that it provides overall value for money. 

We provide home to school transport using vehicles that meet the needs of entitled pupils. Where entitled pupils have mobility needs that require accessible vehicles an accessible vehicle is provided.

We would like to use only accessible buses for home to school transport but we cannot afford to do so. A recent tender has shown that the additional annual cost of requiring accessible buses for home to school transport is, on average, approximately £12,000 per bus. If we were to only use accessible buses for all home to school transport it could cost another £2.7million per year.

This level of additional cost would impact significantly on our resources and it is proposed that we continue to allow operators to use non accessible vehicles for home to school transport, unless otherwise required by law or to meet the mobility needs of pupils.

Vehicles used for home for school transport often have spare seats which we have made available for non-entitled and post 16 pupils for a charge. We received £610,000 in income from selling spare seats in 2018/19 but a legal challenge has meant that we had to stop charging for some spare seats from September 2019 and our annual income has gone down to about £270,000.

We are only allowed to charge for spare seats where the vehicle used meets the requirements of the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR) or is otherwise exempt. PSVAR requires vehicles to be accessible for anyone to use regardless of disability or mobility needs. Most vehicles used on home to school transport, especially to mainstream schools, are not accessible but the Government has recently allowed further exemptions potentially up to 2023 that would allow us to reintroduce charges on most of our services.

We are therefore proposing to reintroduce charges for the use of spare seats on home to school transport where it would be legal to do so, and to allow those pupils currently using spare seats on vehicles where we cannot charge to continue to travel for free up to July 2021.

This is not an ideal situation as it means that for a short time some pupils will have to pay and other will not, but the alternatives are either not affordable, or mean we have to immediately stop allowing some or all non-entitled and post 16 pupils to travel using spare seats.

This would significantly inconvenience up to 2,300 pupils and their families, add to congestion and emissions from having more vehicles on the road, and would mean we would be unable to collect circa £535,000 per year of income we would be entitled to recover.

Consultation Document

We are now consulting on our proposal for the future provision of home to school transport. The consultation is seeking views on.

  • The use of accessible vehicles for home to school transport.
  • Whether spare seats should be made available for non-entitled and post 16 pupils.
  • The criteria to be used for allocating spare seats if the demand is greater than the number of seats available.
  • How we should respond to consider the needs of people with disabilities when considering the use of spare seats.

If you would like to contribute your views please ensure you have read the  full consultation document (pdf / 554 KB) before answering the survey questions.

Consultation Questionnaire

Take part in our survey

 

You should give us your views on these proposals by 19 April 2020.

What is this consultation about?

We provide home to school transport free of charge to all entitled children up to the end of year 11. Eligibility is to the nearest or catchment school and is dependent on a number of factors specific to each child, including distance to school, age, mobility and health needs, and the safety of the walked route. There are currently over 12,500 pupils entitled for free home to school transport in North Yorkshire. This consultation will not affect entitlement to free home to school transport.

There are often spare seats on home to school transport which we make available to other non-entitled and post 16 pupils. About 2,300 non-entitled or post 16 pupils currently travel to and from school using spare seats. This Consultation seeks views on whether and under what circumstances we should continue to allow non-entitled and post 16 pupils to travel in spare seats on home to school transport, and when a charge should be made.

Does this affect transport provided directly by the school?

This consultation covers Home to School Transport provided by us and not transport provided directly by a school. If your school provides home to school transport, then you should contact them directly to discuss any questions or concerns you may have after reading the consultation document.

Why are we consulting on home to school transport?

We use a mix of vehicles for home to school transport, including buses, coaches, minibuses and taxis. Most of the vehicles used for home to school transport are not suitable for pupils with disabilities, but where an entitled pupil has a mobility need we will always provide a suitable vehicle. 

We would like to be able to use spare seats on home to school transport for non-entitled and post 16 pupils, but we can only charge for these spare seats if the vehicle is accessible, or is exempt from the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations 2000 (PSVAR)

We need to decide if it is going to make spare seats available to non-entitled and post 16 pupils and under what circumstances it will charge for the use of those seats.

Who is affected by the proposals in this consultation?

This consultation does not affect any pupil entitled to free home to school transport.

The proposals in this consultation could affect

  1. Any non-entitled or post 16 pupils who travel to and from school using spare seats on Council provided transport. This Consultation seeks views on whether and under what circumstances we should continue to allow non-entitled and post 16 pupils to travel in spare seats on home to school transport, and when a charge should be made. You may be affected if you are:

             a. a year 11 pupil intending to take their studies on to college or sixth form and wanting to use North Yorkshire provided home to school transport
             b. anyone with a  Pink (post 16) Scholars Travel Permit or Green (up to year 11) Scholars Travel Permit expiring August 2020
             c. any other non-entitled or Post 16 pupils travelling without charge on North Yorkshire provided home to school transport

  1. Pupils with mobility needs who require accessible transport.
    This consultation proposes that we provide suitable vehicles to meet the mobility needs of pupils entitled to free home to school transport but that we continue to allow the use of non-accessible vehicles in other circumstances. You may be affected by this consultation if you are not entitled to free home to school transport but:

             a) have a mobility need requiring accessible transport and
             b) wish to travel to school or college using a spare seat on Council provided transport.

What are the options?

We have identified four options that it considers offer the most appropriate and viable way forward. None of these options is without challenges or difficulties as discussed below. We are seeking your opinion on these options:

Option 1 – Transport only entitled pupils. This would mean removing the offer of transport to all 2,300 non-entitled and post 16 pupils to travel using spare seats, and would reduce income to us by £270,000 each year.

Option 2 – Charge where it is lawful to do so - but do not offer spare seats on vehicles where it would be unlawful to charge. This option allows us to continue to transport about 1,960 of the 2,300  pupils currently using spare seats but would mean that we would have to stop transporting the rest. This is a short term option for up to 4 years after which the numbers of non-entitled and post 16 pupils we can transport will reduce to about 1,600 unless we can secure more accessible vehicles. Council income will increase under this option by £260,000 per year for four years, and then it will reduce so that it is £90,000 more than now.

Option 3 – Charge where it is lawful to do so - and offer other spare seats for free. This allows all but about 80 pupils to continue to travel with the same levels of income as Options 2, but may be seen as unfair as some pupils are charged and others are not.

Option 4 (Proposed Option)– Combination of Option 2 and Option 3. Option 3 as an interim option until July 2021 combined with a policy of not accepting any new applications to use spare seats unless the vehicle concerned is compliant with PSVAR or otherwise exempt, then Option 2. Most of the pupils that would travel for free under Option 2 are post 16 pupils that will finish their studies in 2020 or 2021. This option is a compromise that allows these pupils to have access to transport to enable them to finish their studies, but after July 2021 no non-entitled or post 16 pupils shall travel without charge.

At this stage prior to this consultation, this option is considered the most appropriate approach.

What are we proposing to do?

In summary, it is proposed that we continue to:

  • Only secure transport for entitled pupils: the presumption is that post 16 and non-entitled pupils will make their own arrangements to travel to school (noting that Post 16 pupils may qualify for assistance from us - which may be by provision of transport or payment of an allowance)
  • Provide transport using the most economic means of transport that is capable of meeting the needs of the pupil - including trains, public bus services and taxis.

It is then proposed that:

  • Where pupils do not have mobility needs that require accessible transport we may use vehicles that are not accessible.
  • Spare seats on vehicles procured for home to school transport may be offered to non-entitled and post 16 pupils and allocated according to published criteria.
  • A charge will be made for the use of spare seats by non-entitled and post 16 pupils where the vehicle used is compliant with the requirements of PSVAR or otherwise exempt.
  • Pupils with Scholar Travel Permits currently travelling in spare seats on vehicles that are not compliant with the requirements of PSVAR, or otherwise exempt, will be able to continue to travel without charge for a period up to July 2021. This would be subject to the normal provisions that the offer can be withdrawn at any time if the seat is required for an entitled pupil, and on the understanding that a charge can be introduced with at least one month’s notice if the vehicle either becomes exempt from PSVAR or is replaced with another vehicle that is compliant or otherwise exempt.
  • Daily fares paid for the use of spare seats will only be taken where vehicles are accessible and comply with PSVAR.
  • New applications for use of spare seats will only be considered where vehicles are PSVAR compliant or otherwise exempt.
  • We may require a PSVAR compliant vehicle to enable it to offer spare seats to non-entitled and post 16 pupils, but will only do so where it is cost effective and represents value for money.

The proposal is that these arrangements are effective from the start of the 2020/21 academic year.

If they are accepted, when will these proposals start?

These arrangements would be effective from the start of the 2020/21 academic year.

What criteria will we use to allocate spare seats on vehicles where it would unlawful to charge?

Spare seats are/could be allocated to criteria that prioritise factors such as whether a child has any special educational needs, whether siblings already travel on the vehicle, and distance from school. The consultation asks which issues should be prioritised when we consider allocating spare seats.

What will the charges for spare seats be?

The full year charges for Paid Travel Permits are:

 

Non-entitled pupils up to year 11

Post 16 pupils travelling to college or sixth form

2019/20

£390

£490

2020/21

£490

£600

2021/22

£550

TBC

Charges have yet to be confirmed for future years, but it has already been decided that they will be the same for both non-entitled and post 16 pupils. Charges for post 16 pupils are subject to a 50% discount for families in receipt of a low income.

Where can you find out more about Home to School Transport?

You can find further information at our school and college transportation page.

Related webpages

School and College Transport

The detail of how we go about delivering our statutory obligations in relation to home to school transport are contained in our  Home to School and College Transport Policy (pdf / 302 KB).