Consultation begins on school transport proposals

A 12-week consultation is to take place on school transport in North Yorkshire, to look at what can continue to be funded over and above statutory requirements.

Children near school bus

The consultation will begin on March 25 and will look at a range of proposals designed to make North Yorkshire County Council’s policy on home to school transport fairer and more consistent and to enable long-term savings. The council is also looking at bringing its policy in line with Department for Education guidelines, to ensure it is allocated the correct funding from central government.

North Yorkshire is responsible for transporting about 20,000 pupils a day and as the largest rural county in England, a large portion of its education budget is spent on transporting children to and from school. The amount spent in 2018/19 is set to be £24.7m, which amounts to more than a quarter of its £88m education budget for children and young people.

Executive members for the Children and Young People’s Service decided this month to go ahead with a consultation on the proposed changes to the services, which predominantly affect students in mainstream education aged between four and 16.

The local authority has a statutory responsibility to provide travel assistance between home and school for eligible children, but the consultation will look at the discretionary help the council provides above and beyond its statutory requirements.

The proposals include;

  • Providing free transport for all eligible children in the county when they start school in the reception year. Children in North Yorkshire presently only qualify for free transport when they turn five years old. It is hoped the proposal will help parents who plan to return to work when their child starts school and bring the authority in line with neighbouring councils.
  • Collection from pick-up points, unless medical, mobility or special educational needs require door-to-door collection. Currently the authority uses a combination of pick-up points and door-to-door provision.

The collection points would be safe areas pupils could walk to, such as existing bus stops. In areas where buses follow convoluted routes through housing estates, journeys to school can sometimes approach the maximum amount of permitted time. Under the proposals, pick-up points would keep to the main roads on such estates.

Similarly, in cases where children living on farms are dropped off at their front door in individual cars or taxis commissioned by North Yorkshire, they would be collected at the nearest road. This would mean the council could commission larger vehicles to pick up a number of children at the same time and cut journey times, providing a more sustainable and environmental solution. These changes will be phased in gradually over the next four years.  

  • Only providing free school transport to and from the pupils’ main home address. Transport to an additional address would involve a charge covering the cost of transport. This is in line with Government guidance. This would reduce the number of empty bus seats that arise where students receive two transport passes for two different addresses and allow more students to obtain a place on a bus.
  • To adopt a single rate charge for all discretionary transport. Discretionary transport is provided by the council to help students not eligible under the home to school transport policy. The local authority is looking to eradicate differences in charges for transport between pre-16 and post-16 education.
  • Introduce a £30 fee for replacement school transport bus passes. Passes are currently replaced for free.
  • Introduce an application process for home to school transport. The current system assumes all eligible children will be requiring transport and services are commissioned accordingly. The application would take into account other formal arrangements which have been made for children, such as after-school clubs or child minders.
  • Making free transport available to the pupil’s catchment school or nearest school. Currently, the council offers transport to catchment schools and any school closer to their home address. This will still be available to all pupils living further than two miles from their nearest school (for children under the age of eight) or three miles (for those aged eight to 16.) Under the suggested changes, parents would also be able to check online prior to applying for a school if they qualify for free transport, which currently does not happen. It would not apply to special schools, which do not have catchment areas.

Cllr Patrick Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Education and Skills, said: “As an authority, a lot of the home to school transport services we offer are above the statutory minimum, but we need to ensure what we offer is fair and consistent to everyone.

“We also recognise we’re a rural county without the public transport links some other areas have and recognise the difficulties this presents across North Yorkshire.

“We want to protect transport from home to school for those who need it the most and for those who are entitled to it.”

The proposed changes would not affect existing arrangements for pupils, until they change schools, turn eight or require a reassessment due to a change of address.

The county-wide consultation with parents, students, school representatives and other members of the public will run until June 16.

People can take part in the survey online or attend a public consultation on the following dates;

Date

Area

Venue

Time

3rd April 2019

Scarborough

Falsgrave Community Resource Centre, Seamer Rd, Scarborough YO12 4DH

12pm – 2pm

Scalby School, Fieldstead Crescent, Scarborough YO12 6TH

5pm – 7pm

4th April 2019

Skipton

The Rendezvous Hotel, Keighley Road, Skipton BD23 2TA

12pm-2pm 5pm – 7pm

30th April 2019

Whitby

The Green Lane Centre, Green Lane, Whitby YO22 4EH

12pm – 2pm

5pm – 7pm

9th May 2019

Harrogate

Pavilions of Harrogate, Railway Road, Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate HG2 8NZ

12pm – 2pm

5pm – 7pm

14th May 2019

Selby

Community House, Portholme Crescent, Selby YO8 4QQ

12pm – 2pm

5pm – 7pm

15th May 2019

Pickering

Memorial Hall, Potter Hill, Pickering YO18 8AA

12pm -2pm

5pm - 7pm

17th May 2019

Richmond

Richmond Town Council, Town Hall, Market Place, Richmond DL10 4QL

12pm – 2pm

5pm – 7pm

23rd May 2019

Northallerton

Allerton Court Hotel, Darlington Rd, Northallerton DL6 2XF

12pm – 2pm

5pm – 7pm

  • For printed copies containing information on the proposals or the survey, or to receive the survey in another language or format, call; 01609 780780 or email; customer.services@northyorks.gov.uk
  • If you can’t attend an event you can email any questions to h2stransportconsult@northyorks.gov.uk – please title your email ‘Home to School transport consultation’ 
  • You can also write to ‘Home to school transport consultation’, c/o  SB205 Home to School Transport North Yorkshire County Council, County Hall, Northallerton, DL7 8AE

This story was published 25 March 2019