Children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, along with their families, are set to be asked their views about proposed changes around how they travel to and from school.
The proposed move follows an independent review of the county council’s passenger transport and fleet services which made a number of recommendations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the current provision.
Reflecting national policy set out within the national special educational needs and or disabilities (SEND) reforms in 2014, the updated approach supports greater independence for children and young people with SEND, enabling them to travel independently to school, where this is appropriate.
Importantly, this equips young people with the vital life skills to prepare for adulthood. This review included a focus on the preparation of children and young people for transition into the next phase of their education or life and how greater flexibility can be provided for families.
This is expected to lead to an overall improvement in the quality of the service and could result in the identification of possible financial savings. The county council has a statutory duty regarding the provision of transport for children and young people, 0 to 16-years-old, who have SEND, from home to their educational placement.
A report to the Cabinet meeting on Thursday, 10 June recommends seeking the views of children, young people and their families with SEND to review a revised home to school SEND transport policy.
Recommendations being made in the revised SEND transport policy include the following:
• Emphasis on ‘Travel Assistance’ rather than transport, to allow a range of journey options to be offered and, in particular, to overhaul and relaunch the travel training service.
• Promotion of independent travel training involving grouped pick up points (usually at bus stops) and encouragement for walking or cycling with supervision as appropriate.
• Improved mileage payments for parents who are willing to take their children to school. This has already been successfully implemented under temporary COVID arrangements, with more than 30 families taking up the payments.
• More regular review of transport arrangements for individual children and young people in collaboration with families.
In summary, the main changes in the revised policy are:
• The delivery of a structured independent travel training programme being implemented, where appropriate, as the long-term way of providing transport. This would happen when a child or a young person is travel trained and has been provided with a free/subsidised travel pass.
• Encouragement and support for parents and carers to enable their child to travel to school independently or under supervision.
• The introduction of a discretionary Travel Assistance Grant to help parents transport their own children, where this is possible.
Cllr Jayne Rear, cabinet member for education and skills, said: ‘It is so important that we receive the views of children and young people with SEND, and their families, along with other stakeholders, as an integral part of reviewing and updating this policy.
‘We are keen to provide support in a way that promotes independence and facilitates young people with the skills that will help them to prepare for adulthood as we know that this will enable them to thrive.
‘Cabinet are being asked to agree to this feedback being received.
‘Robust future reviews of this policy will also take place, to make sure that it is as efficient and effective as it can be.’
Photo Credit – Jeswin Thomas