The Education Authority has a statutory responsibility for the provision of transport assistance to facilitate attendance at a grant-aided school of pupils for whom fees are not paid and who are resident in Northern Ireland.
Whilst the primary responsibility for getting children to and from school rests with Parents; transport assistance is available for some children to facilitate their attendance at school. Children with disabilities or special educational needs may get additional help.
Eligibility for transport assistance is set out in the Department of Education Circular 1996, (updated September 2009), a copy of which can be obtained at the link Department of Education Circular 1996.
If your child is eligible for Transport assistance, the Authority will determine what method of transport assistance can be offered.
Does my child qualify for transport assistance to school?
The Education Authority must provide assistance with school transport where a child meets the eligibility criteria as set out in the above mentioned circular. Your child will be entitled to transport assistance if there is no suitable school within statutory qualifying distance of your home, or if they have been refused a place in all suitable schools within statutory qualifying distance from your home. The statutory qualifying distance is defined in the above mentioned circular as - 2 miles in relation to a pupil under 11 years of age and 3 miles in relation to a pupil over 11 years of age.
What is Statutory Qualifying Distance?
The term statutory qualifying distance is a threshold which determines whether the cost of home to school transport assistance should be met by the Education Authority or whether it rests with the parent.
The term “statutory qualifying distance” does not infer that any pupil should walk this distance to school. The distance criterion is used solely to determine which party is responsible for transport assistance.
If the measurement is over the qualifying distance to the nearest suitable school using the nearest available route, the Education Authority accepts responsibility for transport assistance. Where the distance is under the qualifying distance, the parent remains responsible for making whatever arrangements they consider appropriate to facilitate their child’s attendance at school.
What is a suitable school?
The term ‘suitable school’ has a precise definition in legislation. It is a school in one of the recognised (i.e. grant-aided) categories of Controlled, Integrated, Irish-medium, Maintained, Denominational or non-Denominational grammar. No other definition of ‘suitable’ is permitted within the current arrangements.
What is the nearest available route measured?
The nearest available route refers to the most direct walking route which a child, accompanied as necessary, can walk with reasonable safety to the nearest suitable school. The route measured may include footpaths and other pathways, as well as roads. If there is no such route, the Education Authority may provide further transport assistance.
How do I apply for Transport Assistance?
To apply for transport assistance please download the Transport Application Form and return it completed to your local Transport Office whose address is shown on the form. Please read all ‘Notes of Guidance’ and any other relevant information carefully before completing the form.
If my child has a Special Educational Need or a Disability, will they receive Transport Assistance?
Paragraph 8.2 of the above mentioned Circular requires the Education Authority, in the case of children with statements of special educational needs, to give the most careful consideration as to whether the provision of free transport is justified in the particular circumstances of each individual case before indicating it in a statement.
Not all pupils with statements of special educational needs will have special transport needs and may not therefore be entitled to transport assistance.
A special transport need may arise where the pupil has a level of impaired mobility which necessitates the use of a wheelchair or the pupil has a medical condition or severe learning difficulty as determined by the Authority which indicates that special transport arrangements must be made.
Where pupils have special transport needs, officers of the Authority, drawing upon medical and other advice as required, will assess the pupil’s transport needs and make appropriate arrangements in accordance with this policy. Further guidance for Parents/Carers can be obtained at the link Guidelines - Special Education Pupils - Updated January 2016.
If your child holds a statement of special educational needs, you should contact your local Special Education Section for further guidance.
If your child does not hold a statement of special educational needs please contact your local Transport Office.