Home to School Transport Information and FAQs

Information on school transport for pupils attending mainstream schools and FE Colleges.

Frequently Asked Questions

Transport Eligibility and Assistance to Mainstream Schools

What is transport assistance?

The Education Authority provides transport assistance for eligible pupils to facilitate their attendance at school (excluding fee paying schools).

Eligibility for transport assistance is determined by the Department of Education’s transport policy -  Circular 1996/41, (updated September 2009).

There are different types of transport assistance. EA decides what type of transport to award based on your child’s needs and our commitment to use resources efficiently.  Parents/Carers remain responsible for ensuring their child attends school and getting them to a designated bus stop.

Information for FE students and students with a statement of special educational needs who have a special transport need are outlined in the section 'Transport Assistance for Pupils with Special Educational Needs' on this page

Who is eligible for transport assistance?

You can check if you’re eligible using the Transport Eligibility Checker.

Pupils are eligible for transport assistance if they are compulsory school age, in full-time education and:

  1. Attend a primary school that is more than 2 miles from your home, or a post primary school that is more than 3 miles from your home.

 AND

  1. You applied but were unable to gain a place in any/all “suitable schools” (i.e. a school of the same category), that are within these distances of your home.

A suitable school is defined in DE policy and is a school from one of the following categories:

Primary

Secondary & Grammar

Controlled

Catholic Maintained

Integrated or other voluntary

Irish Medium

Controlled

Catholic Maintained

Integrated or other voluntary

Irish Medium

Denominational Grammar

Non-denominational Grammar

Further details on arrangements for bi-lateral schools are outlined within a later FAQ.

The same arrangements apply to pupils attending schools within the ‘Dickson Plan’ area.

If there is no suitable school within the above distances from your home, you are entitled to transport assistance to any school from that category.  However, choosing a further away school could result in having access to fewer or less convenient transport options and the EA is not obliged to create new routes for small numbers of, or individual, pupils. EA also reserves the right to award transport assistance in the form of a parental payment.

Who is not eligible?

The EA cannot take into account other factors such as parental income, access to alternative transport, working patterns, medical needs of others in the household, curriculum or post-16 offering, assumptions made due to historical intake patterns or personal preference for a single-sex or co-educational school.

Pupils are also not entitled to transport assistance if:

  • They live less than 2 miles from their primary school or 3 miles from their post primary school
  • Their school is beyond these distances, but when applying for a school place schools from the same category within these distances were put lower in order of preference.
  • They are attending a (tuition) fee-paying school
  • They are below the compulsory school age - Education NI -  and not in full time education.
  • They turned 19 on or before 1st July in that same year.

If your child is not eligible for transport assistance, you may wish to explore what public transport service are offered by Translink.

How do we measure the distance to your school?

We use a Geographical Information System (GIS) to measure the “nearest available route”.  As it can include footpaths and other pathways, as well as roads, it can vary from online calculations or a driven route. 

We do not accept any other form of measurement such as Google, milometers etc and cannot consider any perceived concerns about travelling through any area.

Due to the accuracy of our GIS system assistance there are no exceptions made where the distance is only marginally under the qualifying distance.

Children who reside in the Republic of Ireland, but attend a school in Northern Ireland, will be assessed from the nearest suitable collection point in Northern Ireland.

What types of transport assistance are available?

There are different types of transport assistance and the Education Authority will decide what form of assistance is provided, taking into account a pupil’s needs and our commitment to use resources efficiently.   

Transport assistance can take the form of:

  • EA bus service
  • Translink travel pass - for use on bus or rail
  • Private hire bus
  • Parental Payment
  • Private hire taxi

Wherever possible and appropriate we transport pupils on an existing bus service.  Taxi provision will only be considered where it is absolutely necessary to meet the specific needs of a pupil, or there is no other feasible alternative. The EA retains the right to provide transport assistance in the form of a parental payment at any time and we are not required to introduce additional routes for small numbers of pupils or individuals.

Do I need to apply?

Yes.  Parents are responsible for making an application on behalf of their child at the earliest opportunity and in a timely manner.  Assistance, including parental payments, will not be backdated for previous years if a parent applies in the later years of their child’s attendance at a school and they are found to be eligible for transport assistance. Parents should allow up to 20 working days for an application to be processed and the Education Authority is not responsible for any transport costs incurred by parents in the intervening period.

The Education Authority is not liable for payment of any assistance costs or reimbursement of transport costs prior to the award of transport assistance. 

TRANSPORT APPLICATIONS HERE

What are the arrangements for bi-lateral schools?

The following applies to DE approved bi-lateral schools; namely Lagan College, Slemish College, Ballymena, St Killian’s College Carnlough, St Patrick’s College Maghera and Holy Cross College, Strabane.

  • Pupils admitted to the grammar stream will be eligible for transport assistance if they live outside statutory qualifying distance and have been unable to gain admission to any/all other grammar schools/stream within their chosen category within the qualifying distance.
  • Parents whose children obtain admission to the grammar stream MUST provide written evidence from the school that their child has been accepted into the grammar stream. This essential information MUST be submitted to your local Transport Office with your online application reference number; otherwise it will be treated as an application for transport assistance to the all ability stream.
  • Pupils gaining entry on an all-ability basis will be treated in the same way as those attending other secondary schools within their chosen category.

What if I have shared custody of my child?

Where a Court Order stipulates that a child should be resident at two addresses, transport will be provided from the primary address as per the criteria outlined previously and the secondary address will be treated as follows:

  1. Pupils will be eligible for transport assistance from their secondary address if it is beyond the qualifying distance from their school and either of the following circumstances applies:
    1. They were eligible from their primary address; or
    2. They are attending their nearest suitable school to their primary address, but it was under the qualifying distance.
       
  2. Pupils will not be eligible for transport assistance from their secondary address, regardless of distance, if they are not eligible from their primary address because they bypassed any/all suitable school(s) within the qualifying distance.

Whilst a Court Order will be requested in the first instance, it is recognised that many arrangements between parents are now agreed on an informal basis. In these circumstances transport will request confirmation of the arrangements in writing from both parents and will be assessed on the same basis as above.   

Should there be changes to these arrangements parents are obliged to notify the EA and eligibility may be re-assessed.

Please note that transport assistance from the secondary address could be via a range of means, including parental payment.

Transport Assistance for Further Education Colleges

Am I eligible for transport assistance to my Further Education Course?

Transport will only be awarded to students who meet the following criteria:-

  • You are taking a Full-Time Course;
  • You are attending the closest Further Education College to your home that provides your course
  • Transport assistance is not available for the incoming school session if the students 19th birthday is attained on or before 1st July;
  • The student is not eligible for student loan assessment.
  • You live more than 3 miles from college measured by the nearest available route.

What if the course in my closest college is full and I have to attend a further away college?

If the course you are wanting to study is at full capacity in a closer college you may attend a further away college and provided all other criteria is met you may be entitled to transport assistance. If using the Eligibility Checker, please select ‘No’ when asked if the course is available within 3 miles of your home address.

If I do not meet the transport assistance criteria can I appeal?

Yes.  You may appeal on the grounds of exceptional circumstances.  To appeal the decision you can contact your local Transport Office on 02895 985959 or alternatively email your appeal into Transport-Appeals@eani.org.uk

Details on the Transport Exceptional Circumstances Policy can be obtained from the website, www.eani.org.uk or by contacting your Local Transport Office on the number above.

If I am eligible for transport assistance to my Further Education Course where is my nearest boarding point?

Translink Services: Queries regarding boarding stages on Translink bus routes should be made to the local Translink depot.  You should contact the Translink Helpline at 02890 666630.  Please do not contact the Authority regarding Translink boarding stages as they will be unable to assist in this area.

Where the journey can be covered by more than one mode of public transport, the maximum assistance will be one sessional pass e.g. one Ulsterbus pass or one NIR pass, not both.  The Authority must consider public expenditure when deciding the most appropriate mode of transport.  If the journey at either end of the nearest boarding/alighting point exceeds the statutory distance the Authority will consider alternative provision.  It should be recognised that in such instances the Authority is unable to consider additional expenditure if there is/are suitable college/s closer to home and transport is available.

What do I do if I incur travel expenses before I receive my pass?

The Education Authority accepts there is settling in period when pupils are collecting their travel passes.  Drivers should be flexible in the first weeks about allowing pupils on board without their pass.  However, if you are eligible and have had to pay for bus or rail ticket in September or October because you have not received your Translink travel pass you can apply to reclaim these costs from Translink as follows:

  1. Metro, Ulsterbus and Northern Ireland Rail claims are submitted to Translink, Account Office, Milewater Road, Belfast.  A claim form can be obtained from your local Translink Depot.
  2. Any claim for travel expenses must be submitted within 18 working days from the date of issue of the student’s travel pass.  Used tickets must be retained and submitted with relevant claim form;
  3. No refunds from Translink will be accepted for tickets issued after 31 October.

Pupils who make an application for transport assistance after 31 October will not have their fares reimbursed unless there has been an unacceptable delay on the part of the Authority in processing the application.  If this is the case receipts for these fares should be retained and forwarded to the appropriate - Local Transport Office of the Authority for reimbursement.

What happens if I lose my Translink pass?

If a student loses a Translink travel pass, to get a replacement pass the student needs to get an interim educational ticket from their college reception. They need to post the white component of the ticket to the Translink Pass Office, Floor 1, 22 Great Victoria Street, Belfast, BT2 7LX - 028 9035 4074 with the appropriate fee determined by Translink.

A passport size photograph and a fee of £20.00 is required to obtain a new pass.

Common Transport Questions

Will my child be collected from home?

It’s not practical for over 80,000 children to be collected from their home each day, but of course some may live on or adjacent to their bus route.

As per DE policy EA is not obliged to provide door to door transport and parents can be expected to get their child to/from a bus stop or collection point. 

The distance to your bus stop should not exceed 2 miles for primary pupils and 3 miles for post primary pupils.  If you are concerned the distance to your bus stop exceeds this, contact the Transport Service who will investigate further.

Where does my child collect their Translink pass?

Translink passes (Ulsterbus, Metro and NIR), and Ferry passes are delivered or sent recorded delivery to the school at the start of term.  Pupils are required to sign for and collect their passes from the school office. No passes will be sent to the pupil's home address.

Please allow up to 20 working days for processing if you apply during the school year.  If a pupil loses a Translink travel pass you should contact Translink for a replacement.  A fee may be charged.

Can my child be collected/ dropped off at another address?

Applications for transport assistance to or from another address other than that of the registered parent is considered fraudulent and EA cannot facilitate collection/drop off from another address e.g. a childminders, after schools or grandparents. 

What if my child lives in the Republic of Ireland?

Eligibility for pupils living in the Republic of Ireland is assessed on the same criteria as pupils who live in Northern Ireland, as identified in the Department of Education Circular 1996/41 (Link).  However, whilst the route measured will be via the nearest available route from your home to the preferred school, the distance calculated will only be taken from the nearest suitable collection point  in Northern Ireland on that route to the preferred school.

What if my child doesn’t need transport assistance any longer?

In the event of a pupil who is already in receipt of a Translink sessional pass or an EA bus pass, and no longer requires their pass, they must return their original pass to their attended school or Local Transport Office.

What do I do if my child is moving to another different school to attend sixth form?

You must  make a new application for transport assistance and you will be assessed in line with DE policy to the new school.  You can check your eligibility here.

Pupils who attended a school without a sixth form and who wish to proceed to sixth form after year 12 must attempt to enroll at any/all suitable schools in their chosen category that are within the 3 mile qualifying distance prior to being granted transport assistance to a further away school.

What if I want my child to go to a fee paying school?

Campbell College and Royal Belfast Academical Institution

Whilst Campbell College and Royal Belfast Academical Institution are voluntary grammar schools, they are referred to in the Department of Education Circular 1996/41 as Category B school as they require parents to pay tuition fees (this is different from schools who seek voluntary contributions). The Circular advised that there is no obligation on parents to seek a place in these voluntary grammar schools within statutory qualifying distance of a pupil’s home. 

Pupils outside the statutory qualifying distance of, and who wish to attend these schools must, however, demonstrate that they were unable to gain a place in any/all non-denominational grammar school(s) within 3 miles of their home if they are to qualify for transport assistance.

What if my child is moving home or school?

You are required to re-apply for transport assistance and return any previous travel pass to your local Transport Office. You will then be assessed against DE eligibility criteria i.e. distance and nearest suitable school.

If you are attending a school that is beyond the qualifying distance (2 miles for Primary Schools or 3 miles for Post Primary Schools) you must provide evidence from the Principal of all nearest suitable school(s) that you formally applied for a place and that the school did not have a place for your child/children.  Retrospective evidence i.e. a statement indicating that a school would not have accepted your child but you did not formally apply will not be accepted.

All written evidence should be forwarded to your local Transport Office with your online application reference number.

If your Translink pass has been lost or destroyed then a duplicate of the old pass must be purchased before any new travel pass can be issued.  For details on how to obtain a duplicate pass refer to the LOST BUS PASSES section.

Is my child eligible for alternative transport assistance for a medical issue?

Where a child who is currently in receipt of Home to School Transport Assistance is unable to attend school by means of the current transport provision due to a medical need and you are unable to make your own alternative travel arrangements, we may offer alternative assistance.

Further information and access to the Online Application can be found here.

 

What if there are other siblings getting transport assistance?

Eligibility for transport assistance will be assessed according to the criteria and systems in place at the time of application which in some cases may differ to those applied in the past.  Parents are advised to use the Transport Eligibility Checker to determine each child’s entitlement to transport assistance.

When applying for Transport Assistance it is important that you advise us if there are other siblings already in receipt of transport assistance.  This is so the Authority can try to ensure that siblings are awarded the same mode of transport and, where possible and appropriate, travel on the same vehicle.

What if we have been forced to relocate?

Refer to the Exceptional Circumstances section on the Transport Appeals page.

What if I have a looked after child?

A child is ‘looked after’ if they are in the care of the local authority for more than 24 hours.  Legally, this could be when they are: living in accommodation provided by the local authority with the parents’ agreement or be the subject of an interim or full care order.

It is the responsibility of Social Services to make contact with the Transport Division regarding a ‘looked after’ child.

While the Authority has a statutory duty to provide transport assistance for eligible pupils, this consideration is from the permanent home address to the school only. 

Each case will be assessed on an individual basis.

What if my child gets expelled from school?

What if I want to appeal the assessment of eligibility?

For more information of the grounds to appeal our assessment of your eligibility please go to the transport appeals page.

Do escorts travel as standard?

Escorts travel as standard on services to special schools. Escorts are only provided on other services where is has been identified as a special transport need on the pupil’s statement of educational needs.

Who provides a car seat if it is required?

Car seats are not required on buses unless it has been identified that your child requires a particular car seat in order to travel on the bus. If a pupil travels on a private hire vehicle, the seat is provided by the Operator.

Do primary and post primary aged children travel together?

Many of our services will be just for primary school pupils or post primary pupils, however some services will have children from both primary and post primary on board.

Travel Safety and Behaviour

What if my child misbehaves on the bus?

The Education Authority needs parents’ support to reinforce the standards of behaviour and discipline that are expected on transport.  Misbehaviour and vandalism place other pupils’ and staff’s safety at risk and can impact services from running.  

The Authority reserves the right to withdraw a pupil from transport arranged by the Authority, pending investigation, where a pupil has behaved in an unacceptable manner as outlined in the Authority’s booklet “Procedure for dealing with Behavioural Problems on Public and Education Authority Transport”.

Pupils will also be expected to follow any government or public health regulations.

EA Home to School Transport Behaviour Policy

Does my child have to wear a seatbelt?

Pupils are required by law to wear seatbelts on all School Transport in accordance with seat-belt legislation.

Is there CCTV on the bus?

CCTV cameras may be operational on vehicles for the protection of staff and pupils.

EA - Procedure for the use of Closed Circuit Television Policy

How do I find out my EA bus timetable?

If you are taking an EA bus we will confirm your collection and pick up times and locations and it is parents’ responsibility to ensure their child is there on time.  We do our best to make sure these times are accurate but there can be delays due to traffic, weather or vehicle problems.

Will bus times cater for after school activities or earlier finish times?

EA’s obligation is to provide service to arrive and leave school as close as possible to the start and finish times of the normal school day.  While we understand some schools opt to release some pupils, particularly younger pupils, earlier EA does not provide multiple pick-ups at the same school.

Where a school finishes early, for example, at the end of term, they should consult with the transport service to confirm if this can be accommodated and if not, they must advise parents.

School transport services are not scheduled to accommodate after school activities, though pupils using Translink services may find there is a suitable service available.  Parents are responsible for making their own arrangements if their child is unable to use their allocated transport due to attendance at after-school activities. 

Translink schedules are published on their website.

Are there days when transport does not operate?

There are non-operational days throughout the school year when school transport does not operate. We advise schools of these dates in the preceding school year and publish these on our website.

If a school chooses to open on a non-operational day it is the school’s responsibility to notify parents that school transport is not operating that day.

Can I request a different type of transport assistance?

The Education Authority will decide which form of transport assistance is awarded.  We must use the most cost effective means of transport available so we will always award seats on EA and Translink bus services wherever possible. 

A parental payment will only be awarded in place of another form of transport where a parent can provide evidence that the bus provision made available does not meet the requirements of DE policy

Can I get a pass for the Strangford/Rathlin ferry?

If you are eligible for Transport Assistance and require a Ferry Pass, please request this in the ‘Additional Information’ Section of your online application.  

Can I get a refund for bus tickets I purchased whilst waiting for my child’s pass?

EA accepts there is settling in period when pupils are collecting their travel passes.  Drivers should be flexible in the first weeks of September about allowing pupils on board without their pass.  However, if you are eligible and have not received your pass within 20 days and have had to pay for bus or rail tickets in September or October you can apply to reclaim these costs from Translink as follows:

  1. Metro, Ulsterbus and NIR claims are submitted to Translink, Account Office, Milewater Road, Belfast.  A claim form can be obtained from your local Translink Depot.
  2. Any claim for travel expenses must be submitted within 18 working days from the date of issue of the student’s travel pass.  Used tickets must be retained and submitted with relevant claim form;
  3. No refunds from Translink will be accepted for tickets issued after 31 October.

Pupils who make an application for transport assistance after 31 October will not have their fares reimbursed unless there has been an unacceptable delay on the part of the Authority in processing the application.  If this is the case receipts for these fares should be retained and forwarded to the appropriate Local Transport Office of the Authority for reimbursement.

Last updated: 27/04/2022