Special Educational Needs (SEN) Transport Information and FAQ’s

Information on school transport for statemented pupils who have a special transport need.

Transport assistance cannot be put in place until formal instruction is received from the Special Education Section. If you have a query regarding your child’s statement you should contact your SEN Link Officer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Transport Eligibility and Assistance for Pupils with Special Educational Needs

My child has special educational needs- are they eligible for transport?

The Education Authority will provide transport assistance for pupils who:

  1. have a statement of special educational needs; and
  2. have a special transport need; and
  3. are attending their nearest, suitable school.

Examples of a special transport need would include where a pupil’s mobility is impaired and their ability to walk longer distances is restricted, or they require the use of a wheelchair, or a pupil has a medical condition/severe learning difficulty which means they require transport assistance to facilitate their attendance at school.   

Your “nearest, suitable school” is the school that is closest to your home that the Education Authority deems suitable for your child’s needs.  It may not necessarily be the closest school to your home, but it is the closest that EA identifies as suitable for your child. 

Do I need to apply?

No. The Education Authority’s Statutory Review and Assessment Service (SARS) team will identify if a pupil has a special transport need during the statutory assessment process.  SARS must then make a referral to the Education Authority’s Transport Service requesting that transport is arranged and providing key information that would impact upon a pupil’s transport requirements.

Our Transport Service may also ask parents for more detailed information to help us arrange transport.

What type of transport assistance is 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 Education Authority retains the right to provide transport assistance in the form of a parental payment at any time and we are not required introduce additional routes for small numbers of pupils or individuals.

How am I notified about my arrangements?

The Transport Service will put in place your transport arrangements and notify you.  We will do this as quickly as possible, but it can take up to 20 working days; particularly if the route must be publicly procured (i.e. advertised as a new contract) or the requirements are particularly complex.     

If a taxi is provided you will be advised of the Operator’s details and they are expected to contact you to arrange the collection / drop-off schedule.  If time allows we also expect the driver to make contact and introduce themselves. 

If your child is allocated a seat on an Authority Bus the Bus Driver will contact you to arrange the collection / drop-off schedule.

Parents should ensure that they have passed all their appropriate contact details to the driver and that they have the driver’s contact details.

When are transport arrangements confirmed?

We receive transport referrals throughout the year, and this can result in changes to routes or vehicle passenger lists. 

We would prefer not to provide information that could still be subject to change so this can mean you may not hear about exact arrangements until later in the summer.   We may also have to advertise a new contract for some services.  This can take time to complete and may have to be done multiple times to successfully appoint a private operator.

We do our very best to confirm arrangements with as much notice as possible and we always aim to have transport in place for the start of the school year, but it may not always be possible depending on when a referral is received or for particularly complex cases. 

Will my child get door-to-door transport?

We recognise that some children require a door-to-door service.  However, as per Department of Education policy the Education Authority is not obliged to provide a door-to-door service and parents can be expected to contribute to their child’s journey to school by bringing their child to/from a bus stop.  

What is the role of an escort?

All special school vehicles travel with an escort on board.  They are employed to ensure that pupils travel safely and so that drivers can concentrate on driving and are not distracted. 

Alongside the driver, escorts are responsible for ensuring everyone is off the bus and for transferring pupils to a member of school staff who greets the bus. They will also try to make sure that your child has taken all their belongings.

Escorts are not responsible for bringing pupils into the school building or into/from their home and cannot be obligated to dispense medicine.  

 

Escort Leaflet

What if transport doesn’t arrive?

Before you follow the steps outlined below please allow for the fact that there may be mechanical problems, poor weather or heavy traffic in the area.

  1. The first step is to telephone the taxi/bus operator / driver to find out if the vehicle is late or has broken down etc. they will usually be able to give you an idea of how long the transport will be.
  2. If you get no satisfaction from the operator / driver telephone the Transport Section on (helpdesk number) and we will try to sort out the problem as soon as possible.

How long will transport wait?

Parents / carers are required to ensure their child is ready for collection.  Should this not be the case the driver will initially wait a maximum of 2 minutes for a child to be brought to the vehicle. Transport is organised to a strict timetable and extended waiting time could mean that the children would be late into school. Please ensure that your child is ready on time.

Where pupils are persistently late, the Authority reserves the right to suspend transport until it is satisfied that parents / carers are able to meet the timetable.

What if my child is ill?

If your child is taken ill before they travel it is your responsibility to inform the operator / driver to save them making wasted journeys where possible. You must also inform them when your child is fit enough to return to school, otherwise they will not call for him/her.

Pupils SHOULD NOT travel if they are experiencing any symptoms of Covid-19 or if your household has been advised to isolate. If your child is displaying symptoms our EA driver may speak to you about making alternative arrangements.  Further information can be found at - Covid 19 FAQs and Guidance

What happens if my child is not ready on time or I am not home to receive my child?

Parents/carers are expected to make appropriate arrangements for their child to be picked up and collected at home or the designated time and point. 

If you are unable to be at home to collect your child from the transport due to an emergency, ensure that you make alternative arrangements with the Transport Section as soon as possible.

The vehicle will wait at the designated pick-up and drop-off point for 2 minutes. If a child does not present for their pickup the vehicle will continue on its journey and parents/carers will be responsible for making alternative arrangements to transport their child to school.  A bus will not re-route or return for a second pick up.

If a parent/carer is not there at drop-off and we are unable to make contact with you (or your emergency contact) your child will remain on the vehicle and will be brought back to school, or the nearest police or social services location.  Should this happen transport assistance may be suspended until the Education Authority is satisfied that suitable arrangements are in place for your child to be safely dropped off.

Children will not be left with anyone else at a drop off point or home address unless the driver or local area transport office have been informed of this arrangement in advance.

What are the rules on the bus?

Pupils are expected to behave in an acceptable manner whilst travelling on Authority arranged transport. If a pupil's behaviour gives persistent cause for concern (i.e. threatens the health and safety of themselves, other pupils, the driver or escort) and all attempts to modify such behaviour have been resisted or are unsuccessful, the Authority reserves the right to suspend transport arrangements if it considers that the behaviour of the pupil could jeopardise the safety of the vehicle occupants.  In such circumstances parent(s) / carers may be expected to ensure attendance at school during periods of suspension.

Pupils are not allowed to eat or drink on the bus. 

What if I am not happy with the transport?

In the first instance, if you encounter a problem with transport, the matter should be discussed with the Driver / Operator. If this fails to solve the problem then the matter should be discussed with the appropriate Transport Officer.

If you have any concerns about the type of transport provided, for example, if you are unhappy with the mode of transport provided etc. contact your local transport office. Any queries with regard to your child’s statement should be directed to your Special Educational Needs Link Officer within the Statutory Assessment and Review Service.

What if I have moved house or moved school?

The Transport Division can only make adjustments to your transport assistance upon instruction from Special Education and so you should notify the Statutory Assessment and Review Service.

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 Special Education regarding a ‘looked after’ child.

What if I no longer need transport assistance?

Notify your Local Transport Office in the first instance as soon practically possible.

I want to go to college?

If you leave an Education Authority approved school your statement will automatically cease.  You must apply for transport assistance via the online application process.  Please note students are not eligible for transport assistance if they have turned 19 on or before 1st July in that same year.

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: 28/09/2021