Home to school transport

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. This guide aims to help you navigate the transport application process.

How Can I Appeal a Decision?

What if my child has been refused transport assistance & I want to appeal this decision?

If you are not satisfied with the assessment made, you may request an appeal of the decision. 

There are three principal grounds of appeal:

(A) That the qualifying route measured by the Education Authority is unavailable due to exceptional road safety hazards.

(B) Home to School Transport appeal for e.g. distance.

(C) That there are specific reasons why you feel your child should be treated as an exceptional case.

Please click on the circumstance which most suits your reason for appeal for further information:

(A) Appealing an Exceptional Road Safety Hazard

The primary responsibility for getting children to and from school rests with parents. Nevertheless where a child lives within the “statutory qualifying distance” of their nearest qualifying school or bus stop, transport assistance may be provided if the Authority considers the route to school is such that a child accompanied by an adult could not walk it in reasonable safety.

Since all roads are potentially dangerous, whether in a rural or urban setting, it is not considered, for that reason alone, necessary to discriminate and make special provision over and above that provided under the normal transport policy. However, from time to time, because of other factors, routes may become of exceptional danger in either the short or long term and it is in these cases where special transport arrangements may be considered subject to the specific criteria set out below.

The measurement of the “statutory qualifying distance” is not necessarily the shortest distance by road. It is measured by the shortest route along which a child, accompanied as necessary, may walk with reasonable safety. As such, the route measured may include footpaths, bridleways and other pathways, as well as recognised roads.

Assessments are conducted in accordance with Road Safety GB “Assessment of Walked Routes to School” Guidelines.

The primary responsibility for getting children to and from school rests with parents. Nevertheless where a child lives within the “statutory qualifying distance” of their nearest qualifying school or bus stop, transport assistance may be provided if the Authority considers the route to school is such that a child accompanied by an adult could not walk it in reasonable safety.

Since all roads are potentially dangerous, whether in a rural or urban setting, it is not considered, for that reason alone, necessary to discriminate and make special provision over and above that provided under the normal transport policy. However, from time to time, because of other factors, routes may become of exceptional danger in either the short or long term and it is in these cases where special transport arrangements may be considered subject to the specific criteria set out below.

The measurement of the “statutory qualifying distance” is not necessarily the shortest distance by road. It is measured by the shortest route along which a child, accompanied as necessary, may walk with reasonable safety. As such, the route measured may include footpaths, bridleways and other pathways, as well as recognised roads.

Assessments are conducted in accordance with Road Safety GB “Assessment of Walked Routes to School” Guidelines.

Principles of Assessment:

  1. Consideration is given only to relevant highway and traffic conditions and not for personal safety or security reasons (which are the responsibility of the parent/carer).
  2. It is assumed that the child would be accompanied as necessary by a responsible parent or other responsible person.
  3. Each route is considered objectively on its own merits.
  4. For the initial assessment the Authority will drive the route in both directions at either the morning or afternoon school run times; and sections considered unacceptable, will be subject to further detailed assessment.
  5. Where a footway or roadside strip of reasonable width and condition exists, or a suitable/adequate public footpath or bridleway is available, this will normally be assumed to provide an acceptable route for that part of the journey.
  6. Where a suitable verge exists on a lightly trafficked or narrow road which can be stepped onto by the child and accompanying person when vehicles are passing, it can normally be assumed to provide an acceptable route for that part of the journey.
  7. Many routes may lie along roads having neither footway nor verge. On such roads consideration will be given to the width of the carriageway, traffic speed and composition (such as frequent HGV’s) and to visibility (ie sharp bends with high hedgerows or banks or other obstructions to visibility).
  8. Consideration will be given to the relevant injury collision record of the route for the latest 3 year period, with particular regard to the effect on pedestrian movements.
  9. Where road crossings are necessary, the availability of facilities to assist such crossing should be taken into consideration. Where no crossing facilities exist an assessment of the risks which may be generated by crossing the road (bearing in mind traffic speeds and flows, sight lines etc.) will be made using current guidance laid down in the approved published Road Safety GB Guidelines. Any updated or superseding publication will be assessed and adopted where appropriate.
  10. It will be assumed that any crossing facilities (zebra, toucan or pelican crossing) will be used where they are provided. If such facilities are not provided and the pedestrian is required to cross the road, the “gap time” of passing vehicles will be assessed to determine a safe crossing point.
  11. In reaching a recommendation, the officers concerned will make a critical judgement based on whether the route affords sufficient opportunity for pedestrians and vehicle drivers to avoid dangerous conflict while progressing normally along it.
  12. The assessment will be carried out by appropriately trained officers within the Authority who will, in agreement with the Regional Transport Manager, or their representative, recommend whether the route is acceptable or unacceptable.

In order to make an appeal, please complete the application form Appeal RS19-20 and return it along with your supplementary evidence to Armagh Office transport-appeals@eani.org.uk

Road Safety Assessments can only be conducted during term time when schools are operational.  Where appeals are submitted prior to September or during other school closure periods, these will therefore be considered as soon as practicably possible.  The Authority will endeavour to write to you with an outcome as soon as possible.

Please be advised that until you receive formal notification from the Authority regarding the outcome of an appeal all transport arrangements for your child/children to and from school remains parental responsibility. 

Please detail the reasons why you feel the Authority should provide transport assistance for your child on the grounds of exceptional road safety hazards.  

What if the Appeal is refused?

If the Appeal is refused there is no further right of Appeal to the Education Authority. 

(B) Home to School Transport Appeal

Please note that not all Appeals will be fully considered by the 1 September however the Authority will endeavour to write to you with an outcome as soon as possible.

Until you receive formal notification from the Authority regarding the outcome of the appeal the transport arrangements for your child/children to and from school remains parental responsibility. 

Before making an appeal i.e. distance, please carefully consider the following information:

  • Transport assistance is based on the distance from your home to the nearest suitable school.
  • The Authority’s On-Line App assesses eligibility for transport assistance using a Geographical Information System (GIS) in conjunction withthe live Land and Property Services ‘walkability’ network dataset to electronically calculate a definitive measurement from your home to the school using the most available route.  The route measured includes footpaths and other pathways, as well as roads.
  • Whilst other mapping systems are comparable e.g. Google Maps, Bing Maps, AA/RAC route finder, 'Sat Navs'. these systems do not provide the required level of accuracy to determine the actual distance.  Likewise distances recorded on vehicle odometers are not considered to have the required level of accuracy.

Having carefully considered this information, if you still wish to appeal on the basis of distance, please complete the application form Appeal H2S19-20 and return it along with supplementary evidence to Armagh Office transport-appeals@eani.org.uk

What if the Appeal is refused 

If the Appeal is refused there is no further right of Appeal to the Education Authority. 

(C) Appealing for Transport on Grounds of having Exceptional Circumstances

It is the legal responsibility of every parent or other person with parental responsibility for a child to cause that child to receive a full time education by means of regular attendance at school or otherwise.  For children who are registered pupils at a school, it is therefore the responsibility of a parent or person with parental responsibility to ensure that the child attends the school at which they are registered, and, if necessary that the child is accompanied to school.  In the event that the parents or persons with parental responsibility are unavailable at the time their child travels to and from school, due to work commitments or otherwise, it remains their responsibility to make arrangements to ensure that their child attends school.

The circumstances in which the Education Authority will make arrangements for transporting a child to and from school or provide assistance for such arrangements are set out in the Department of Education’s Circular 1996/41 – School Transport, the most recent version of which was published on 18 September 2009.

Paragraph 8 of Circular 1996/41 recognises that it may not always be appropriate to determine applications for home to school transport assistance by reference to the eligibility rules which it contains and that the Education Authority reserves the right to provide assistance in cases falling outside those rules and which it considers to be exceptional in nature.  

The Education Authority will therefore consider all applications for home to school transport assistance in accordance with the contents of Circular 1996/41 and will also consider any applications in which the child is not eligible under its rules, which are exceptional in nature.  Where an application is made on the grounds that it is exceptional, it is the responsibility of the parent or person with parental responsibility for the child to make available to the Education Authority all of the fact, circumstances and materials which are relied upon to demonstrate the exceptional nature of the case.  In such cases, the Education Authority reserves the right to request additional information and/or to conduct such further investigations or inquiries into the materials relied upon as it considers to be appropriate in the circumstances.

By their very nature, it is not possible to provide an exhaustive list of those circumstances which the Education Authority does and does not consider to be exceptional.  The Education Authority will therefore consider each application for transport assistance upon its individual merits.  However, in order to assist parents or persons with parental responsibility in deciding whether to make such an application and, if so, what materials to supply, the Education Authority can provide the following non-exhaustive guidelines on the circumstances which it will not normally consider to be exceptional and those which may be exceptional under Paragraph 8 of the Department of Education’s Circular 1996/41, please refer to Appendix A- examples of exceptional circumstances guidelines.

Circumstances which the Education Authority WILL NOT normally consider to be exceptional: 

  • Low income or lack of income on the part of the child’s parent/person with parental responsibility.
  • Non-availability of or lack of access to transport by the parent/person with parental responsibility.
  • Work commitments or domestic difficulties of parents/persons with parental responsibility including taking other children to school.
  • Parent/person with parental responsibility unavailable/unable to escort their child to and from school; or to and from designated bus stop.
  • A child attends a school/college outside the distance criteria which is not the nearest school/college by reason of parental choice.
  • Risks to the safety of the child arising from walking through perceived hostile areas along the shortest available route, where access to alternative safe means of transport to and from school/college is reasonably available to the child.

Circumstances which the Education Authority MAY NOT normally consider to be exceptional:

If any parent or person with parental responsibility wishes to rely upon any of the following circumstances in support of an application for exceptional transport assistance, the Education Authority will normally expect the application to be supported by the type of information described in Appendix A.  This may also be of assistance in gathering information to support applications in circumstances other than those identified below. 

Although not an exhaustive list of exceptional circumstances, dependent on the evidence the following situations may be considered exceptional:

  • Travel to or from school either has resulted in the child suffering significant harm or is likely to result in the child suffering significant harm and where alternative safe means of transport are not reasonably available to the child.
  • Enforced relocation.
  • Serious Mental Health concerns for the child.
  • Extreme and persistent bullying.

Application Process

In order to make an appeal, please complete the Application Form EXCP19-20 and return it to the Armagh Office exceptional.circumstances-transport@eani.org.uk

Applications for transport assistance in exceptional circumstances must be supported by relevant and appropriate documentation.  Appendix A details the type of evidence that will be required in support of an application.

All requests for transport assistance in exceptional circumstances will be reviewed by a “Transport in Exceptional Circumstances Panel” (“the Panel”) comprising of officers within the Education Authority.

Applicants will normally be notified of the Panel’s decision in writing within 20 working days following consideration by the Panel.  If further information is required, it may not be possible to make a decision within this timescale.

The Panel will meet on a regular basis.  At peak times in the school year it may not be possible to do so.  However the Panel will endeavour to determine all applications as quickly as possible. 

As set out above, the onus rests with parents or persons with parental responsibility to ensure that all applications for exceptional transport assistance are supported by sufficient evidence of the exceptional circumstances relied upon.  Where applications are not supported by any or sufficient evidence (e.g. evidence from a health or education professional), or are otherwise incomplete, the application may be refused.  Alternatively, the Education Authority may return the application with an indication of the deficiencies in the supporting materials and invite the application to be resubmitted when the necessary materials are available.

The correct applicant is the Parent/person with parental responsibility and applications cannot be considered without the signature of the Parent/person with parental responsibility.  Where an application form has not been signed, it will either be refused or returned.

Provision Provided

Where the Education Authority makes the decision to award transport assistant it will in all cases reserve the right to provide transport assistance consistent with:

  • The welfare needs of the child (as opposed to those of the Parent/person with parental responsibility) and/or
  • The efficient management of transport services and resources

It is a matter of parental/person with parental responsibility choice whether to accept the transport assistance which the Authority is willing to provide.  

Where transport assistance has been accepted by the parent/person with parental responsibility, the provision will be made available for a specified fixed period initially and will be subject to regular review thereafter during the period the child remains a registered pupil at the relevant school.  Each review will take account of:

  • All of the circumstances of the case
  • Any changed circumstances
  • The uptake of provision
  • Attendance rates
  • Resource constraints

As a consequence of that review the Education Authority reserves the right to change the terms of transport assistance or terminate the existing arrangements.

If the Appeal is refused

If the Appeal is refused there is no further right of Appeal to the Education Authority.

Do you know that your choice and order of preferences could impact on your child’s eligibility for transport assistance?

Last updated: 31/05/2019