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.

Advice on Transport Assistance for Pupils with Special Educational Needs

Is my child eligible for SEN transport?

Home to School transport assistance is provided for pupils with a special transport need only on the recommendation of a Designated Medical Officer as part of the statutory assessment process. Not all statemented pupils will require transport assistance.  

Paragraph 8.2 of the above mentioned Circular requires the 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.  

If your child holds a statement of special educational needs, you should contact your Regional Special Education Section for further guidance.

Your statement will detail that transport has been recommended and this will include any special requirements ie. the provision of an escort.

If transport is not recommended you can contact Special Education to discuss this or follow the process detailed under mainstream.

How are EA Transport involved in this process?

The Transport Department is responsible for the means of travel allocated to your child, for example, the Education Authority Bus, the Taxi or Bus Operator, the pick-up and drop-off times and locations etc.  If you have any concerns in this area do not hesitate to contact your local Transport Office on the numbers listed at the end of these guidelines.

How do I know what the transport arrangements are?

When transport is initially set up for your child the Transport Office will write to you giving you the following details:

Type of provision ie. Authority Bus or Taxi:

  • If a taxi is provided you will be provided with the Operators details and the Taxi Company will contact you to arrange the collection / drop-off schedule.  It is likely that your child will be travelling with other pupils and the Authority will set the collection / drop-off times.
  • If you 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 the parent has the drivers contact details.

The service will come to your home address/or designated pick up point, to collect your child in the morning. It is a parental responsibility to supervise children to and from the pick up/drop off point.   This also applies for the return journey from school when you will need to be available to collect your child from the vehicle.

Will my child have an escort & what does an escort do?

Your childs statement of special educational needs will detail that transport has been recommended and this will include any special requirements eg. the provision of an escort etc.

If your child has been assigned an escort, he/she is there to ensure that all doors are closed properly and that seat belts and harnesses are used where applicable.

They are employed to ensure that the children travel in safety at all times and this also means that the drivers can concentrate on the driving of the vehicle and are not distracted in any way. They are not employed to take your child to his/her doorstep; this is the sole responsibility of the parent.

The escort will take your child into School and hand him/her over to a member of staff in the morning and collect him/her again in the evening. They will also try to make sure that your child leaves the transport at all times with their belongings.

What if the transport doesn’t arrive?

Before you follow the steps outlined below please allow for the fact that there may be heavy traffic in the area through which the driver has to travel.

  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 and we will try to sort out the problem as soon as possible.

How long will the 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 3 minutes for a child to be brought to the vehicle. Transport is organised to a strict timetable and unlimited waiting time would 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 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.

    What happens if I’m not home to receive my child?

    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.

    Sometimes parents are not at home to collect their children and leave no alternative address or contact details.  In exceptional situations we may have to report this to Social Services and / or the PSNI.  Should this happen transport will be suspended until the Authority is satisfied that suitable arrangements are in place for the child to be safely dropped off at home.

    For child protection reasons we never leave children with anybody unless the parents have instructed us, in writing, to do so.

    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’m not happy with the transport?

    In the first instance, if a parent encounters 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 feel an escort should have been provided or if you are unhappy with the mode of transport provided etc. contact the Special Education Section as this will have to be recommended by a designated Medical Officer.

    What if I have moved house?

    You must notify your local Special Education Office in writing as the Transport Division can only make adjustments to your transport assistance upon direct instruction from Special Education.

    What if my child has moved school?

    You must notify your local Special Education Office in writing as the Transport Division can only make adjustments to your transport assistance upon direct instruction from Special Education.

    What if my personal circumstances have changed?

    You must notify your local Special Education Office in writing as the Transport Division can only make adjustments to your transport assistance upon direct instruction from Special Education.

    What if my child has been excluded from school?

    You must notify your local Special Education Office in writing AND your Local Transport Office that you no longer require transport assistance.

    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 the transport?

    Notify your Local Transport Office in the first instance.

    I want to go to College?

    If you leave an EA approved school your statement will automatically cease.  You must apply for transport assistance via the online application process.

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

    Last updated: 13/09/2019