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Consultation Launched on Future of Home to School Transport in North Yorkshire

Home to School Transport is North Yorkshire Council's third biggest area of spending, costing the authority £42m this year.

The council spends approximately £1m per school week on home to school transport for around 10,000 pupils.

Now parents, carers, pupils and schools are being urged to share their views on the future of school travel in North Yorkshire.

Providing home to school travel is the third largest item of revenue expenditure for the council, after adult social care and waste management, with figures doubling since 2015-2016.

At an executive meeting held on Tuesday, January 23, the elected member for education, learning and skills approved a consultation to review the policy following updates for DfE guidance.

The consultation will now seek the views of parents, carers, pupils and schools on reviewing the discretionary elements. Any proposed changes to future transport provision will be implemented over a seven-year phased period.

North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for education, learning and skills, Cllr Annabel Wilkinson, said:

“Our council, like many others, finds itself in a challenging financial climate.

“We are in a stronger position than most, but we must strike the right balance to fulfil the competing needs of our statutory services while ensuring other services are sustainable.

“The council spends approximately £1m per school week on home to school transport. Any pupil currently receiving home to school transport under the eligibility criteria of the current policy will continue to do so. The consultation will take on board the views of parents, carers, pupils, schools and partners about proposed changes over a seven-year period. We would like to receive as many views as possible.

“It is important know what you think of these proposals. Please use this opportunity to have your say by submitting your feedback during the consultation period. Thank you.”

The council’s assistant director of education and skills, Amanda Newbold, added:

“We would like to reassure parents and carers that no-one will lose what they currently have in terms of home to school transport provision. However, with rising transport costs it is our duty to look at ways to bring down such costs in the future and this calls for careful review due to the challenging financial times we are in.  

“The review of the transport policy does not affect where your child goes to school – that is still your choice. The review will look at the overall eligibility to access free travel to your child's nearest school and how that can be delivered in a fair and economical way.

The consultation, which runs until April 12, includes a survey.

Parents and carers interested in giving their feedback to the consultation on home to school travel are encouraged to complete the survey at https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/survey/h2sc

An easy-read version of the survey will also be available online. Paper-based versions of the survey and policy can be requested.

Anyone requiring further information about this consultation should email H2Stransportreview@northyorks.gov.uk

In June 2023 (with minor revisions in January 2024) the department for education published revised statutory guidance covering travel to school for children of compulsory school age travel to school for children of compulsory school age.

The revised guidance was not a change in legislation, but it provided both clarity on areas that were considered open to interpretation and also further direction to councils on how to deliver additional requirements for eligible children.

The council is consulting now on a proposed new home to school travel policy for North Yorkshire to ensure compliance with the new statutory guidance. The consultation stage draft of the proposed new policy constitutes a significant re-write of the current policy to more closely align with the language, style and content of the guidance.

This consultation also includes a review of the discretionary areas of the council's current policy, that is those existing provisions that are above and beyond the statutory requirements of the guidance.

The council says that the increase in expenditure levels for school transport is broadly driven by two elements.

"Firstly, an increase in the number of eligible children. This is particularly relevant for specialist provision expenditure as the number of children who have an Education, Health and Care Plan and are eligible for transport has increased by 47% from 1,203 pupils to 1,772 pupils since 2018/19.

The second is the operational cost of providing the services to maintain the required network of school transport for all school types."

Financial year Total expenditure £m Mainstream school expenditure £m ‘Out-of-school’ expenditure £m Specialist provision expenditure £m
15-16 20.485 13.633 0.633 6.219
16-17 21.026 13.076 0.670 7.281
17-18 22.544 13.271 0.740 8.534
18-19 24.199 13.189 0.714 10.296
19-20 26.133 14.124 0.554 11.455
20-21 24.793 13.229 0.363 11.202
21-22 28.950 14.616 0.283 14.051
22-23 35.527 17.029 0.326 18.173
23-24 (forecast) 42.143 20.612 0.402 21.130

The council is proposing to make a number of changes to it's Home to School Transport policy.

The current states that:

"Free transport is provided to pupils from the start of reception year to the catchment school or the nearest school to their home address where the walking distance is:

    over 2 miles (until the end of the school year in which a pupil turns 8)
    over 3 miles (if aged 8 and over)"

The statutory requirement confirmed by the department for education guidance 2023 is for transport to be provided to the nearest suitable school (with places available). The council is proposing to amend this criterion to match the statutory requirement, meaning that in future eligibility on catchment grounds would no longer apply.

The current policy provision allows for transport to be provided at full cost recovery to a second address where a child lives with each parent or guardian for 50% of the school term time. This is above and beyond the requirements of the department for education guidance which has no expectation of provision to a second address.

The council is proposing to remove this provision in the future travel policy to bring greater clarity to its position on this issue.

Under the current policy free transport is provided to the nearest suitable primary school parents prefer because of their religion or belief, where the distance from home to school is more than two miles but not more than five miles.

Again this policy provision is above and beyond the department for education statutory guidance which only has a requirement for eligibility at secondary phase on these grounds and not for primary phase. The council is proposing to remove this element in the future travel policy.

The consultation opened on 19 February and will close on 12 April 2024.

All responses received by the closing date will be anonymised and included in a report to the council's executive for consideration at their meeting in June 2024.

The executive will review the consultation feedback and decide on their recommendations for the council's new home to school travel policy, which would move forward for determination at the council meeting in July 2024.

The survey can be completed at https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/survey/h2sc

There are a number of face to face events planned to discuss the proposals, they are:

  • 12 March     9:30am until 10:30am   Sleights Village Hall, 53 Coach Road, Sleights, Whitby, YO22 5BT
  • 12 March     1:30pm until 2:30pm     Scarborough Library, Vernon Road, Town Centre, Scarborough, YO11 2NN
  • 12 March     5:30pm until 6:30pm     Falsgrave Community Resource Centre, Seamer Road, Scarborough, YO12 4DJ
  • 13 March     1:30pm until 2:30pm     Pickering Memorial Hall, Potter Hill, Pickering, YO18 8AA

The full consultation document can be seen at https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/your-council/consultations-and-engagement/current-consultations/home-school-travel-policy-consultation

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