Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet will be debating whether to begin a consultation over changes to home to school transport, to bring the policy into line with the latest guidance from the Department for Education.
The proposals would bring it into line with other big cities and neighbouring local authorities, and ensure funding is targeted to support those most in need. The proposals will promote active travel and sustainability, as well as helping to tackle a forecast £4 million overspend in the budget.
If approved, the new scheme would not come into effect until September 2025, and pupils who benefit from the existing scheme will continue to receive a travel pass or transport, unless their circumstances change. Low income families, who currently represent 40 per cent of all passholders, would not be affected by the proposals.
An assessment has shown that 60 per cent of those who currently receive a pass, would continue to do so under the new policy.
What is being proposed?
The Council is proposing a consultation to hear views on changing the extended travel assistance policies, to bring them in line with national guidance:
Removing discretionary free travel if parents or carers choose a school for religious or cultural beliefs that is not the nearest suitable educational institution. This does not affect a parent or carer’s right to express a preference for a school of their choice as part of the admissions process.
Increasing the minimum qualifying distance for free travel from two to three miles for those over the age of eight, in line with national guidance.
Removing travel support for pupils in years 6, 10 and 11 who have moved home and are no longer within qualifying walking distance to and from their school.
Travel support will be maintained for low income families under the statutory criteria. In the 2021 academic year, 40% of travel passes issued were to pupils from low income families. The Council will work with schools to provide travel support for pupils who do not meet the criteria.
Pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) who apply to receive travel assistance will continue to have their needs assessed on an individual basis.
Post 16 travel assistance
For pupils aged over 16, it is being proposed that those eligible for transport – which costs the Council an average of £5,843 per student – would receive a ‘learner contribution’ of £680 per year towards the cost of getting to and from their educational institution. This would be reduced by 50% for students who would qualify for free school meals.
Advice would also be provided on accessing student bursaries, and the Council would work with colleges to enhance the support they can provide to help students access public transport, for example through ‘buddying up’ schemes.
What happens next?
If the report is approved by Cabinet on Tuesday 19 December, a consultation will begin in February with a recommendation put forward for approval in May 2024.
Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Councillor Lila Bennett, said: “Our current home to school transport policy is no longer sustainable, plus we want to encourage more inclusion and independence for young people.
“Increases in the cost of fuel, transport and insurance mean that we have to bring the scheme into line with the Department for Education recommendations.
“For those young people who are old enough, we want to do more to encourage active travel where possible, and encourage them to use more environmentally friendly and sustainable ways of getting to and from school, such as walking or cycling.
“We are proposing a fair policy that would protect those on low incomes, and ensure that those who currently have a pass continue to do so during their remaining period in education, unless their circumstances change.
“If approved, we will launch a consultation on the scheme in the new year before making a final decision in May.”