Free and subsidised school transport 

We help with school transport costs and arrangements for children and young people who meet eligibility criteria. 

There are different eligibility rules for children in reception though to year 11 and for young people in post-16 education.

Free school travel - reception to year 11

Children in reception to year 11 classes get free school travel if they meet eligibility criteria.

When you apply for free school travel, we will check the application against all our criteria. You can only get free school travel if the child is going to the nearest suitable school. 

1. Distance

The law sets out the distances children can be expected to walk to school. This means children can get free transport if the walking distance is:

  • more than 2 miles for children below the age of 8
  • more than 3 miles for children aged 8 - 16

2. No available walking route

If the child lives within the distance criteria but all routes to the nearest suitable school are classed as 'unavailable', the child will be eligible for free transport. For us to class a route as unavailable, the route must be exceptionally dangerous even when the child is with a responsible person. By law, parents have a responsibility to go with their child on the journey to school if needed.

For this reason, routes will not be classed as unavailable only because of one or more of the following:

  • the route is lonely
  • personal safety concerns
  • the route passes close to a canal, river, ditches, lakes, ponds etc.
  • the route requires railway crossing(s), if a suitable authorised crossing is present

The absence of street lighting on its own does not make a route unsafe.

Where a route follows a public right of way and has a good walking surface, we usually consider this to be an available walking route.

Our assessment of walked routes to school is based on:

3. The family is in financial hardship

Your child has a right to free school transport if they get free school meals or you get the maximum level of Working Tax Credit, and if any of the following distance criteria apply:

  • they are aged 8-11 and the nearest school is more than 2 miles away
  • they are aged 11-16, the nearest school is between 2 and 6 miles away, and there are fewer than three suitable nearer schools
  • they are aged 11-16 and the school is between 2 and 15 miles away and is the nearest school that meets your religious preferences

4. Special educational needs and disability (SEND) criteria

Children with special educational needs or disabilities do not automatically get free school transport. We look at their travel needs as part of their Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP). They may be eligible for free transport between home and school if they cannot reasonably be expected to walk to school because of their mobility problems or because of associated health and safety concerns related to their SEN or disability.

If your child is not eligible for free transport

Options for children who are not eligible for free transport

You can apply for free school travel at any time using our online form. Parents/carers are responsible for getting their child to school while we assess the application and make arrangements. We do not refund travel expenses. 

For applications for the current school year, we normally make decisions, confirm arrangements and send out any travel passes within 14 days. It may take longer at the start of term and during peak periods. Details of final arrangements will come from our travel partners TSS .

If you are applying for next September, we will tell you our decision after the end of March. Our travel partners  TSS will confirm arrangements and send travel passes in August. 

If your child has an Education and Healthcare Plan do not use this form - talk to your key worker instead. They will assess whether your child is eligible for free travel. They may refer you to our Travel Assistance Panel for a decision.

Apply for free school travel

You do not need to renew free travel. It continues until your child reaches the end of their current phase of education, either primary or secondary school unless either:

  • your circumstances change
  • the child was younger than 8 and eligible because their journey was between 2 and 3 miles - free travel will end at the age of 8 (we review this automatically at the end of year 3)

You will need to reapply when your child moves from primary to secondary school.

More information about reception to year 11 travel

Compulsory school age travel policies

Free and subsidised travel - sixth form and college students

Local authorities do not have to provide free or subsidised travel for young people in post-16 education. The only students we can normally support are those with an Education and Healthcare Plan (EHCP) who meet our eligibility criteria. 

Students in financial hardship may be able to get help through a bursary.  

Reaseheath College, Macclesfield College and Cheshire College South and West organise their own transport and offer free or subsidised bus services. Others may also do so. Check with the college for details.

If you are not eligible for help with transport

Options for young people who are not eligible for help with transport

Students with an  EHCP going to college or sixth form may be eligible for subsidised travel if all the following apply:

  • they cannot walk to the school or college because of mobility problems or health and safety concerns related to their SEN or disability
  • no other suitable transport arrangement is in place
  • they are enrolled on a full time course - at least 540 directed learning hours over 30 or more weeks (except where exceptional circumstance apply) 
  • the college or sixth form is the closest publicly-funded establishment offering the course (or similar), or we have placed the student in an alternative college or sixth form

Students with an  EHCP aged between 19 and 25 may get free transport, depending on their needs.

Our post-16 transport policy statement gives full details of eligibility criteria.

When we assess applications, we consider some or all of the following points:

  • whether the student can use public transport, either alone or with a responsible adult (we encourage young people to develop independent travel skills wherever possible)
  • the length or complexity of the journey
  • whether the student needs a passenger assistant
  • the family's financial circumstances
  • whether the student is receiving personal independence payment (PIP)
  • whether there is a family member able to take the student to college - if not, you should explain this in your application
  • if the student has a mobility vehicle 
  • any other relevant circumstances

The parental contribution is a fixed amount that parents must pay towards the total cost of transport arrangements for sixth form or college students with SEND who are eligible for subsidised travel. The amount of the contribution is the same, no matter what the young person's needs or the travel distance or type. 

The total amount for the 2020 - 2021 school year is £450. You can pay for the full year in one go or in instalments - either £75 per half term or £150 per term. You must pay in advance.

If you do not pay the parental contribution 

We may withdraw transport assistance if you do not pay the parental contribution

For support for students with an  EHCP moving into post-16 education, apply before Easter in the year they are due to start the post-16 course. If you apply after this, arrangements may not be in place ready for the start of the course. We will let you know our decision after March. Our travel partners  TSS will then confirm details of the arrangements in July or August, once they have planned the routes for the year.

For support to start during the current school year, apply as soon as you can. We will start to look at the application straightaway. A final decision is then normally taken at the  first Travel Assistance Panel (TAP) meeting after we get the application. We will let you know the decision as soon as possible.

Sometimes we may need more time to look at the details of the young person's situation. We will keep in touch with you if this is the case. Once we have made our decision, you should get full details of arrangements from our travel partners  TSS  within 2 weeks.

Parents/carers are responsible for getting the young person to school while we assess the application and make arrangements. We do not refund travel expenses. 

Supporting information

When you apply, you can upload evidence from medical professionals to support the application.

Apply for support with school or college transport for students over 16 with an EHCP

You do not need to renew subsidised travel arrangements. We will contact you during February or March of the first year of a two year course to check if the young person is staying on for second year and whether there have been any changes that might affect eligibility.

Bursaries for post-16 students 

Vulnerable students may be able to get a vulnerable student bursary funded by central government. Others may be able to get a discretionary bursary funded by their sixth form or college. For information on both types of bursary, talk to the school or college. Full eligibility details are at GOV.UK - 16-19 bursary fund.

More information about post-16 travel

Our post-16 travel policy statement sets out the eligibility criteria for travel assistance for pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities and has information about concessionary fares fares, passes and travel cards, and bursaries and support for vulnerable pupils.

Types of travel arrangements

We provide the most cost-effective travel arrangements that will enable the child to reach school safely, reasonably stress-free and ready for a day of study. 

We would aim for a primary school child to travel for up 45 minutes in total and a secondary school child up to 75 minutes.

Travel assistance is only for the usual school start and finish times. You are responsible for travel arrangements and costs for any other journeys needed.

Where there is a suitable commercial bus or rail service your child can use, we normally issue a travel pass

We provide travel by minibus or taxi if there is no reasonable alternative.

Pick-up points

Pick-up points can be up to a mile from the child's home, unless the child has special needs or disabilities that mean they need door-to-door support. Your child may get a travel pass for their transport.

It is the parent/carer’s responsibility to ensure that the child/young person is at the agreed pick up point and to get them to school if they miss the arranged transport. We do not make alternative arrangements.

Shared routes

Taxis and minibuses are usually shared with other children, to make best use of public funds. We work out the most cost-effective routes based on where children live and which schools they go to. Normally children will share with others going to the same school, but sometimes they may share with children going to different schools (Covid-19 restrictions permitting). 

If it is the most cost-effective option for us and you accept the offer, we will make regular payments for you to use to help you make arrangements to get your child to school. We will contact you if you are eligible for a direct payment or personal travel plan budget.

The payment is based on an amount per mile of the journey, allowing for 2 journeys to the school and back each school day for up to 190 days each school year. This is called a direct payment (cash grant). Where a child with special educational needs or disabilities needs extra support, we give a personal budget rather than a direct payment. A personal budget includes an amount to cover their extra needs as well as the amount based on mileage.

The current mileage rate for both direct payments and personal budgets is 25p per mile. We review this every year. The rate takes into account HMRC guidance to avoid personal tax liability.

If your child is already getting free travel, you can ask us to consider a direct payment by emailing our travel partner, TSS:

For children who are eligible because of SEND criteria, email spedTransportRequestEast@transportservicesolutions.co.uk.

For children eligible for other reasons, email schooltransport@transportservicesolutions.co.uk 

More information about direct payments and personal budgets

Education travel payment policy (PDF, 515KB)

Travel Assistance Panel for SEND applications

We make decisions about post-16 travel applications and more complicated under-16 applications through our Travel Assistance Panel (TAP). The  TAP liaises with  SEND key workers as needed, to make sure we understand each young person's individual case.

Travel Assistance Panel dates February - June 2021

  • Wednesday 10 February 2021
  • Friday 26 February 2021
  • Wednesday 10 March 2021
  • Tuesday 23 March 2021
  • Wednesday 7 April 2021
  • Wednesday 21 April 2021
  • Wednesday 5 May 2021
  • Wednesday 19 May 2021
  • Wednesday 2 June 2021

If you are not eligible for free or subsidised school transport

We will tell you about other travel options if you are not eligible for free or subsidised school travel. These may include:

You may ask us to review our decision if we refuse your application.