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.GUIDELINESCircumstances which the Education Authority will NOT normally consider to be exceptional:
Circumstances which the Education Authority MAY 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.
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.
Requests for transport assistance in exceptional circumstances must be made in writing by completing the ‘REQUEST FOR APPEAL APPLICATION FORM’ and return it to:
Education Authority – South Eastern Region
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 determined 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 10 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 (eg 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:
The Education Authority reserves the right to provide transport assistance to the parents/guardian which is different from the form of transport assistance requested, but which the Education Authority considers to be 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.Appeal Mechanism:
. It is important that youdetail the reasons why the Authority should provide transport assistance for your child on the grounds of exceptional circumstances. It is important that youdetail in your correspondence the reasons for your appeal.
This appeal will then be considered by a new panel.