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School Bus Services

Volume 451: debated on Wednesday 8 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what consultations local education authorities are required to conduct before withdrawing a school bus service; how those consultations are conducted; and with whom they are conducted. (97124)

The Education Act 1996 places a duty on local education authorities (LEAs) to make arrangements for transport where it is necessary to ensure a child’s attendance at school. LEAs have wide discretion in deciding whether transport is necessary, but case law requires them to provide free home to school transport for pupils of compulsory school age who are attending their nearest suitable school, provided that the school is beyond ‘statutory walking distance’. In addition, many LEAs use their discretionary powers to provide transport to school in circumstances where they are under no legal obligation to do so. The law requires LEAs to publish their transport policies covering support provided under their statutory duties and discretionary powers.

Where LEAs make arrangements using their discretionary powers, they are free to consult on and change those policies. While there is no legislation governing the conduct of such consultations, good practice suggests that consultations should involve all interested parties, with consultations taking place during term time. Guidance issued by the Department for Education and Skills states that good practice suggests that any changes should be brought in at the end of the school year, and that they should be phased in as pupils change or leave schools.

The position is however different if a school bus service is a local service receiving a subsidy from the local transport authority. The Transport Act 1985 requires local transport authorities, when considering policies on subsidised bus services, to consult other authorities who may be affected by those policies and bus operators in their area. There are no specific requirements as to how they should do this.

In developing their bus strategies and accessibility strategies, local authorities also need to consider the passenger transport needs in their areas, and consultation with various stakeholders can play a part in this.