Cornwall Council’s School Transport Consultation

Cornwall Council is in the process of conducting a review of school transport. The Council provides transport free of charge to school in line with its duties under Section 508 and 509 of the Education Act 1996 and Schedule 35B inserted by the Education and Inspections Act 2006. However, as part of the review, there are proposed some possible changes to the provision.

The consultation document can be found HERE with the current policy HERE. For those interested, the DfE transport guidance is HERE. Cornwall Council has also published details HERE and HERE.

The consultation runs until the 28th February and if any of the proposals are excepted, they will be implemented in September 2014. The main proposals are as follows:

  • Secondary travel – there is no change proposed to the general entitlement for secondary pupils in respect of distance. All secondary pupils are entitled to transport to their nearest (or designated) school if it is over three miles (two miles if they are from a family on low-income).
  • Primary travel – the Council currently provides an entitlement to transport to all primary aged pupils attending their nearest or designated school if it is over two miles. However, the Council only has a statutory duty to provide transport to the nearest school over two miles for children aged up to eight (or up to eleven if from a low-income family) – for all other primary children aged eight and over the statutory distance is three miles. This has therefore been included in the consultation to provide Members with the opportunity to decide whether or not they wish to continue with the Council’s current discretionary policy to provide transport to the nearest or designated school to all primary aged children if it is over two miles.
  • Removal of free transport for children attending a school preferred on the grounds of religion or belief (NB this includes children receiving transport to a non-religious school by parental preference, where the nearest or designated school is a faith school)
  • A proposed increase in the concessionary rider fare (where pupils not eligible for free transport are using spare places on school transport)
  • A change in policy to allow all children to apply for a concessionary rider place even if there is alternative public transport available.
  • An enhancement of the policy in relation to transport for children with special educational needs, to ensure that the provision is appropriate and safe.
  • A tightening up of the policy in terms of when transport will be agreed in ‘exceptional circumstances’ and what constitutes ‘exceptional circumstances’. It is difficult to define which families this might affect as every case is considered on its own merits.

 Once the consultation end, the responses will be put together and presented to the CYP PAC, who will look through them and hopefully come up with a series of option and recommendations which will then finally be decided by Cabinet.

Trains, Buses, Ferries and Taxis – School Transport

The issue of school transport, buses and the use of taxis has hit the headlines. The leading headline is Cornwall Council spends £3.9m on taxis each year. At face value this is an eye-watering amount, but lets give a little content to that figure.

This figure of £3.9m is part of a school transport budget of £12.4m the Council spends each year. This amount includes the cost for school buses, public buses,  trains, ferries and even taxis.

The reason why the Council spends so much is because we have a legal duty to provide transport to schools if a pupil lives a certain distance from their designated school. For primary school children, we have a legal duty to provide transport if a pupil lives two or more miles from their designated school. And for secondary, it is three miles.

Each school day, the Council transports 13,125 pupils to their places of education. This is broken down as the following:

  • 7500 school bus contracts
  • 1350 taxi/private hire
  • 1800 public bus services
  • 150 rail
  • 75 ferry
  • 2250 post-16

Of course the Council looks at all options when getting a pupil to school. And sometimes due to the remote and rural locations of many of our settlements, we have to use alternative methods of transport, like a taxi. The issue is further complicated with a limited or non-existent public transport network. We where possible have multiple passengers in the taxi. So we do not end up with a couple of taxis going to the same street.

The Council strives to keep the transport cost down, and recently a route which was serviced by a bus at £150 per day was replaced by a taxi at £40 per day. So it makes sense to use a taxi.

If you compare Cornwall to other authorities, we has the lowest average cost per mainstream pupil in the South West – £685 – compared with £986 per mainstream pupil in Devon and £936 in Somerset.

 The council is also undertaking a review of transport. And it is hoped money can be saved. However, as the Council has a legal duty to get our children and young people to school, we will still have to use alternative methods, like taxis