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Who arranges my child’s school transport?

The Integrated Transport Unit (ITU) is responsible for delivering a diverse range of front line passenger transport services for the Council. It manages the transport arrangements for almost 12,500 learners, through the provision of over 650 taxi, minibus, coach and bus contracts.

Is my child eligible for free school transport?

The Welsh Assembly Government has placed a statutory duty on Local Authorities to provide learners with free transport to their nearest suitable school if they reside beyond safe “walking distance” to that school.

Free transport is provided for all learners who attend Learning Support classes that are not held within their own suitable school. This includes classes for children with Complex Learning Difficulties, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Communication Disorder, Speech and Language Disorder, Hearing Impairment, Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties as well as Pupil Referral Units.

Any referrals for learners who do not have a Statement of Special Educational Needs must be supported by medical evidence and be confirmed by the Council’s Access and Inclusion Service, located within the Education & Lifelong Learning Directorate, Ty Trevithick, Abercynon.

Free (special) transport to and from school is also provided on the recommendation of the appropriate Health/Medical Officer/LAs Access and Inclusion Service. This provision is subject to regular review/appropriate amendment.

What is a suitable school?

The term suitable school refers to the appropriate catchment area, SEN provision, Welsh Medium provision or faith school. The choice being determined in accordance with the regulations relating to parental preference and in line with the Authority’s admission policy.

How far from school must my child live to qualify for free home to school transport?

If your child is attending a secondary school and you live more than 2 miles from your nearest suitable school, you are entitled to free transport. This policy is more generous than the statutory requirements.

If your child is attending a primary school and you live more than 1.5 miles from your nearest suitable school, you are entitled to free transport. This policy is more generous than the statutory requirements.

If your child has a full time nursery placement and you live more than 1.5 miles away from your nearest suitable school, you are entitled to free transport. This policy is more generous than the statutory requirements.

If your child is aged 16 to 19 years old and has a full time school or further education placement in a suitable establishment and you live more than 2 miles away, you are entitled to free transport. This policy is more generous than the statutory requirements.

How is the distance between home and school measured?

The walking distance should be measured by the shortest, available walking route. A route is considered to be available if it is safe for a child to walk the route alone or, if appropriate, for the age of the child, with an accompanying adult.

In determining the comparative safety of a walking route the local authority will conduct an assessment of the risks that escorting parents and children might encounter along the route between home and school. The assessment of a route will take place at the time of the day and on the days of the week that pupils would be expected to use the route. It will take a road safety perspective and follow the Local Authority Road Safety Officers’ Association (LARSOA) Guidelines on Identification of Hazards and the Assessment of Risk on Walked Routes to School.

How do I apply for free school transport?

There is no formal ‘application’ process for learners themselves. Schools/colleges or for SEN the Council’s Special Education Needs Administrative Services – Access and Inclusion Department will formally provide the ITU with details of learners who require transport in accordance with agreed policies.

If your child is eligible for free school transport and the ITU have been provided with your details by the school or Access and Inclusion Department, the necessary travel arrangements will then be made.

Do I need to apply for a bus pass or transport each year?

If your child is eligible for school transport and continues in the school, the ITU will be supplied information by the school or the Access and Inclusion Department to update your details and make the necessary travel arrangements.

You will need to notify the school and with SEN, the Access and Inclusion Department, of any change in details, e.g. name, address or contact details. They will then advise the ITU.

If your child is starting a new school and you believe that you are eligible for free transport (e.g. because your neighbours have free transport) and your child has not had a letter advising you of transport arrangements, please REPORT IT.

When will my child receive their bus pass?

For secondary school learners who are entering Year 7 in September or have moved into the school, bus passes will be issued by the school during the first two weeks of September. Any new passes that are issued during the remainder of the school year will be sent to your home address.

Initially, you will be sent a letter of authorisation and a timetable to your home address. This will give details of travel times, pick up and drop off points. Your child will then be able to travel on the transport by showing the driver this letter until the bus pass is received.

If your child is going into year 8 or higher, you will continue to use the same bus pass that was issued for school transport last September, please refer to “What if my child already has a bus pass? “ on Frequently Asked Questions. If you have lost your bus pass refer to “What if my child loses their pass?”

Bus passes are not normally issued to primary school learners. Each transport operator has been issued with a list of eligible learners who can travel on their vehicles. Please ensure that your child takes their letter with them to be prepared to show it to the driver as authorisation to travel, if requested. The letters of authorisation are valid for one month from date of issue.

If my child is attending an SEN school when will I find out about their transport arrangements for the new school year?

You should have received a letter during July, providing you with details of transport arrangements for the start of the new school year, whether it remains the same or not. This letter sets out which contractor will be transporting your child and also provides their telephone number.

Contractors have been instructed to introduce themselves to NEW parents/students before 7th August 2009. The ITU will be speaking to parents and contractors to ensure that these introductions have taken place.

If your contractor has remained the same we have requested that they contact you to advise you of any changes. E.g. additional pupils may have been added to your child’s transport, which may result in morning pick up times and evening drop off times being slightly amended.

If, during the year, you note that there is a frequent change to your driver or escort, other than cover for holiday or sickness, then please report this to the ITU.

What if my child already has a bus pass?

All other secondary learners will continue to use the passes that they were supplied with you will not be issued with a new bus pass as your current pass remains valid for another year. Please ensure you keep your passes to use from September 2009 onwards.

Please take care of your pass; there is a £5 charge to cover administrative costs to replace lost cards.

Details of all school transport routes, operators, pick-up points and timings are available on the web site. Timetable.

Where can I obtain Mainstream or SEN transport information, I have not received a letter?

You should have received a letter during July, providing you with details of transport arrangements. This letter must be used as authorisation for travel until such time as new learners receive their bus passes from the schools.

Please note that bus passes are only provided for secondary school learners and are not normally issued to primary school learners.

If you have not received a letter during July, it may be that the information held by the ITU is not correct. You will need to check with the school, who will advise the ITU of the change. The ITU will verify the address against the transport eligibility criteria. If you are eligible a bus pass will be issued.

Details of all school transport routes, operators, pick-up points and timings are available on the web site. Timetable.

If you are unable to contact the school (due to school holidays) you can advise the ITU directly by completing the online form in REPORT IT.

If your child is due to attend an SEN school then it may be that you have not confirmed your child’s placement with the Access & Inclusion SEN Team and so your child’s information has not been passed onto the ITU yet. As soon as you have accepted and confirmed the placement with them they will pass your childs details to the ITU.

If you think that you should have had a letter, but have not then please REPORT IT.

What should I do if my child has not received any information about their school bus route?

If you are a secondary school pupil going into Year 8 or above and have not received a letter, this means your route has not changed and you will continue to use the same service as last year.

You will not be issued with a new bus pass as your current pass remains valid for another year. Please ensure you keep your passes to use from September 2009 onwards.

Please take care of your pass; there is a £5 charge to cover administrative costs to replace lost cards.

Details of all school transport routes, operators, pick-up points and timings are available on the web site. Timetable.

How long should the school journey take?

The Welsh Assembly Government issued Learner Travel Operational Guidance in April 2009. This states that transport arrangements are not suitable if they cause unreasonable levels of stress for a child; they take an unreasonable amount of time; or they are unsafe.

The operational guidance further states “If a journey causes such stress that a child is unable to benefit from the education provided at the school then it is considered that would be unreasonable. A journey may cause unreasonable stress if for example a bus takes such a circuitous route that it takes over an hour and a half to arrive at the school whereas a direct route might take only 15 minutes, or if a child attending a primary school is required to change bus unaccompanied during the journey.”

Whilst there is no statutory limit on journey length, Welsh Ministers consider that normally journey times should be no more than 45 minutes for primary school travel and 60 minutes for secondary school travel.

The Council has adopted this as its standard maximum journey times and most learners’ journeys will be within these standards.

The operational guidance notes that there will be exceptions that require longer journeys, for special education needs, where specialist establishments may be some distance away and where parental choice in respect of faith or language schools requires longer journey times.

How long should my child have to wait for the school transport?

The Council’s timetables for the contracted transport are based on estimated departure times. It is not always possible to adhere to these timetables due to the variation of traffic flows along a scheduled route. Learners are therefore advised to be at the designated bus stop 10 minutes before the scheduled pick up time and wait up to 20 minutes after its scheduled departure.

With SEN transport, your contractor will give you a morning pick up time and an evening drop off time. It is not always possible to adhere to these times due to the variation of traffic flows along a scheduled route. If there are any problems your contractor should inform you if they are running late. If they are consistently late then you should report this issue to the ITU and they will take this up with the contractor.

Please ensure your child is ready for collection on time so that other pupils are not delayed on their journey to school.

If my child is going into an SEN school what, as a parent or guardian, am I responsible for?

Your child needs to be ready to go to school by the time agreed with the contractor. If your child is not ready on time, or refuses to go to school then the contractor will report the problem to the ITU and the ITU will write out to you about the issue

If the problem persists a more formal approach will be taken, such as the involvement of Education Welfare Officers.

You, or a responsible adult, are required to be at home during the agreed pick up and drop off times. Should parents / guardians not be at home contractors are advised that pupils are to be taken to a place of safety, for example, the nearest police station or social services office.

Also, if your child will not be attending school, e.g. if they are ill, then you need to contact your contractor to inform them as soon as possible. This will avoid any unnecessary journeys being undertaken. You will also need to contact the School to inform them of their absence.

Is school transport provided from home to school?

School transport is not normally provided from each individual learner’s home but from approved pick up points on the main transport routes, unless it is SEN transport.

Can my child be transported to any other address than the home address?

Transport is currently provided to and from the home address only, and no other address or drop off point will be authorised. The exception to this contract condition is if the pupil attends Respite care, this is then formally agreed with the contractor.

What information does the contractor receive about my child?

If your child is being transported to an SEN school and has had a risk assessment undertaken by the Access and Inclusion Team then this assessment will be passed onto the contractor.

Are all drivers and escorts used on your transport contracts CRB cleared?

No drivers or escorts that operate school transport contracts for Rhondda Cynon Taf Council can work without first being CRB cleared. Monitoring is undertaken throughout the year to ensure that the correct drivers and escorts are being used on each contract.

How long should my child have to walk to a school bus stop?

There are no statutory limits, prescribed by the Welsh Assembly Government, for distances between home and designated pick up/drop off points.

The Learner Travel Operational Guidance notes; “Whilst the duty to make travel arrangements does not mean door to door service, arrangements that anticipate a child being expected to walk an unreasonably long distance to catch a public service bus, or a bus journey that ended an unreasonably long distance from the school are unlikely to be suitable. Again, the maximum distance will depend on a range of circumstances, including the age of a child, their individual needs and the nature of the routes they are expected to walk to pick up or set down points.”

Many authorities have adopted a walking distance of 1 mile as being a reasonable limit for learners to walk to or from a pick up or drop off point. The Council has endeavoured to limit the distance to no more than 400 metres. However, this is not always achievable and a balance must be struck between the convenience of individuals and the practicalities of diverting buses off main routes and the consequent inconvenience that all other bus users will experience through longer journey times.

The Council is mindful of the impact on learners of lengthy journey times when planning home to school contract routes. There is also a need to balance such considerations alongside the requirement to manage limited public resources to achieve value for money. This will mean that, to maximise cost effectiveness and vehicle occupancy levels, routes for schools with large catchment areas (such as Welsh medium and Church schools) will, inevitably, involve longer journey times than other schools.

Finally, parents & guardians are reminded that they have a responsibility to make appropriate arrangements for their children to arrive and leave the pick up/drop off points safely and punctually.

What if my child loses their pass?

If you are eligible for free transport and have lost the pass you have been issued with, the school may issue an emergency pass to allow you to travel on school transport until your replacement bus pass has been supplied to you.

Once the replacement bus pass has been received, it should be exchanged at the school office and the emergency pass returned.

The cost of a replacement pass is £5.00, this covers administrative costs and can be paid by telephone with a credit or debit card via the Council’s offices at any of the Council’s One4All Centres, or by contacting the Mainstream School Team.

What if I move house?

If you have moved address recently, it may be the case that this information has not reached the ITU. You will need to inform the school (and if appropriate the Access and Inclusion Department for SEN), who will advise the ITU of the new transport request. The ITU will verify the address against the transport eligibility criteria. If you are eligible a bus pass will be issued / transport arrangements made

If you are unable to contact the school (due to school holidays) you can advise the ITU directly by completing the online form in REPORT IT but you must still advise the school of such changes as soon as possible.

What if by moving my child no longer lives in the catchment area for his or her current school?

Learners who move to an address outside the local area of the school/college to which transport has been provided will not normally continue to receive this provision.

Any requests for transport provision in such circumstances will be considered on an individual basis and any decisions taken will not form a precedent.

How does parental preference affect entitlement to free home to school transport?

Should you choose to place your child in a school other than the nearest suitable school then you are totally liable to organise, and pay for the cost of, transport to the chosen school.

Can my child use a different service to the one that has been allocated?

Your child is not entitled to use a different service but where seats are available it may be possible to purchase one for use on another service, for example returning regularly to another family member’s home. APPLY FOR IT.

My child is not entitled to free transport, is there any other help available?

Any spare seats on the home to school transport service will be sold to those who do not qualify for free school transport under the eligibility criteria and who wish to purchase them.

Seats available for purchase will be released from 1st October when the availability has been assessed.

Applications should be made to:

  • APPLY FOR IT,
  • by e-mailing for mainstream schools hometoschooltransport@rctcbc.gov.uk
  • by e-mailing for SEN schools
  • by post to the Integrated Transport Unit, Sardis House, Sardis Road, Pontypridd, CF37 1DU

If I purchased a spare seat for my child in the last academic year will I have to re-apply?

During July letters were sent to all parents who purchased a spare seat in the 2008/09 academic year, asking them to re-apply if appropriate. Applications can also be made via the Council’s website under APPLY FOR IT.

How can I find out information about service bus times and fares?

The principal commercial operators within Rhondda Cynon Taf are Stagecoach in South Wales and Veolia Transport Cymru. Information is available from Traveline by telephoning 0871 200 2233 or through their website www.traveline-cymru.info.

What do I do if I want to report any problems, e.g. contractor running late or overcrowding on a school bus?

You can:

  • REPORT IT using the Council’s website;
  • E-mail: Either HomeToSchoolTransport@rctcbc.gov.uk for mainstream education transport issues, or CommunityCareTransport@rctcbc.gov.uk for SEN transport issues
  • Call on: 01443 494700
  • Write to: Integrated Transport Unit, Sardis House, Sardis Road, Pontypridd, CF37 1DU

What if I wish to make a formal complaint about the school transport service that my child uses?

A guide to making comments, compliments and complaints can be found on the Council’s website at www.rctcbc.gov.uk/feedback

How do I obtain further information?

Further information is available from the following sources;

  • School bus timetables and pick up points can be found on the Council’s website www.rctcbc.gov.uk/schoolbusroutes
  • Details of the Welsh Assembly Government’s Learner Travel Measure and associated guidance can be found at the Assembly’s web site
  • Information on RCT Policy can be found in the Starting Schools 2009-10 booklet