Provision of Home to School/College Transport
Learner Travel Policy, Information and Arrangements

The Learner Travel (Wales) Measure 2008 requires Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council (the Council) to make available information about their policies and the arrangements that are put in place for transporting learners.

In doing so, the Council’s Learner Travel Policy, Information and Arrangements contain guidance designed to inform parents, guardians and learners on how the policy is practically implemented and ensure that it is applied consistently and equitably across the County Borough.

Any decisions made by Council Officers regarding entitlement will be in compliance with the information contained within the policy, and will be considered to be final.

1. Statutory Provision of Free Transport

 There is a statutory duty placed upon the Council to:
• Assess the travel needs of learners in its area.
• Provide free home to school transport for learners of compulsory school age attending primary school who live 2 miles or further from their nearest suitable school.
• Provide free home to school transport for learners of compulsory school age attending secondary school who live 3 miles or further from their nearest suitable school.
• Assess and meet the needs of “looked after” children in its area.
• Promote access to Welsh medium education.
• Promote sustainable modes of travel.

To meet this duty, the Council provides learners with free transport to their nearest suitable school if they reside beyond safe “walking distance” to that school. The term suitable school applies to the catchment area English, Welsh or dual language mainstream school or special school/class as appropriate.

The law relating to safe “walking distance” is defined as two miles for learners of compulsory school age receiving primary education and three miles for learners of compulsory school age receiving secondary education.

2. Discretionary Provision of Free Transport

Beyond the statutory minimum, the Council has determined that when assessing entitlement on the basis of safe “walking distance”, to use the discretionary powers afforded to it under the provisions of the Measure to make a more generous provision to learners.

• The eligibility criterion for walking distance for learners receiving compulsory primary education at their nearest suitable school has been set at 1½ miles, instead of 2 miles as required by the Measure.
• Free transport to their nearest suitable school, where places are available, is provided to learners who meet the 1½ mile eligibility criterion from the start of the Foundation Phase (the start of the school term after their third birthday), rather than from the start of compulsory education (the start of the school term after their fifth birthday) as required by the Measure.
• The eligibility criterion for walking distance for learners receiving compulsory secondary education at their nearest suitable school has been set at 2 miles instead of 3 miles as required by the Measure.
• Free transport is provided to post 16 learners who meet the 2 mile eligibility criterion for two years after the end of compulsory education, rather than until the end of compulsory education (the last Friday in June of the school year in which a learner reaches the age of 16) as required by the Measure. This provision applies to full time attendance at the nearest school or college to the learner’s home at which the approved course of study that they wish to pursue is offered.
• Free transport to their nearest suitable school is provided to learners (as set out above) in accordance with their preferred religious denomination.

The term suitable school applies to the catchment area English, Welsh, dual language or voluntary aided (faith) mainstream school or special school/class as appropriate.

The discretionary elements of the Council’s policy are subject to review and may be discontinued. Any proposed changes will be subject to consultation with learners and parents/guardians and, if agreed, will usually apply from the start of a school year and will have regard to the Learner Travel Statutory Provision and Operational Guidance - June 2014 or its replacement.

3. Transport Provision

Learners eligible to receive free school transport do not need to apply and will be notified of their entitlement by the Integrated Transport Unit.

The provision of free school transport (as set out above) will be arranged to coincide with the start and end of the normal school day only, not at lunchtimes, and shall be provided during the school term time.

Where the Council has arranged for a learner to attend an out of county residential school, transport will only be provided at the start and end of each half term.

Transport will normally be provided from pick up points at approved bus stops on the nearest public transport route to the learner’s home. Where a learner has to walk an unreasonably long distance to the bus stop, special transport arrangements may be made. For learners with Special Educational Needs (SEN) transport is usually provided to and from the home address, with every effort being made to collect / drop off at the kerbside. It is for parents / guardians to take / meet their child(ren) to / from the vehicle. No arrangements will involve the transport provided operating onto private land or farm access tracks.

It is the intention of the Council to provide a system of transportation that will seek to carry learners safely, comfortably and without unreasonable levels of stress.

4. Looked After Children

The same age and distance criteria apply to ‘looked after’ children as to children who are not looked after. If the Council determines that a looked after child should attend a school other than the nearest suitable school then transport will be provided upon request by the child’s social worker in accordance with the Council’s agreed policy on walking distance and safe routes (as set out above).

5. Parental Preference

Should any parents/guardians choose to place their child(ren) in a school other than the local catchment area school (English, Welsh, dual language or voluntary aided (faith) mainstream school or special school/class as appropriate) then those parents/guardians are totally liable to organise and pay for the cost of transport to the chosen school, unless that school is nearer to the learner’s home than the designated catchment school.

6. Cross Border Arrangements

Transport may be provided to eligible learners attending courses of study outside the County Borough where such attendance is consistent with it being the nearest suitable school rather than the designated catchment school.

Learners living in Bryncae, Llanharan and Brynna who secure a place in Pencoed Comprehensive School will be provided with free transport.

Learners residing in Rhondda Cynon Taf who attend the Bishop Hedley Roman Catholic High School (Merthyr Tydfil), and the Bishop of Llandaff Church in Wales High School (Cardiff), may also receive transport in accordance with the ‘nearest suitable school’ criterion (as set out above).

7. Over-Subscribed Schools

If a learner cannot be admitted to the nearest suitable school (the catchment area English, Welsh, dual language or voluntary aided (faith) mainstream school or special school/class as appropriate) and, as a result, has to attend another school beyond the walking distance from their home then transport will be provided to the next nearest suitable school. In such circumstances, consideration will be given to transporting siblings to the same school.

8. Protected Provision – Catchment Area Variations

Where the Council decides to vary the catchment area for a school (English, Welsh, dual language or voluntary aided (faith) mainstream school or special school/class as appropriate), existing transport arrangements will be protected for the learners living in the areas affected for the duration of their attendance at the school or until they reach the end of that phase. In exceptional circumstances, consideration may be given to transporting siblings to the same school.

9. Special Arrangements - Hazardous Routes

The criterion used to determine the eligibility to receive free school transport is based on safe walking distance, measured by the shortest, available walking route. A route is considered to be available if it is safe for a learner to walk alone or, if appropriate for the age of the learner, accompanied by an appropriate adult. It is recognised that occasions will arise when routes may become hazardous. In these circumstances, the Council reserves the right to provide free school transport over distances below the discretionary limits if this is recommended by appropriate officers in the interests of the safety of the relevant learners. 

In determining the comparative safety of a walking route, the Council will conduct an assessment of the risks that escorting parents/guardians and learners 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 learners would be expected to use the route. It will take a road safety perspective and follow the Welsh Government Statutory Guidance on Risk Assessing Walked Routes to School.

As a matter of policy, these routes will be reviewed biennially and discretionary provision may be withdrawn where the identified hazard has been mitigated and the route identified as available to walk in safety. Parents/guardians will be given at least one term advance notice of the withdrawal of such discretionary transport.

10. Children with Special Educational Needs/Disabilities

Free transport for learners with special educational needs/disabilities receiving education at their catchment or nearest special school, pupil referral unit or learning support class is provided in accordance with the Council’s agreed policy on walking distance and safe routes (as set out above). Applications must be supported by appropriate evidence and be confirmed by the Council’s Access and Inclusion SEN Panel.

Learners with disabilities (as defined by the Equality Act 2010) may be entitled to assistance with transport from home to an appropriate school/college even though the Council’s agreed criteria on safe walking distance (as set out above) are not met. Assistance may include transport from after school provision. Such provision is subject to referral to, and approval by, the Council’s Access and Inclusion SEN or Gate-keeping Panels. Any such referrals must be supported by appropriate evidence and each case will be considered on the basis of individual need.

11. Dual Residency

Only permanent established living arrangements should be considered e.g. a learner who stays two nights of every school week with one person with parental responsibility and three nights of every school week with the other, or alternate weeks with each parent. Such arrangements do not apply where a learner spends weekends with a different parent from where the learner lives during the school week. The nights of the school week are Sunday evening/Monday morning to Thursday evening/Friday morning inclusive.

If the second home address is:
• Above the statutory distance - They will be entitled to free transport for the days they will be travelling on that route.
• Within the discretionary distance – They will be entitled to free transport for the days they will be travelling on that route.
• Below the discretionary distance - No transport will be provided but sale of seat options may be available (see section 21).

12. Transport on Medical Grounds

Free transport to and from school may be provided on medical grounds e.g. chronic illness or temporary incapacity for short but continuous periods. Each application must specify:

• The nature of the illness or incapacity.
• The reason that this impacts on travel to school.
• The extent of the impact e.g. expected duration.

Each case will be considered on its own merits and will be on the recommendation of an appropriate Health / Medical Officer and subject to confirmation by the Council’s Medical Transport Gate-keeping Panel. Where agreed, this provision will be subject to a regular review.

13. Transport to Welsh Medium and Dual Language Schools

There is no statutory requirement to provide transport to Welsh medium and dual language schools. The Council's current policy is that learners attending the nearest Welsh medium or dual language school receive free transport in accordance with the Council’s agreed policy on walking distance and safe routes (as set out above).

14. Transport to Voluntary Aided (Faith) Schools

There is no statutory requirement to provide transport to voluntary aided (faith) schools. The Council 's current policy is that learners attending the nearest voluntary aided school of the parent/guardian’s denomination receive free transport in accordance with the Council’s agreed discretionary policy on walking distance and safe routes (as set out above).

15. Provision for Learners Aged 16 to 19

There is no statutory requirement to provide transport for post 16 learners. The Council 's current policy is that post 16 learners who meet the 2 mile distance eligibility criterion in respect of secondary learners of statutory school age, and who enrol for approved study courses within the appropriate 14-19 area timetabled provision, will be eligible for free transport. The area timetabled provision excludes higher education courses. Learners within the 2 mile distance are expected to make their own travel arrangements.

In accordance with the Council’s agreed discretionary policy on walking distance and safe routes (as set out above), transport provision may be made for learners pursuing approved full time educational programmes at Bridgend College, Cardiff and Vale College, The College Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot College, Coleg Y Cymoed (Ystrad Mynach), Futsal (Cardiff) and St David’s Catholic Sixth Form College (Cardiff). Details of the approved educational programmes are available from the;

School Improvement Team, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council, Education and Lifelong Learning, Ty Trevithick, Abercynon, Mountain Ash, CF45 4UQ.

Learners who wish to pursue a study course other than within their area timetabled provision will be responsible for their own transport arrangements, except where the location at which the course is available is closer to the learner’s home than the school or college offering the area timetabled provision.

No transport will be provided for mainstream learners beyond the second academic year after the end of compulsory education.

This transport policy covers school 6th form and college full time further education courses only and does not extend to higher education courses funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW). (The one year Foundation Art & Design course at the University of South Wales is not funded by HEFCW and transport may be provided to learners pursuing this course subject to the age and distance criteria set out above).

Post 16 learners may be eligible for the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), funded by Welsh Government and administered on their behalf by Student Finance Wales. The EMA is currently £30 per week, and it is to support post 16 learners to access post 16 education. Details are available to determine eligiblity for EMA from the Student Finance Wales website at www.studentfinancewales.co.uk/fe/ema

Details of learners who wish to continue their courses of study at school after year 11 (GCSE or equivalent) are formally provided to the Integrated Transport Unit by the school. Learners who wish to pursue a College course are required to complete an on line application form and supply three passport approved photographs to the College.

Bus passes, for use on either contracted services or the local public transport network are then provided to all eligible learners. Information including travel times, pick up and drop off points etc is available at www.rctcbc.gov.uk/schoolandcollegetransport Information about public transport services is available from the Traveline Cymru website at www.traveline.cymru

Where learners do not take up an offer of, or withdraw from, a school 6th form or college further education course, passes should be returned to the Integrated Transport Unit. Failure to do so will result in the cost of transport being reclaimed.

For post 16 learners with special educational needs, free transport is provided and may be made available until the end of the academic year in which they attain their 19th birthday. Travel arrangements in respect of any subsequent attendance are at the discretion of the learning provider. It may be a requirement that travel training is provided by the Youth Engagement and Participation Team to allow the learner to travel independently on contracted transport or local public transport. Taxis are provided under exceptional circumstances only.

No provision will be made by the Council for learners with special educational needs following the academic year that any such learner attains their 19th birthday. Where the course continues into subsequent years, the learner will be entirely responsible for arranging and funding their transport needs for continued attendance.

16. Eligibility and Mileage Assessment

There is no means testing to assess whether or not a learner is eligible for the provision of transport. The only eligibility criteria are the 1½ or 2 mile qualifying distances from home to the school gate or route safety assessment (as set out above). Learners are assessed in accordance with these eligibility criteria and eligible learners or their parents/guardians are notified of the arrangements in advance of the provision commencing.

Distances calculated by driving routes do not represent accurate measurements. Neither are measurements that use post code areas. When measuring walking routes, the Council measures to three decimal places. It uses MapInfo Professional which calculates route measurements using Government standard Ordnance Survey data. This determines address points by using 6 digit geo-codes, which are accurate to1m2 and is generally accepted to be the most accurate data available.

The measurement undertaken by the Council will be the final and definitive distance and will be used to assess transport eligibility. Where it is found that the Council has provided free transport in error, the parent or guardian will be informed of this, with notice given that transport will be withdrawn at the end of the school term.

The Council takes very seriously any attempt to gain an advantage by giving false information, and will investigate fraudulent claims. If school/college transport is offered and it is then discovered that the offer was made on fraudulent or misleading information e.g. a false claim to living at an address, that offer will be withdrawn and the cost of transport will be reclaimed. This could cause considerable distress, particularly for the learner involved.

The Council will process the information provided by parents/guardians in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and any amendments to that Act. Any personal information will be held in confidence, with only the necessary people able to see or use it. The information provided may be given to any organisation, including other Council departments, legitimately investigating allegations of fraud, other criminal offences or child protection. In addition, it may also be cross-checked and verified against information held by other Council departments.

17. Bus Passes

Bus passes are issued to all entitled secondary school learners at the start of year 7. They remain valid for the duration of their time at their mainstream secondary school. College students are issued with passes at the start of their course and will be valid for one academic year only. If a student leaves college before the end of the academic year, the pass is to be returned, otherwise the cost of the pass will be recovered.

If a college student returns for a second year, they must re-apply for a bus pass.

Bus passes for use on contracted services are colour coded to correspond with the coloured sign, which is located at the front of each school bus. The Council applies a no pass no travel policy. Learners are expected to produce their passes for inspection by the driver on every journey undertaken. No exception is made and parents/guardians must ensure that learners do not leave home without a valid bus pass. Lost passes can be replaced at a nominal cost, with the charge being reviewed annually. Details are available from the Council’s website at www.rctcbc.gov.uk/schoolandcollegetransport

Learners who share their pass or provide their pass to another learner for it to be copied will be suspended from travelling. In the case of such learners who had been issued with bus passes for use on the local public transport network, action may also be taken by the bus operator, which might involve the Police.

All issues relating to the operation of the no pass no travel policy, either by the operators or the schools, must be taken up with the Council’s Integrated Transport Unit. Do not approach the driver or contact the transport operator.

18. Mode of Transport

In all cases, the efficient use of resources will dictate the mode of transport provided (subject to any special needs requirements). Transport may be provided by means of contracted school transport services or existing public transport services which, together with the size and type of transport (bus, minibus, train, taxi, etc.) will be dictated by cost effectiveness. In exceptional cases, learner or parental reimbursement will be offered where this is the most cost effective method of providing transport. The provisions of Section 88 of the Transport Act 1985 place a duty on the Council to secure, in the interests of its residents, the best value for money from expenditure on public passenger transport as a whole. The Council will therefore be mindful of its duty to provide socially necessary (public transport) bus or train services when arranging transport provision for learners. In some exceptional cases, where no other arrangements are viable or cost effective, petrol costs may be reimbursed to learners or their parents/guardians.

19. Journey Times

The Council does not specify a time limit for journeys. However, journey times should be reasonable, taking into account the age and individual needs of the learners, and the nature, purpose and circumstances of each journey. Where parents/guardians express preferences for their children to attend voluntary aided (faith) schools or Welsh/dual language schools that are some distance away from their homes, journeys may generally be longer. This will also apply to some SEN journeys.

20. Other Transport Provision

Some learning providers operate, or contract, their own transport provision – in addition to that which is legally required – for which a charge is made. Parents/guardians and learners should be aware that this is not part of the statutory or discretionary functions carried out by the Council and are private arrangements between parents/guardians and learners and the transport providers.

Careers Wales may be able to offer assistance to clients in its Youth Gateway programme if transport is a barrier to accessing education, employment or training. Such provision is assessed on an individual needs basis.

21. Fare Paying Passengers

The Council will reserve the right, using appropriate powers, to make the spare capacity available on an existing contracted school transport route, subject to availability, to learners who are not eligible to receive free school transport.

Learners who have previously taken up this option will be sent details of the application process in writing in the summer term. This letter will specify the earliest date upon which an application may be made, normally the first Monday after the end of the summer term. Applications made before this date will not be considered.

The completion of an application form does not guarantee that spare seats will be sold. Seats can only be sold subject to availability, and are sold on a first come first served basis, with requests only considered once the numbers of spare seats available, if any, are identified.

It is not possible to allocate spare seats at the start of the new academic year, as the Council must assess available capacity. This does not just include changes in demand due to new starters but also post 16 learners who decide whether or not to stay on in school or to attend college after receiving their examination results toward the end of August. In addition, seats also become available during the first few weeks of term as some learners who are entitled to free travel decline the seat offered and do not travel on the vehicles provided. Once all these factors are taken into account, any spare seats are released for sale.

When places on a vehicle are made available under this provision, they will be charged at a flat rate per learner per term. The payment is required in advance, with the level of charging being assessed annually. In exceptional circumstances, where an applicant purchases transport for less than a full term, the minimum charge for that term will be the half term rate per learner.

Refunds are only made when the bus pass is returned or in the case of primary school transport when the ITU is advised that the seat is no longer required.

Where learners who have purchased a seat on school transport misbehave whilst travelling on school transport and have their right to transport removed for a specified period, no refunds will be made.

There is no reduction in transport charges for part-time attendance. In such circumstances, learners should consider whether public transport is a more cost effective option.

22. Payment Methods

Payments to purchase a seat on an existing contracted route will ordinarily be taken in full. After confirmation that a seat is available to purchase, applicants looking to pay by instalments must apply in writing to the;

Integrated Transport Unit, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council, Corporate and Frontline Services, Sardis House Pontypridd CF37 1DU

or by e mail to hometoschooltransport@rctcbc.gov.uk

The following options for making payments can be used, once the Integrated Transport Unit has confirmed that a seat is available:

• By Credit or Debit Card via the Council’s Integrated Transport Unit or Call Centre.
• By Cash or Cheque at any of the Council’s One4All centres.

Where there has been difficulty in collecting payments, the Council reserves the right to limit the choice of payment methods and timescales in future years e.g. we may require full payment in advance before the issue of a travel pass.

The Council’s standard debt policy will apply to all invoices raised for the purchase of a seat on school/college transport.

Where an invoice or agreed instalment remains outstanding, a reminder letter is sent requesting payment and informing the parent/guardian that unless the debt is paid within seven days, the travel pass(es) will be cancelled and learners will no longer be entitled to travel. The pass(es) will only be reinstated when a payment has been made. The Council will seek to recover any outstanding charges through its usual debt recovery process.

The option to purchase a seat on an existing contracted route will not be offered in future years to any members of a family where any school transport debt remains outstanding.

23. Change of Family Home - Transport Arrangements

Learners in receipt of free transport whose families move to an address outside the local area of the school to which transport has been provided will be assessed in accordance with the eligibility criteria.

Families need to be mindful of this fact when they are considering moving home, especially in the years when learners have commenced formal examination courses (years 10 and 11 for GCSE or equivalent and years 12 and 13 for AS and A level or equivalent).

24. Monitoring

All vehicles will be available for random checks by DVSA or other appropriate body, when required. Any complaints received by the Council concerning services or vehicles will be immediately investigated. In the event of the complaint being upheld, the necessary and appropriate steps will be taken in accordance with the contract or as a matter of urgency. The Council will undertake random checks on contracts, to ensure that the contracts are being operated in accordance with the terms and conditions of the contract. As part of the monitoring exercise, checks will be made to include; punctuality, adherence to route, size of vehicle, licences, use of DBS cleared staff and the checking of bus passes, all of which are designed to ensure safe and stress free travel.

25. The Travel Behaviour Code – Learner Travel (Wales) Measure 2008

The Welsh Government has introduced an initiative called “The Travel Behaviour Code” to promote safe travel for all children and young people, by setting out the standards of behaviour required when travelling between home and school. The Code encourages schools and the Council to work proactively with learners, their parents/guardians and the community to promote positive behaviour. If learners misbehave whilst travelling on school transport and do not follow the Travel Behaviour Code, action may be taken and the right to transport may be removed for a specified period depending on the severity of the incident. Vehicles used for school transport may be fitted with CCTV. The footage is confidential but may be used in evidence in cases of misconduct or misbehaviour. Any damage to the vehicle caused by a learner could result in the operator seeking to obtain reimbursement to cover the cost of repairs.

26. Work Experience

Where, as part of a course of study, learners follow a work experience placement they are normally required to make their own transport arrangements. No provision will be made by the Council.

27. Availability and Accessibility of this Policy Statement

The Learner Travel Information (Wales) Regulations 2009 require the Council to publish and make available its learner travel policy, information and travel arrangements to learners, and their parents/guardians, prior to admission to school or college, and on request. Copies must also be provided for their reference at the Council's offices, as well as schools, colleges and libraries within Rhondda Cynon Taf. It is also published on the Council’s web site at www.rctcbc.gov.uk/schoolandcollegetransport

28. Feedback

The Council is committed to using any feedback received to improve service quality. If you have any comments on the content of this document, please contact:

The Integrated Transport Unit
Tel: 01443 425001 • E mail: hometoschooltransport@rctcbc.gov.uk

29. Further Information and Points of Contact for Learners Seeking Transport Support

Further information, including Frequently Asked Questions and details of contracted bus routes and pick up points can be found on the Council’s website at; www.rctcbc.gov.uk/schoolandcollegetransport

Contacts: Other Sources of Information

 • Coleg y Cymoedd Student Services
Tel: 01443 662800 • www.colegycymoedd.ac.uk

• Rhondda Cynon Taf Education and Lifelong Learning School Admissions:
Tel: 01443 744232
Email: schooladmissions@rctcbc.gov.uk

• Rhondda Cynon Taf Corporate and Frontline Services Integrated Transport Unit:
Tel: 01443 425001
Email: hometoschooltransport@rctcbc.gov.uk

• Rhondda Cynon Taf Education and Lifelong Learning Youth Engagement and Participation Team:
Tel: 01443 744000

• Careers Wales
www.careerswales.com

• Individual School/College Prospectuses

• Information about public transport: Traveline Cymru
Tel: 0800 464 0000 • www.traveline.cymru

• Welsh Government
Learner Travel (Wales) Measure 2008
Learner Travel Statutory Provision and Operational Guidance – June 2014
The Travel Code

 

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