School transport

This fact sheet is aimed mainly at parents who have been refused help from the council with their child’s transport costs to school and may be considering making a complaint to the Ombudsman.

I have been refused help with my child’s transport costs to school. Can I complain to the Ombudsman?

Yes, in some circumstances. The Ombudsman cannot question the council’s decision, if it took the decision properly and fairly. But we can consider your complaint if you think you were refused help unfairly, or because of a mistake, or because your request for help was not handled correctly. 

You can complain to the Ombudsman if your child goes to a 'qualifying school'. We cannot deal with complaints about transport to an independent (private) school, unless it is named in your child’s Statement of Special Educational Needs or Education, Health and Care Plan.

How do I complain?

You should complete the Home to School Travel and Transport Review/Appeals process first. There are two normally stages and you will usually have to complete both before we will look at your complaint.

Then, if you are unhappy with the outcome, or the council is taking too long to look into the matter – it may take about 12-16 weeks – you can complain to us.

You should normally make your complaint to us within 12 months of realising that the council has done something wrong.

To complain to the Ombudsman phone our helpline on 0300 061 0614 (8.30am to 5.00pm, Mondays to Fridays). You will be able to discuss your complaint with one of our advisers. You can text us on 0762 481 1595.

You can complete an online complaint form.

If you can consider my complaint what will the Ombudsman look for?

We consider whether the council has done something wrong in the way it went about dealing with your application for help. Some of the issues we can look at are that:

  • the council’s policy for providing help with transport is not objective, clear and fair
  • the council failed to apply their policy properly or fairly
  • the council did not take relevant information into account in reaching its decision, or took irrelevant information into account, or
  • the council delayed dealing with your application for help.

What happens if the Ombudsman finds that the council was at fault?

If we find that something has gone wrong in the way your application was dealt with that might have affected the decision, we may:

  • ask the council to review its decision
  • ask the council reimburse travel costs you have already incurred, and/or
  • recommend that the council reviews its policy and/or procedures, so that the problems you experienced don’t keep happening to other parents.

What if my child has special educational needs?

The council still has responsibilities for helping with home to school transport where a child has special educational needs, whether there is a Statement of Special Educational Needs/Education, Health and Care Plan or not. We can usually consider complaints where special educational needs are involved.

Examples of some complaints we have considered

Mrs X complained that the transport appeal panel did not consider all the evidence when it decided not to uphold her appeal. She had requested transport for her daughters so they could continue at their previous school after the family moved house. The Ombudsman found no fault in the way the appeal was conducted. Mrs X had had a proper opportunity to put forward her reasons for requesting transport. And there was evidence in the clerk's notes that the panel had carefully considered all the information presented to it when making its decision.
Mrs Y complained that the council did not have proper arranagements in place for transporting children with complex special needs to and from their school. Escorts failed to recognise Mrs Y's son was suffering a seizure on the school bus or to take appropriate action as a result. Mrs Y then felt forced to transport her son to school herself. The Ombudsman found that the council had failed to provide properly trained escorts or have suitable emergency procedures in place. The council agreed to apologise, refund Mrs Y's mileage costs and provide a payment for her time and trouble in brining the complaint. The council also agreed to review its home-to-school travel arrangements, training for escorts, emergency procedures and equipment carried on vehicles, and to carry "All About Me" booklets for each child on board vehicles.

Other sources of information

For information about whether your child is likely to qualify for school transport, plus access to your education authority’s information about school transport go to www.gov.uk/government/publications/home-to-school-travel-and-transport-guidance

Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA) have some specific guidance on their website at www.ipsea.org.uk/what-you-need-to-know/home-to-school-college-transport

Our fact sheets give some general information about the most common type of complaints we receive but they cannot cover every situation. If you are not sure whether we can look into your complaint, please contact us.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman provides a free, independent and impartial service. We consider complaints about the administrative actions of councils and some other authorities. We cannot question what a council has done simply because someone does not agree with it. If we find something has gone wrong, such as poor service, service failure, delay or bad advice and that a person has suffered as a result the Ombudsman aims to get it put right by recommending a suitable remedy.

August 2016 

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