Free school transport for young people with special needs looks set to be scrapped across Bucks as the cash-strapped council battles with overstretched budgets.
Final proposals to cut free travel arrangements for pupils with special educational needs (SEND) between the ages of 16 to 18 will be presented to Bucks County Council’s (BCC) cabinet on Monday (March 4) following a 10-week consultation.
If plans are given the green light, charges will be enforced based the distance the pupil lives from their school.
It is also proposed that free transport offered to pupils travelling from Iver to the Chalfont Community College and from Ivinghoe to Cottesloe School in Wing will also be axed by September 2020.
Further plans include a complete review of the costs of transport paid for by pupils, the removal of commissioned transport “where there is a viable public route” and a review of “unnecessary transport”, such as duplicated bus routes, as the council desperately tries to save money.
BCC now hopes to encourage more pupils to travel to school independently through wider use of specialist training to support young people with SEND.
The report, due to be presented to cabinet on Monday, states: “The current financial position is unsustainable.
“Even with changes to practice and improving access to earlier support in schools, the cost for transport continues to exceed the planned budget due to increasing demand and pressures against current policy provision.
“It is important that the council ensures that children and young people in Buckinghamshire are able to access quality and sustainable services.”
BCC currently spends £15.1 million a year on getting 9,900 pupils to school – £12.7 million of which goes towards statutory requirements set by government.
Cabinet member for education at BCC, Mike Appleyard, has previously said the council’s transport budget has been put under “immense strain” – as just £426,144 was spent on private taxis ferrying children to and from school in one month alone.
The pressures have seen the council bust its school transport budget by £1.3 million – promoting a redesign of the service in a bid to encourage more pupils to travel to school independently.
However, there will be no changes to arrangements for 5,000 pupils who are eligible for free travel based on statutory requirements set by government – such as children from low-income families travelling within a specified distance.
Cllr Appleyard said: “The proposals to be considered by the cabinet aim to offer a high quality travel service for pupils that is both safe and sustainable for the future.
“There are a number of options to explore that will help up to achieve this.
“Where changes affect families we will ensure these are managed in as fair and as considerate a way as possible”.
To view BCC’s report visit: https://democracy.buckscc.gov.uk/documents/s130428/Report%20for%20Home%20to%20School%20Transport.pdf