School transport

Here you will find advice about entitlement to home to school transport, transport for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), information for parents, and information about bus services.

National Government guidance is changing as the situation evolves and we can all expect it to continue to do so.

This page was last updated on the 28 August 2020

The Department for Education (DfE) issued guidance entitled “Transport to school and other places of education: autumn term 2020”, click here to view, on 11 August 2020 covering guidance for the provision of dedicated home to school or college transport as schools return for full re-opening and also for managing the capacity of, and demand for, public transport from September.

In light of this guidance we have sent a letter to parents of children who attend mainstream schools via their child’s school, click here to view, and a letter to parents of children who attend special schools, click here to view. The letters provide guidance and information for parents and carers whose children will be using the Council's Home to School Transport Service when they return to school for the start of the 2020/21 academic year.  Accompanying the letter sent to parents of children attending mainstream schools is guidance for students travelling on home to school transport, click here to view.

We have also issued guidance and instructions to school transport operators, click here to view, regarding the steps they need to take to ensure safe travel for children and young people as well as their own staff.

You can find some frequently asked questions about school transport during the current COVID-19 situation in the drop-down box below.

Will school transport operate from the start of the new academic year?

Yes, our transport operators will be operating a full service for children and young people who travel on County Council provided transport (coach, minibus or taxi) to and from school from the start of the new academic year until further notice.

Normal pick up and drop off arrangements will apply unless you have been notified otherwise. 


Will social distancing be in place on school transport vehicles?

As per the Department for Education guidance, there is no requirement for children to socially distance on dedicated home to school transport in the way required on public transport. However, arrangements are being made for operators to allocate seating in separate areas of the vehicle according to year group, to minimise mixing between year groups and to ensure children sit with the same group of children each day.


Why isn’t social distancing being implemented in the same way on school transport as it is on public transport?

The guidance indicates that the arrangements for social distancing on public transport are not required on dedicated school transport because (i) the overall risk to children and young people of serious illness as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) is very low (ii) they do not mix with the general public on those journeys (iii) dedicated school transport often carries the same group of children and young people on a regular basis, and they may also be together in school or college (iv) the predictability of dedicated school transport will allow for planning so that protective measures can be put in place


What is a face covering and should my child wear one?

A face covering is a covering of any type which covers the nose and mouth and fits securely around the side of the face.

We are strongly recommending that children and young people aged 11 and over wear a face covering when travelling on dedicated home to school transport. This does not apply to people who are exempt from wearing a face covering under the rules for public transport. 

Children under 11 may wear a face covering if they are able to handle it as directed.  


Are there any other steps being taken to keep children sat apart from one another?

Yes. A considerable number of school transport routes transport children to different schools on the same vehicle.

Measures are being put in place so that wherever possible additional vehicles are utilised so that the children and young people from different schools are transported on separate vehicles. If there are any cases where this is not practically possible, children from different schools will be allocated seats in separate sections of the vehicle.  


What about students who use public transport?

Given that social distancing is required on public transport, work has been undertaken with the major bus operators (Arriva, Go North East, Stagecoach) and other smaller bus operators in Northumberland to identify likely overloading on those journeys that facilitate transport to educational establishments. 

On some services, larger vehicles are being deployed than those normally used that would otherwise be likely to be overloaded as a result of social distancing requirements.

On a number of other routes, arrangements are being progressed to provide additional capacity by introducing a duplicate dedicated scholar service on those busiest services operating around school opening and closing times. These services would run alongside the normal bus service but would be restricted to use by school and college students and pupils, thereby providing additional seating capacity overall but also separating school and college students from the wider travelling public. 


What instructions have been issued to my child’s transport provider?

Transport operators are being asked to:
  • where possible, deploy a larger vehicle than that normally deployed on their school transport route in order to allow increased separation of children and young people between year groups or individuals. 
  • consider systems for boarding, alighting and queuing of children and young people to minimise contact and mixing.
  • not use face to face seating to sit children and young people on board vehicles
  • deploy the same driver and passenger assistant (where applicable) for the operation of each contract on a continuous basis unless exceptional circumstances apply to reduce the risk of transmission.
  • keep vehicles well ventilated by opening windows and ceiling vents wherever possible and to not use re-circulation air conditioning (whilst being aware of the need to avoid the risk of children leaning out of windows etc). 
  • Remind drivers and (where deployed) passenger assistants to wash their hands before and after every journey
  • Report any concerns to the council about social distancing at bus stops or collection points
  • Arrange for children and young people to sit with other passengers in their own year group or where this is not possible to sit with other passengers attending the same school.
  • Use signage to indicate to children and young people where they should sit
  • Implement procedures for standard and deep cleaning of vehicles 
  • clean regularly touched objects and surfaces (like door handles and handrails) more often than usual using standard cleaning products
Further details of the control measures school transport providers are required to put in place can be found in the guidance and instructions to school transport operators by clicking here.
Welcome to the School Transport section.

This page contains advice about how to find out whether your child is eligible for free school transport and how to access school transport services.

You will also find our
Home to School Travel and Transport Policy and our Post 16 Transport Policy.

If you have any questions about school transport, our FAQ section may be helpful.
Below are online application forms for you to complete if you think your child is eligible for free school transport.

Please choose the correct form and also ensure you have read and understood the relevant school transport policy and, in particular, the eligibility criteria before considering submitting an application.

Apply for pre-16 school transport: please fill out this form if your child is attending a mainstream school.

Apply for post-16 transport: please fill out this form if your child is attending a high school sixth form or a further education college.

Apply for pre-16 SEND transport: please fill in this form if your child has an EHCP and is attending either a special school or a mainstream school.

Apply for post-16 SEND transport: please fill in this form if your child has an EHCP and is attending a further education college.
Please see below for advice on what to do if your school transport assistance application is declined:

Post 16 Transport Policy 2020-21 If your application for transport assistance for your child is declined, you will be sent an email explaining why. You have the right to ask for a review of this decision. The review is a two-stage process.

At stage one you can challenge a decision about:
  • Your child’s eligibility
  • The measurement of statutory walking distances
  • The safety of the walking route
You can also appeal when the provision of transport has been agreed by the county council, but you want the travel arrangements offered reviewed.

A request for a review must be made clearly, in writing, about why you believe that Northumberland County Council should reconsider their decision, including any information that might support your case. 

More information about the appeals process can be found in section 20 of the Home to School Travel and Transport Policy, and section 14 of the Post-16 Transport Policy.

Download the school transport appeals process here.
Below you will find guidance on acceptable behaviour on school transport:

 
 
Whilst schools will promote appropriate standards of behaviour by children on their way to and from school, it is a parental responsibility to make sure that a child behaves appropriately on a school bus or taxi.

Children who misbehave on school transport may have their entitlement or pass removed. Depending on the nature of the offence, this could be for a temporary period of time, or even permanently.

You can read more in detail about the appropriate behaviour expected on school transport by reading section 19 of the Home to School Travel and Transport policy.

Download the school transport behaviour expectations leaflet here.
Pupils with disabilities, special educational needs (SEND), and mobility problems all have the same entitlement to home to school travel support as any other pupil within the education system.

In addition, Northumberland County Council may also provide home to school travel support as a reasonable adjustment to a child's disability in cases where the child lives within the statutory walking distance of the school.

Further information can be found in section 4.8 of the Home to School Travel and Transport policy.

A copy of our SEND transport information handbook for parents and carers can be found here.
The council will make sure that drivers and (where provided) passenger assistants receive appropriate briefings and training on a child’s needs to ensure that the school transport service is delivered safely and appropriately.

When transport is arranged for children by Northumberland County Council, the appointed taxi or bus operator must only employ drivers and passenger assistants who are in receipt of an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

In addition they must also attend:
  • a briefing on driver/passenger assistant code of conduct, including child safeguarding
  • emergency CPR and anaphylaxis awareness training
  • training on how to correctly load and secure a wheelchair and apply a passenger restraint (when transporting children in wheelchairs)
  • disability awareness training (when transporting children with special educational needs and/or disabilities)
  • child-specific training as and when required, e.g. managing challenging behaviour or training in the administration of rescue medication in the case of a child with a diagnosis of epilepsy or diabetes
For more information about drivers and passenger transport assistants and how they are briefed and trained, please read section 17 of the Home to School Travel and Transport Policy.

A copy of the drivers’ code of conduct can be downloaded here.

A copy of the passenger transport assistants' code of conduct can be downloaded here.
During periods of severe weather, there may be school closures or disruption to the home-to-school transport.

Updates will be provided via the following:

Northumberland County Council website school closures page.
Northumberland County Council homepage for weather updates

In extreme cases, a school may close during the day due to severe weather and your child will be sent home early.

 

Do you have a procedure in place for the care of your child in the event of school disruption?

It's important to be prepared in the event of disruption to the school transport service:

  • Make arrangements with a relative or close friend to care for your child until you are able to get home.
  • Inform the school and transport provider of these arrangements, as it may be necessary for your child to seek alternative transportation from school.
  • Make sure that the school and transport provider has an emergency contact number.
  • Ensure your child is aware of these arrangements.

 

If a school is disrupted, have you considered:

Suitable clothing
Ensure your child is warmly dressed, just in case the school transport is running late, or the journey is slow.

Waiting time
During periods of severe weather, a child should wait 20 minutes after their normal pick-up time for school transport. After 20 minutes, it is advisable for the child to return home.

Communication
Let the school know that your child has returned home after waiting 20 minutes for transport to arrive. Make sure that you have the contact details of your transport providers and that they have emergency contact numbers for you.

Responsibility
If you take your child to school, it is your responsibility to collect them in the afternoon.

Forward planning
It’s important for parents to have a plan in place, if they are not home when a child returns. For example, a buddy scheme, or a family friend or relative who the child can go to until the parent or carer returns home.

PLEASE NOTE: More information about the operation of school transport during bad weather can be found in section 18 of the Home to School Travel and Transport policy.

The following contains information and links to the major suppliers of local bus services in Northumberland:

For information about local bus services operating across Northumberland, including services that cross-border into Tyne and Wear, visit Nexus here.

Help with journey planning can also be found at Traveline North East.

You can also visit our Bus Travel webpage here.

 


Local bus services

The local bus service providers below will be able to provide further information on their ticket offers for students: 

Arriva - post-16 school travel - zones and tickets

Stagecoach - post-16 school travel

Go North East - post-16 school travel

Glen Valley

Border Buses Ltd

Travelsure Coaches Ltd

PCL Travel Ltd

Please click on the blue drop-down boxes below for answers to our FAQs:

Generally speaking, the council only provides free transport to children who:
  • are of compulsory school age
  • are a resident of Northumberland
  • attend their nearest and appropriate qualifying school, or
  • attend their nearest school chosen on grounds of religion or belief
  • live beyond the statutory walking distance for their age, or
  • live within the statutory walking distance for their age but the walking route is deemed “unavailable” for safety reasons by the council, or
  • qualify for “extended rights” on the grounds of low income, or
  • are unable to walk to school as a result of their disability, special educational needs or mobility problems

For more information about eligibility, please read section 4 of the Home to School Travel and Transport policy.

 
Council policy states that if a parent chooses to apply for a place at a school outside their child's catchment area, they are wholly responsible for making home to school transport arrangements, unless the preferred school is closest to the home address as measured by the county council’s approved GIS measuring system.

Information on school catchment areas can be found on the school admissions webpage.

For more information around parental preference for a school, please read section 6 of the Home to School Travel and Transport policy.

 
A new application should be submitted when your child moves to a new address. The application will be assessed based on the eligibility criteria that can be found in section 4 of the Home to School Travel and Transport policy.

 
In some cases, it may be possible for you to purchase unoccupied seats on vehicles deployed on school transport contracts in accordance with the terms of the county council’s Concessionary Travel Scheme.

Please click here to read the terms of the Concessionary Travel Scheme

If you are interested in applying after reading the terms of the travel scheme, please contact the school transport team on 01670 624839. We will advise you if spare seats are available to purchase on a school bus or taxi in return for the concessionary fare.
 
The type of travel assistance offered will be determined by the council council, making the best use of public funds available and paying due regard to a child’s well-being.

This would normally be a place on a school bus or taxi service commissioned by the county council, but other options include:
  • season tickets to enable travel on local bus or rail services
  • travel allowances paid to parents to transport their own children to and from school
In some cases, where it is agreed to provide travel support for a child living relatively close to school they may be provided with a passenger assistant to accompany them on the walk to and from school.

Further information is provided in sections 14-16 of the Home to School Travel and Transport policy.
 
Once you have received confirmation that your school transport application has been successful, transport arrangements will usually be put in place within 10 working days. The exception to this is when you apply for school transport that is required from the start of a new academic year. In this case, you will be informed of your child’s new transport arrangements during the summer holidays.

Once your child’s place at their new school is confirmed we would strongly advise you to submit your application as early as possible. This should ensure school transport is in place for your child for the new school term beginning in September. If applications are received late into the summer holidays, we may not be able to have travel arrangements in place for your child. It will then become your responsibility to ensure children attend school until your transport application has been processed and travel arrangements confirmed.

If you submitted your application in good time and have not heard from us, then please call us on 0345 600 6400.

Alternative ways of contacting the school transport team are provided in section 23 of the Home to School Travel and Transport policy.
 

If your child has lost or damaged their bus pass, you will be required to replace it at your own cost.

Northumberland County Council

  • If the bus pass is produced by Northumberland County Council, please call the contact centre on 0345 600 6400.
Arriva
  • For passes issued for travel by ARRIVA, contact the Business Administration Team on 0191 520 4144.
Go North East
  • For GO NORTH EAST passes, contact Customer Services on 0191 420 5050.
There is a separate policy outlining travel assistance that is available for post-16 students. Eligibility criteria can be found in Annex 1 of the transport policy:

Please click here to view our Post-16 Transport Policy.

In general, for a student to qualify for travel support they will need to be:
  • a resident of Northumberland and undertaking a course of study at their nearest learning provider which is located more than three miles from their home address
  • aged 16 years old or over, but under 19 on 31 August 2019 and 
  • starting a course in Y13 or earlier and 
  • on a course which is full time, at a higher level than previous studied and equates to foundation learning 1, 2 or 3
An administration fee of £50 is payable at the point of submitting an application and is non-refundable. Please ensure you meet all the eligibility criteria before submitting an application for post-16 transport. 

Northumberland College has arranged a number of its own bus services. If your child is attending Northumberland College and your application for post-16 transport has been declined by Northumberland County Council, you may be able to get travel assistance through Northumberland College.

You can contact Northumberland college via Student Infozones (available at Ashington and Kirkley Hall), or via telephone: