Transport Update 25/9/16: ECC’s refusal to provide some students transport in breach of Statutory Duty under DfE Guidance

It seems that Essex County Council’s refusal to provide some students transport to secondary schools is a breach of their statutory duty:

The Department for Education statutory school transport guidance sets out the relevant sections of the legislation and gives instruction as to how it is to be interpreted. The DfE says that, where distance criteria are met, the local authority must provide transport to ‘the nearest …school with places available‘ .

However Essex chose to omit ‘with places available’ from their rules. The Essex booklet says ‘Transport is generally only provided to the nearest available school where the distance criteria is met.’

They are using this policy to refuse transport where the only school with places available is not the nearest, a situation which applies in a number of parishes. Their bizarre excuse that students must apply to the school which has confirmed there are no places for them has no substance in the DfE guidance.

As Essex Cllrs Finch and Gooding have refused to amend the policy to conform with the DfE instructions, R4U have now referred what appears to be a breach of statutory duty to the Department for Education.

Essex also broke the guidelines when they made substantial alterations to the bus schedules. The DfE requirement is to consult widely with all interested parties, and consultations should last for at least 28 working days during term time. The view of parents is that there was no consultation at all.
An email from ECC says they (presumably the same people as last time) last week decided on schedule alterations. My request for parents to be shown the proposals before implementation has not been responded to.

The DfE guidance also requires policies to discourage parents driving their children to school but ECC’s various actions have achieved the opposite

Failure on statutory funding requirement, failure to consult on schedule changes and failure to promote sustainable travel.