Local changes to SEND home to school transport September 2023

We provide home to school transport for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities to and from school.

Why we are making changes

We are making changes to school transport this year at several special schools and satellite units.

Transport is provided from private transport operators through contracts that run for a certain amount of time.

The contracts for providing transport to two special schools and satellite units (listed below) will expire on 31 July 2023 and we need to arrange new contracts ready for the start of the new school year in September 2023.

The changes only affect pupils attending the schools below:

  1. Bower Grove School, Maidstone (including off-site satellite at unit based at West Borough Primary School).
  2. Belle Vue independent School, Cranbrook.
  3. Grange Park School’s satellite units at Stansted, Mid Kent College in Maidstone and Gillingham (not Grange Park School itself).

What might change for your child

The changes to your child's transport could mean that they:

  • have a different driver (and passenger assistant if your child needs one)
  • take a new route to and from school
  • travel with different pupils if they have not previously been assessed as needing to travel alone
  • have new drop-off and pick-up times.

We understand that changes to routines can be unsettling for some pupils and their families. Unfortunately, we are unable to guarantee your child has the same driver (or passenger assistant if they have one) or have the same drop-off and pick-up times. However, by giving you as much notice as possible of the potential changes coming in September, we hope you can prepare your child for the changes.

When you will find out about your child’s transport

We will write to you by 1 August 2023 to let you know details of your child’s new transport provider. Your transport operator will provide you with details about your child’s driver, passenger (if one is present on the vehicle) and the vehicle size.

If you have not heard from us by the date above then please contact us via email at ClientTransport@kent.gov.uk.

Considering your child’s needs

We use the information we have about the needs of your child for the purposes of getting them safely to and from school. This information comes from several sources – your child’s EHCP, your child’s SEN caseworker and your child’s transport eligibility assessment.

If your child needs additional support while travelling, has a specific medical requirement or has been assessed as needing to travel alone then this will be included as part of our transport planning.

We also work closely with schools as their in-depth knowledge of pupils’ needs also informs transport plans. They will advise whether pupils sharing services are able to do so.

Travel times

The number of pupils requiring transport to and from school, where they live, the school or college they attend and the transport operators available all impact travel times.

We try to plan the most efficient routes to and from schools as possible and consider the statutory guidance for travel times issued by the Department for Education. They acknowledge journey times may be longer for SEN students because of the greater distances they may need to travel.

For primary school students, the guidelines recommend journey times are no more than 45 minutes.

For secondary school students it is 1 hour and 15 minutes.

While we try to meet these guidelines, some journeys may be a bit longer where more students are collected on routes to and from school.

If you live in an area where many students go to the same school we will, where reasonably possible, place students together on services. This is to reduce the number of services we buy and to reduce traffic congestion. This may mean your child does not have a direct journey to school.

For children who live greater distances from their school their journey time may also be longer. However, we will, where reasonably possible, adhere to the journey time guidelines.

How we choose new transport operators

We buy transport services from many different transport providers across Kent.

We have a legal requirement to follow a tendering process, which all councils must follow to buy services.

It works like this:

  • We release details of routes with pupils assigned to them (which we refer to as ‘opportunities’).
  • Transport providers who are on a list of approved suppliers will then bid on these ‘opportunities’. We must allow them between 7 to 10 days to do this.
  • We assess their bids against a set of criteria and then award contracts to the winning bids who meet the criteria in the most cost-effective way. This means that the successful transport provider will be the first to know the students they will be transporting to and from school.
  • We then let parents know who their transport provider is and how to contact them so that they can discuss their child’s travel details.
  • We then inform schools.

Sometimes we don’t get any responses to a particular route or ‘opportunity’, and so we must repeat the tendering process until we have a transport provider. Situations like this can cause unavoidable delays in arranging transport.

The contracts we have with new transport providers will last for 3 years, which we hope will give you and your children a consistent and stable service. The contracts will also give transport providers greater stability, which in turn should help them attract and retain drivers.

What you need to do next

You don’t need to do anything.

We have spoken to your child’s school about our plans to make sure all pupils’ needs are considered, for example where pupils can travel with other pupils and which pupils have a passenger assistant.

We will also use the information about your child’s travel needs already provided to us.

We will contact you again by 1 August 2023 to let you know details of your child’s new transport provider.