Lib Dem Councillor Patrick Smith (Swinley Forest) has brought a successful motion to Bracknell Forest Council seeking a fairer deal for families relying on supported school transport post-16.

The motion asks the Executive Member for Children, Young People and Learning to work with schools transport officers to explore options to extend Bracknell Forest’s post-16 transport policy when it is reviewed for the 2024-2025 academic year to cover transport support to institutions named on an EHC plan.

Explaining the rationale for the motion, Councillor Smith said:

“Local authorities are required to provide transport support for children of statutory school age who meet certain eligibility criteria. This support is often particularly important for families with children with significant special educational needs, where an Education Health and Care Plan might identify a school some distance away or even outside the borough as the most appropriate place of education for the child.

Whilst young people are now required to continue in education or training until the end of the academic year in which they turn 18, there is no default entitlement to school transport post-16, with each local authority instead determining its own discretionary policies.

Bracknell Forests’ current Post-16 Transport Policy Statement outlines the situations in which we will provide school transport to young people after they turn 16. In accordance with this policy, we will not currently provide transport to a school named on an EHC Plan where there is a nearer institution able to offer a suitable level of education.

EHC Plans, which name a specific place of education, are only provided to those pupils in most need of additional support, where their specific needs cannot be met within the average school. National policy for school transport up to 16 recognises this and ensures provision is in place for such pupils to receive the support they need to attend the institution named on their EHC Plan. Yet in some cases the current BFC policy for post-16 transport abruptly cuts off that support during the final years of education.

The existing policy considers whether nearer schools are able to offer the child a place, but does not account for whether these schools can adequately address the complex educational needs of individual pupils in line with the EHC Plan.

As a member of the Appeals Committee, I have personally sat on panels where we as a Council have suggested that it is ‘parental choice’ for the child to continue to attend the institution named on the EHC Plan post-16. As a parent myself, there is clearly no other reasonable choice any caring parent can make in that situation.

As a Council we need to respond to these difficult situations with decency and compassion. Transport provision is a difficult area to balance, with significant costs to the Council, but wherever possible we must identify the means to do the right thing. That’s why this motion calls on the Executive Member to work with officers to compassionately expand our policy, so far as financially viable, when it is reviewed for the next academic year.”

The motion, which was passed at the Council Meeting on 29 November, was seconded by Labour Councillor Janet Cochrane (also a member of the Appeals Committee) and received broad cross party support.

The Bracknell Liberal Democrats are committed to using our influence to steer council policy in a compassionate and caring direction which better addresses the difficulties and hardships affecting our residents.

Categories: News


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