School travel report

22 March 2009

Government and local authorities must work with schools, parents and students to provide innovative, sustainable alternatives to car travel that expand educational opportunities. The introduction of 14–19 Diplomas presents a particular challenge because these students often need to travel to multiple sites

In a report out today, the House of Commons Transport Select Committee tells education and transport ministers they must do far more to produce a modal shift away from cars towards public transport, dedicated school transport including ‘Yellow Buses’, walking and safer cycling schemes for British school children.

Transport Committee Chairman Louise Ellman MP says:

"Young people deserve safe and affordable travel to education, leisure and employment. The journeys people make when young will influence their preferences and habits in adulthood.

"Both the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Transport urgently need to identify how they are going to ensure children and young adults are not denied opportunities because public transport is either inadequate or too costly. In particular, travel should not present a barrier to accessing the new Diploma courses. For similar reasons much more should be done to identify children eligible for free school transport."

The Committee recognise in their report that no single model will suit all situations and that car travel to school can be the most suitable method in some circumstances. However, they call on ministers to:

  • Provide high quality guidance and examples of best practice to illustrate when a dedicated school bus system is appropriate.
  • Top up the Education Maintenance Allowance for students from low income families and extend similar support for young people engaged in the new 14–19 diplomas.
  • Do more to encourage local authorities to identify pupils eligible for free school transport.
  • Consider the viability of a concessionary scheme offering reduced fares to young people.
  • Ensure that the Department for Transport, Department of Health and the Department for Children, Schools and Families work together so that national policy and practical implementation at the local level deliver both value for money and a greater number of joint initiatives that promote walking and cycling.
  • Help local authorities address the inherent tension between school choice and travel impact by raising awareness of sustainable school travel issues amongst parents and young people when they are selecting schools.
  • In rural areas, review whether the maximum travel distance under which free transport may be provided allows for sufficient choice of schools.
  • Monitor the effectiveness of School Travel Plans.
  • The Committee also calls on local authorities to consider new ways to fund and run innovative schemes that integrate transport, health and educational objectives for school travel.

Image: iStockphoto

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