Ask Jennie: The impact of Covid-19 on Home to School Transport

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Welcome to the first Blog about all things Home to School (H2S)– from time to time it may include other relevant subjects or discussions but will mainly focus on H2S.

I couldn’t really start a blog in January 2021 without mentioning and discussing the impact of Covid-19 on Home to School transport and our daily lives. As we adjust to the challenges and restrictions we now have on things like attending school or college, the impact is felt far and wide. One of the areas that has been greatly affected since March 2020 has been in the area of Home to School transport.

With the ever-changing direction and guidance for Local Authority and education settings, they are having to be even more reactive and creative around provision and how to get our children and young people from home, to education settings.

For the new school year in September 2020, the Department for Education (DfE) allocated a further £27,063,386 to the procurement of additional dedicated Home to School transport in England. The award was to cover provision in the first half of the spring 2021 term. (Multi-million-pound funding package for school transport)

This funding was to help Local authorities put in place adequate transport provision that could reflect school bubbles, as well as staggered start and finish times, and social distancing – where possible – on vehicles.

Throughout this Covid-19 pandemic, Local Authorities continue to have a statutory duty to provide free Home to School Transport for all eligible children of compulsory school age, including children who attend their nearest suitable school and whose special educational needs and disabilities mean they are unable to walk there.

Pre Covid-19, one report stated that UK Local Authorities spend in excess of 1bn on H2S every year. A report published in 2019 found that 69% of the budget is allocated to SEND provision which represents only 26% of children.

As we can see the expertise and variables involved in providing these statutory services, as well as the costs needed to provide these critical services, is an area that is having a massive impact on Local Authorities as the demand for specialised transport provision continues to grow. It is now even more critical that families, Local Authorities, schools, and transport providers work together to achieve the right outcomes for each family and young person.

As we have entered another nationwide lockdown and had major changes announced for exams for 2021, the challenges around education continue, resulting in a knock-on effect on all young people. This includes our most vulnerable ones and we await further guidance and support for H2S which is at the centre of providing these critical services.

Please feel free to get in touch as we would love to hear about how you as a Local Authority, school, transport provider or family, are not only being impacted by what is happening but where you are being helped; or outside of the box thinking is being done to ensure the critical H2S transport and education of our young people can continue.

If you have any questions or comments, you can contact us via hello@365response.org. If you missed the introduction to this blog, you can read it here.