Havering Council reviews school transport for pupils with special needs

Some pupils arrived late to school because of long bus journeys. Pciture credit: PA Images

Some pupils arrived late to school because of long bus journeys. Pciture credit: PA Images - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

A service, which helps nearly 400 pupils with special needs get to school, is being reviewed because of financial pressures.

Since April 2016, 389 children with special education needs or disabilities have benefited from the council’s transport service to go to and from school.

Although there has been a decrease in the number of pupils travelling by bus from 402 last year to 319 this year, the budget allocated to the service is under pressure.

According to a council report, an overspend of £264,995 – or nearly 12 per cent of the budget – is expected.

The overspend is believed to have been caused by the overall increasing demands for specialist travel assistance, which is also affecting the time pupils spend travelling before getting to school.

Over the finance year 2016/17, the council has introduced pick-up points for children to catch the bus.

There are now 76 pick-up-points and more could be introduced this year, with the aim to reduce costs and travelling times.

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The report states: “Our intention is to continue to work with all parents in order to develop transport options that will help to mitigate current issues.”

The council is also working with the pupils’ families to develop a range of travel options to bring their children to school including mileage allowance, oyster cards and travel training.

Buses routes are also being reviewed to optimise travel times.

The report acknowledges that on some occasions the time pupils with special needs spent on board a school bus exceeded the 75 minutes guidelines set by the Department for Education.

Journeys to Corbets Tey School, Harwood Hall Lane, Upminster, and Dycorts School, Settle Road, Harold Hill, for example took up to an hour and 40 minutes to reach the school – sometimes making the pupils late.

Consultation with neighbouring boroughs is on-going about the possibility to share transport options.

Further details about the review are expected be made available in the spring.