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Changes to home to school transport policy - important information for students with SEND

Changes to home to school transport policy – important information for all schools with students with SEND

 

Dear colleagues,

 

In March 2019, Buckinghamshire County Council’s Cabinet agreed a series of changes to our home to school transport policy, following a comprehensive and wide-ranging public consultation held through Autumn 2018.

 

What is changing?

The changes which will take place from September 2019 include:

 

  • ending free home to school transport for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) aged over 16 (transport arrangements will still be made by the Council but we will be asked for a contribution towards costs)
  • charging for pupils with SEND (aged over 16) based on banding according to the distance travelled
  • increasing the allocation of independent travel training for eligible young people aged 16 to 18 years old

 

This means we will introduce charges from September 2019 for transport for existing and new pupils.  The charges will be based on the distance from home to school, and we will correspond directly with parents to confirm their eligibility for travel assistance and how much this will cost them.

 

Over the last two weeks, we have held a number of information sessions to let parents know of all the available support options.  This information is featured in our Post-16 Transport Statement: www.buckscc.gov.uk/post16 .  This page also features responses to Frequently Asked Questions and a flowchart for bursary eligibility.

 

Financial support for students - The 16 to 19 Bursary Fund

We wanted to make schools aware that because free school transport will be ceasing, more parents may make a bursary fund application for financial support.

 

Below is some general information on the bursary funding available, and a link to specific government guidance for schools which gives a complete and thorough overview on eligibility and the administration of the bursary.

 

What is the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund?

The 16 to 19 Bursary Fund provides financial support to help students overcome specific financial barriers to participation so they can remain in education. There are two types of 16 to 19 bursaries:

  • bursaries for defined vulnerable groups of up to £1,200 a year
  • discretionary bursaries which institutions award to meet individual needs, for example, help with the cost of transport, meals, books and equipment

Bursary for defined vulnerable groups

Bursaries of up to £1,200 a year are available for the most vulnerable groups. This includes students who are:

  • in care
  • care leavers
  • receiving Income Support, or Universal Credit because they are financially supporting themselves or financially supporting themselves and someone who is dependent on them and living with them such as a child or partner
  • receiving Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payments in their own right as well as Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit in their own right

Discretionary bursaries

 

The rest of the fund is awarded on a discretionary basis by schools and colleges who set their own eligibility criteria, decide on how much is paid, and set their own conditions for students to meet in order to receive a bursary; for example, linked to behaviour or attendance or help with travel costs.

 

Government guidance for education institutions

The full government guidance can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/16-to-19-bursary-fund-guide-2019-to-2020-academic-year

The guide is for all institutions that administer the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund. This includes schools, academies, further education (FE) colleges, sixth-form colleges, training providers, specialist independent providers and local authorities.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) encourages institutions to pay bursaries in-kind rather than cash as far as possible. This helps ensure that the bursary is spent for the reasons it was awarded. In-kind payments can include travel passes, vouchers or credits for meals, required books and required equipment.

Where schools and colleges make in-kind payments to students they should explain to the student the value of the payments and how these have been deducted from their total bursary award.

Where schools and colleges make bursary fund payments to students rather than providing support in-kind, it is good practice to pay the funding by BACS transfer to the student’s own bank account.

Schools and colleges who have not received or applied for a discretionary bursary allocation in the 2019 to 2020 academic year may submit a funding claim for bursaries for vulnerable groups if they have eligible students.

Placements in independent provision

The guidance has recently been updated concerning independent placements.  The independent education placement must verify that students meet the criteria and are eligible for a bursary for vulnerable groups. Once they are satisfied the student is eligible, they should contact the relevant local authority. The local authority cannot submit a funding claim without formal confirmation of eligibility from the institution. The school or college can provide confirmation by sending the local authority a copy of the evidence they have seen or by setting out in writing/by e-mail to the local authority that they have seen evidence to confirm eligibility.

 

Questions and further information on bursary funding?

You can contact the ESFA if you have questions or would like further information about bursary funding https://www.gov.uk/guidance/16-to-19-bursary-fund-guide-2019-to-2020-academic-year#how-to-ask-a-question-about-the-16-to-19-bursary-fund

 

We thank you for your support in this matter.

 

Sarah Callaghan

Service Director for Education

Buckinghamshire County Council