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Special Educational needs and school transport

View profile for Nathan Davies
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A recent article has highlighted the significant problems that parents face with school transport for their disabled children.

Brandon Presley, from Torbay in Devon, has profound learning disabilities and travels to school on the privately-operated council-funded minibus with his classmates every morning. Such an arrangement is highly likely to be through his statement of special educational needs or EHCP. In essence what happened is that Brandon was left abandoned all day after it was not noticed that he was left on the bus when it returned to the depot. Brandon was strapped into his car seat so could not exit the bus and was stuck for 5 hours in the minibus storage building until the driver returned.

Naturally Brandon’s parents were horrified by this situation which was fully investigated and the school supervisor apparently lost their job. The taxi driver however continues to be employed and quite remarkably recently Brandon’s mother received a phone call from Torbay Council children’s transport division who asked if it was ok for the same driver to come and pick Brandon up to take him to school. The obvious answer was no.

This whole situation reveals an alarming truth with special educational needs and school transport. The law states that children with autism or other disabilities must be provided with ‘suitable transport.’ Different pieces of legislation affect England and Wales but in essence what is suitable is an issue that our specialist education law solicitor team frequently has to assist with. Children with autism often require stability; do not like change and struggle with strangers. Whilst the responsibility is upon the child’s local education authority to provide suitable transport they rarely do this themselves for specialist routes. So they engage a taxi company.

Our education lawyers are often contacted by previous clients who have been successful with an SEN tribunal appeal to secure their child’s attendance at a specialist school but who are frustrated that the beginning and end of their child’s school day is disrupted by inconsistent arrangements.

Whilst the interpretation of what is ‘suitable’ for a child in terms of transport can be argued it is clear that disabled children must be treated with dignity and respect. Furthermore their education will suffer if they are distressed already before even arriving at school. If you need specialist education law advice about school transport then please do contact our Education Law Department on 02920 291704.