How does free school transport work? All the rules explained

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With rules changing often and guidelines sometimes complex, figuring out who is entitled to free school transport can be difficult. Everything depends on where the child lives, whether the route is safe, if they have additional needs, and even religion and belief. Schools and parents need clear information on which children should be receiving free bus travel, so here are the entitlements and the children who get them.

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The rule for all

Every child between 5 and 16 years old is entitled to free transport if they meet certain requirements. If they live at least 2 miles from school and are 8 years old or younger; or if they live 3 or more miles from school and are 8 or older. 2 and 3 miles are the walking distances considered acceptable – but only if the route is safe and there are no other schools that are closer to home.

If the route isn’t safe – if it has no pavement or safe places to cross roads, for example – then the child gets free transport, no matter how close they are to the school.

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Low income

If you’re on a low income, your child gets free transport if they’re 8-11 years old and the school is over 2 miles away, or if they’re 11-16 and the school is over 3 miles away – but only if there are no closer schools. This also applies to religious belief. If there aren’t any suitable schools within 3 miles, children from low income families will receive transport based on their needs.

SEND Children – Children with special educational needs and disabilities

All SEND children get free transport to school, if their needs or disability limit their mobility or ability to walk the distance needed. There are plans, however, to remove this support once the child reaches 16 years old.

Coordinating buses for children, including those who require special modes of transport, can be helped with a school bus booking and management system like, and councils up and down the country all have their own way of managing how children get to school.

To clear up any more confusion, or if you have any questions about how free transport works in your area, the local council will be able to help.

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