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Home to School Transport

Message to families of children and young people who use Birmingham Council’s SEND Home to School Transport service 17.09.20

Dear parent
I am writing to update you on the current situation with our SEND home to school transport service and how we are working hard to improve things. 


Firstly, I want to apologise to children, families and schools who have been let down by this service. We know that, in some instances, we have not got this right and have not delivered the high quality service expected by parents and schools.  It is no excuse but this start to the autumn term is, of course, unlike any other we have experienced. We have introduced a new transport model and the COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented additional pressures on the service.   


Cancellations to bus routes
Each day around 4% of the 757 bus routes we are running have been cancelled at short notice by our main transport provider, National Express Accessible Transport (NEAT), for a number of different reasons. In some instances, this information was not communicated to parents and schools and we are very sorry for any anxiety this has caused. As a result, we are putting measures in place to help make sure that parents and schools are notified as soon as possible if there are any changes to a child’s transport. The Travel Assist team are also in daily contact with schools and transport providers to quickly identify any issues and put alternative plans in place, wherever possible. 


COVID-19 safety measures 
Please be assured that safety is our top priority.  We have put in place COVID-19 safety measures so that we can safely transport around 6,000 children and young people to and from school. This has included carrying out risk assessments and providing PPE on all vehicles.  All children are transported within their ‘bubbles’, as directed by each school. To cater for this, we have arranged an additional 173 routes, doubled the number of vehicles and are employing additional travel guides, where necessary. Over the coming weeks, we will be reminding providers of their contractual requirements to follow the guidance put in place and undertaking spot checks.  


Fuel allowance alternative
Unfortunately, we have to expect that sickness and self-isolation may cause further disruption to the service in the coming months as we manage further spikes. To help support the service during the pandemic, we are asking families, where possible, if they would prefer to transport their child to and from school and receive a fuel allowance to cover the costs. You can find out more about this option, and complete the form at: https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/downloads/file/17391


Contacting Travel Assist
I am sorry that some parents have had difficulty getting through to the Travel Assist phone line. We are currently dealing with a large number of enquiries and are working hard to respond to people as soon as possible. We have opened additional phone lines to accommodate more calls and are placing additional resources within the team. However, we are still having issues so the best way to get in touch with Travel Assist at the moment is via email at: travelassist@birmingham.gov.uk. We will provide further updates on this as soon as possible. 


Working within COVID-19 pandemic
Thank you for your patience as we work in these unprecedented times. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is an evolving situation, with government guidance changing regularly and often at the last minute.  We want to be transparent and we acknowledge that there may be further circumstances over the coming weeks and months which we will not be able to directly control. For example, drivers or guides may be off with illness which could lead to further disruption. Please be assured that we are putting measures in place to plan for this as best as we can, to make sure that children can continue to be safely transported to and from their school.


We are always keen to hear your feedback and are working closely with members of the Birmingham Parent Carer Forum to look at ways in which can continually improve the service.  We will keep you informed with regular updates over the coming weeks.   
 

With very best wishes

Nichola Jones 
Assistant Director Inclusion, SEND and Wellbeing


Home to school transport –Frequently Asked Questions 17.09.20

1.    What is the current situation with the home to school transport service has had some issues? 
Unfortunately, there have been some issues with the home to school transport service. In some instances, we have not got this right and have not delivered the high-quality service we would want to, or is expected by parents and schools and we are very sorry for that.  It is no excuse, but this start to the autumn term is, of course, unlike any other we have experienced. We have introduced a new transport model and the COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented additional pressures on the service.  


2.    What safety measures are in place during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Please be assured that safety is our top priority.  We have put in place COVID-19 safety measures so that we can safely transport around 6,000 children and young people to and from school. This has included carrying out risk assessments and providing PPE on all vehicles.  All children are transported within their ‘bubbles’, as directed by each school. To cater for this, we have arranged an additional 173 routes, doubled the number of vehicles and are employing additional travel guides, where necessary. Over the coming weeks, we will be reminding providers of their contractual requirements to follow the guidance put in place and undertaking spot checks.  Please email travelassist@birmingham.gov.uk if you have any concerns.  


3.    Are children spending longer on the buses than normal?
The government recommends that primary school age pupils spend a maximum of one hour on school transport per day and secondary school pupils travel for a maximum of one hour 15 minutes per day. In most cases we are meeting these recommendations, however some journeys are taking longer due to children having to travel within their bubbles or because of traffic congestion. Wherever possible we are striving to bring this travel time down by reassessing the bubble arrangements with schools and allocating additional guides and vehicles. If you have any concerns please email travelassist@birmingham.gov.uk 


4.    What are the social distancing rules on the buses?
The number of pupils on each bus varies depending on the size of the vehicle and the size of their bubble, which is identified by each school. We are following the government guidance which states that social distancing of one metre plus should be observed on transport for children aged 12 and over.  Children under 11 are not required to social distance at present.  If you have any concerns about this, please inform your school in the first instance, who will discuss the matter with Travel Assist.


5.    Is it compulsory for drivers to wear face masks? 
Yes. Face masks must be worn by all drivers and travel guides. However, it is not possible to monitor this on every route. If a driver is seen not wearing a face mask, please report it to Travel Assist by emailing travelassist@birmingham.gov.uk 


6.    I have had trouble getting through to the Travel Assist phone number. Who should I contact about my child’s transport? 
We are sorry that some parents have had difficulty getting through to the Travel Assist phone line. We are currently dealing with a large number of enquiries and are working hard to respond to people as soon as possible. 
At the moment, the best way to get in touch with Travel Assist is by emailing travelassist@birmingham.gov.uk 


7.    What are you doing to improve the situation with the phone lines?
We have opened additional phone lines in order to accommodate more calls and are placing additional resources within the team to handle the high volume of calls. We are also looking at ways in which we can make better use of the Contact Centre.  As we are currently still experiencing issues, the best way to get in touch with Travel Assist is by emailing travelassist@birmingham.gov.uk. We will provide further updates on this as soon as possible. 


8.    Have some buses had to be cancelled and are parents being notified? 
Unfortunately, yes. During the first few days of the autumn term, around 4% of the 757 bus routes we are running have been cancelled at short notice by our main transport provider, National Express Accessible Transport (NEAT), for several different reasons. 
In some instances, this information was not communicated to parents and schools and we are very sorry for any anxiety this has caused.  As a result, we are putting measures in place to help make sure that parents and schools are notified as soon as possible if there are any changes to a child’s transport. The Travel Assist team are also in daily contact with schools and transport providers to quickly identify any issues and put alternative plans in place, wherever possible. 


9.    Are you using replacement drivers as this can create problems for some children? 
Wherever possible, we always strive to keep the same driver for each route. However, in order to safely transport children and young people to and from school within their bubbles, we have had to arrange an additional 173 routes. This has meant that, in some instances, we have had to employ some new drivers. Also, if a driver or guide is off due to illness then they will need to be replaced, sometimes at short notice, in order for the transport service to go ahead. 


10.    Do you have enough guides so that children can get home from school? 
We are working hard to ensure there are sufficient transport guides for all routes and have not had any reports of guide shortages. In the coming weeks and months as we continue to work around the COVID-19 pandemic, we have to expect that there will be some sickness absence and therefore it may not always be the same guide who transports your child to and from school. 
Please let Travel Assist know if you have any issues with guides. We have to expect that sickness and self-isolation may cause further disruption to the service in the coming months as we manage further spikes. We are therefore asking families, where possible, to consider using the fuel allowance option to help support the service during the pandemic (see question 12).


11.    What reassurances can you give to parents about home to school transport in the current situation?
Unfortunately, COVID-19 is an evolving situation, with government guidance changing regularly and often at the last minute.  We want to be transparent and we acknowledge that there may be further circumstances over the coming weeks and months which we will not be able to directly control. For example, drivers or guides may be off with illness which could lead to further disruption. Please be assured that we are putting measures in place to plan for this as best as we can, to make sure that children can continue to be safely transported to and from their school. We thank you for your patience as we work in these unprecedented times.


12.    What alternative is there to using the home to school transport service?
As an alternative during the Autumn term we are asking parents if they would prefer to transport their child to and from school and receive a fuel allowance to cover the costs. The allowance is 45p per mile for two return journeys to and from school. For example, if your home to your child’s school is 6 miles each way, the allowance would be 4 x 6 = 24 miles, which equates to £10.80 per day. 
If you choose to take up this offer it will not affect your statutory rights to transport provision and your child’s transport can be reinstated at any time – we would just ask that you give at least one weeks’ notice for this. Please note that the offer of fuel allowance is a temporary arrangement that will be reviewed at the end of the Autumn term. If you are interested in this option, please visit 
https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/school_transport_september_2020  and complete the Fuel Allowance form.

13.    How are you taking on board views of parents?
We are always keen to hear your feedback and are working closely with members of the Birmingham Parent Carer Forum to look at ways in which can continually improve the service.  We will keep you informed with regular updates over the coming weeks.   
 


In this section of the website, you can also find out about home to school transport support, if support is available for your child or young person and how to apply. 


Travel to school or college
Most children get to school with their parents or carers, or on their own if they’re older. This may not be possible for some children or young people because: 


Children and young people with Special Educational Needs
If your child or young person has Special Educational Needs or a Disability (SEND) and has an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan,  or other specified needs, you can apply for free school travel assistance to help them to get to their nearest school or college by using the forms below.

Application for Travel Assistance: Pupils below Compulsory School Age (0-4)

Application for Travel Assistance: Pupils of Compulsory Age (Reception - Year 11)

Application for Travel Assistance: Young Persons of Sixth Form Age (16-18)

Application for Travel Assistance: Adults 19+


How we can help
Your child or young person with SEND may be entitled to financial or practical help with getting to their nearest suitable school. This can also help them to be more independent to get around the city and beyond. This help includes:

Personal travel budget 

A personal travel budget is a payment that you can use for your child or young person's school travel. 

Some colleges and voluntary organisations offer travel training to help young people over 16 to use public transport independently. Their suitability for travel training will be assessed before a decision is made. 

If you choose to send your child to a school that isn’t the nearest suitable one, you’ll usually be responsible for travel arrangements and costs. 

Other support available for travel

Travelling by bus

You can apply for a disabled young persons or disabled persons bus pass or a companion bus pass if your child is unable to travel without help.

Travelling by train

Your child may qualify for a disabled persons rail card that can get you a third off rail travel throughout the country. Find out more here

Disabled parking and Blue Badges 

If you are driving your child or young person then you can apply for a Blue Badge to help you park closer to your destination. Find out more here


Contact us
For general enquiries or to give feedback about your child or young person’s transport service, please contact the Home to School Transport service Monday to Friday, 7:00am - 5.30pm.

Phone: 0121 303 4955

Email: travelassist@birmingham.gov.uk


More information

For more information read our Parents Transport Guide 

Parents Transport Guide (PDF Version)

You can read our Home to School Transport newsletters here

Autumn Term Home to School Transport - September 2020 (Word Version)

Autumn Term Home to School Transport - August 2020 (Word Version)

Home to School Transport Newsletter Issue 2 March 2020 (PDF Version)

Home to School Transport Newsletter Issue 2 March 2020 (Word Version)

    • their school is too far away,

    • they’re unable to walk,

    • they cannot walk to school, even though it is within the normal walking distance of two miles (if aged 5 -7) or three miles (if aged 8 or over),

    • they’re not able to use public transport in the same way as other children,

    • they attend a school where there are no arrangements for boarding at or near the school,

    • their religion or belief means that the nearest suitable school is outside the distances.

    • a bus pass or discounted rail card,

    • Independent Travel Training,

    • providing a school bus, minibus or taxi service,

    • providing an escort to walk your child to school,

    • school travel assistance, 

    • a personal travel budget.

 


Helpful documents
 

You can find all the documents that you may need to apply for different types of support here.

Find a document.

Fancy document image
 

SEND Guide [PDF version]

SEND Guide [Word version]

Do you have a question?

Check out our FAQs page

Check out our Terminology Guide