Optimise School Bus Services

DEVIZES,WILTSHIRE

 Local authorities  have statutory obligations to provide school transport for eligible pupils. Eligibility is defined by criteria based on age, distance away from school and safety of the route. The school transport policy that defines this criteria has not been updated in any meaningful way since it was first drafted in 1944, rendering it in urgent need of modernisation.

Local authorities spend over £1.7bn a year on school bus services and taxis to meet the above obligations. However due to the outdated policy and budgetary constraints, their transport provisions often do not meet modern parental expectations. This results in many buses, whilst showing as full on paper due to parents taking up their free entitlement, running over half empty.

 

See an example of how HomeRun helped identify such a case below:

COMMUTE FOOTPRINT

AVG. JOURNEY DISTANCE

 2.16 MILES 

PUPILS ELIGIBLE

FOR SUBSIDISED BUS

93 PUPILS 

ELIGIBLE PUPILS TRAVELLING BY CAR

63 PUPILS

AVG. BUS UTILISATION RATE

45 % 

Only 33% of pupils registered for the subsidised bus route, regularly use the service.

Each subsidised seat on the bus costs the local authority £700-£900 per annum.

 

In addition to taking up bus passes, eligible pupils driven by private cars to this school are significantly increasing congestion on the bus route.

KEY CONCLUSIONS

Local authorities find themselves caught between an outdated school transport policy and disengaged schools over whom they have little to no influence. The push for Academies has exacerbated this and led to the provision of transport services being aimed at ticking 'checking-boxes' over providing real benefits.

Most parents exercise their entitlement to a free school transport pass. However, as many school transport services do not meet modern parental expectations regarding safety, convenience and scheduling, these passes often do not get utilised regularly. This leads to systemic budget inefficiencies.

The current school transport policy is based on the assertion that children can be expected to walk up to 3 miles to school. This has led to many inequitable scenarios that local authorities have tried to mitigate through the provision of discretionary services. Budgetary constraints are leading to these being cut. 

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