School transport

This fact sheet is aimed mainly at parents who have been refused help from the council with their child’s transport costs to school and may be considering making a complaint to the Ombudsman.

I have been refused help with my child’s transport costs to school. Can I complain to the Ombudsman?

Yes, in some circumstances. The Ombudsman cannot question the council’s decision, if it took the decision properly and fairly. But we can consider your complaint if you think you were refused help unfairly, or because of a mistake, or because your request for help was not handled correctly. 

You can complain to the Ombudsman if your child goes to a 'qualifying school'. We cannot deal with complaints about transport to an independent (private) school, unless it is named in your child’s Education, Health and Care Plan.

How do I complain?

You should complete the council's Home to School Travel and Transport Review/Appeals process first. You will usually have to complete all review stages before we will look at your complaint.

Then, if you are unhappy with the outcome, or the council is taking too long to look into the matter – it may take about 12-16 weeks – you can complain to us.

You should normally make your complaint to us within 12 months of realising that the council has done something wrong.

For more information on how to complain, please read our step by step process.

If you can consider my complaint what will the Ombudsman look for?

We consider whether the council has done something wrong in the way it went about dealing with your application for help. Some of the issues we can look at are that:

  • the council’s policy for providing help with transport is not objective, clear and fair
  • the council failed to apply their policy properly or fairly
  • the council did not take relevant information into account in reaching its decision, or took irrelevant information into account, or
  • the council delayed dealing with your application for help.

What happens if the Ombudsman finds that the council was at fault?

If we find that something has gone wrong in the way your application was dealt with that might have affected the decision, we may:

  • ask the council to review its decision
  • ask the council to reimburse travel costs you have already incurred, and/or
  • recommend that the council reviews its policy and/or procedures, so that the problems you experienced don’t keep happening to other parents.

What if my child has special educational needs?

The council may have responsibilities for helping with home to school transport where a child has special educational needs, whether there is an Education, Health and Care Plan or not. We can usually consider complaints where special educational needs are involved.

Examples of some complaints we have considered

Mr X complained the council refused to provide home to school transport for his child, who had an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan, because they were not attending the nearest suitable school. Both Mr X’s choice of school and the nearer school were mainstream schools over three miles from home. Mr X said the council should have compared the cost of the two placements, including special educational provision and transport costs, and provided transport to his choice provided this was not an inefficient use of resources. We agreed. This comparison is known as the ‘Dudley test’ and applies to children with EHC plans. We found the council was at fault in failing to apply this test. The council apologised and reviewed its decision. This led to Mr X being provided with free home to school transport. The council refunded Mr X for past expenses for the period he was wrongly without transport. The Council reviewed its policy and training and carried out a review to check if other families had been similarly affected.
Mrs Y complained the home to school transport arrangements the council put in place for her child were unsuitable as they failed to consider the safety of the route to the boarding/alighting point for the school bus. Mrs Y said her chid had to walk along a busy main road which had no footpath. The council relied on a blanket policy that parents were responsible for getting their child to the boarding point. We found that where a child was eligible for free home to school transport, the council was responsible for ensuring the entirety of the route was suitable. This required it to consider individual circumstances including if a route to a boarding point was safe to walk if the child was accompanied and, if so, whether it was reasonably practicable for parents to accompany the child. The council agreed to make a financial payment to acknowledge the distress caused to Mrs Y that her case had not been correctly considered. It also reviewed its policy and shared learning from its review to prevent a recurrence of the fault.
Mrs Z complained about the council’s decision to refuse her child post-16 home to college transport. The council decided Mrs Z’s child was capable of independent travel and considered that, despite living rurally and having an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan, it was reasonable to expect the family to make their own arrangements and it was not necessary for the council to do so. The parents were self-employed, and the council considered it was reasonable for one parent to leave work to drop the young person at college or a bus stop. We found no evidence of fault in the way the council had considered the application or appeal, it had considered relevant law and guidance as well as the family’s individual circumstances.

Other sources of information

For information about whether your child is likely to qualify for school transport, plus access to your education authority’s information about school transport go to

Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA) have some specific guidance on their website at

Our fact sheets give some general information about the most common type of complaints we receive but they cannot cover every situation. If you are not sure whether we can look into your complaint, please contact us.

We provide a free, independent and impartial service. We consider complaints about the administrative actions of councils and some other authorities. We cannot question what a council has done simply because someone does not agree with it. If we find something has gone wrong, such as poor service, service failure, delay or bad advice and that a person has suffered as a result we aim to get it put right by recommending a suitable remedy.

June 2023

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