|Education And Inspections Bill - continued||House of Commons|
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PART 6: SCHOOL TRAVEL AND SCHOOL MEALS
Clause 63: LEAs in England: duty to promote sustainable modes of travel etc
286. This clause inserts a new section 508A in the 1996 Act. Section 508A places a general duty on LEAs in England to assess the school travel needs of their area, and to promote the use of sustainable modes of travel.
287. Subsection (1) requires LEAs to prepare and publish a sustainable modes of travel strategy, and to promote the use of sustainable modes of travel. The school travel strategy refers to journeys undertaken to and from school, and to journeys between schools and to and from other educational institutions.
288. Subsection (2) requires LEAs to prepare an assessment of the school travel needs of their area, and conduct an audit of the sustainable travel and transport infrastructure within their authority. This infrastructure may serve the needs of children resident and receiving education in the same authority; resident in, but receiving education in another authority; or not resident in the authority, but travelling through the authority to receive education in another authority.
289. "Sustainable modes of travel" are defined in subsection (3) as modes of travel that improve the physical well-being of those who use them and/or the environmental well-being of the whole or a part of the area. Physical well-being relates mainly to health benefits - for example, benefits derived from walking or cycling to school. Environmental well-being could be improved by, for example, the reduced use of cars to take children to schools.
290. The assessment is of the needs of children below the age of 16 (including those below compulsory school age) and persons of sixth form age (broadly, 16 to 19) travelling to, from, or between any school (including a nursery school or independent school), institution (including a further education institution) or other place at which children or persons of sixth form age receive education by virtue of arrangements under section 19(1) of the 1996 Act). The assessment must be carried out annually. Details of how the assessment is to be carried out will be included in guidance to be issued by the Secretary of State.
291. Subsections (4), (5) and (6) mean that the assessment of children's travel needs relates to both children resident and receiving education in an authority's area; and to those resident in another authority, but where travel to and from the schools and other places at which they receive education includes travel within the authority's area. This means that cross-border travel arrangements are considered in the strategy.
Clause 64: LEAs in England: provision of travel arrangements etc for children
292. Subsection (1) inserts new sections 508B, 508C, and 508D in the 1996 Act.
293. Section 508B places a duty on local education authorities in England relating to home to school travel arrangements for "eligible children". "Eligible children" are defined in Schedule 35B (see below).
294. Section 508B(1) requires local education authorities to ensure that suitable travel arrangements for "eligible children" in their area are made where they consider it necessary to facilitate their attendance at relevant educational establishments, which are defined in subsection (10). Travel arrangements may be made by the authority itself, or by any other body or person (such as a local transport body, or a school); but whoever makes the arrangements, they must be free of charge (see also subsections (6), (7) and (8)). For example, in London, Transport for London provides free bus passes for all children under the age of 16, and in most circumstances, London local education authorities may therefore consider that they do not need to make any additional arrangements for the majority of the children living in their area. Similarly a school might reach an agreement with a local education authority to make transport arrangements, or a parent might consent to use of his or her car in return for a mileage allowance. Such arrangements might mean that the local education authority had ensured that suitable arrangements had been made.
295. Section 508B(2) means that, where a body or person (other than the local education authority) has put in place arrangements that taken together do not provide suitable travel arrangements, then the local education authority are required by subsection (1) to make travel arrangements in order to secure that suitable travel arrangements are made. The type of arrangements that might not be considered to provide suitable travel arrangements might be arrangements where an eligible child is expected to make several changes of public service bus to get to school, resulting in an unreasonably long journey time; or where he is expected to walk an unreasonably long distance to catch a public service bus to school. The suitability of arrangements will depend on a number of factors, and the Secretary of State will include in guidance under section 508D a range of factors for local education authorities to take into account when considering the suitability of travel arrangements.
296. Section 508B(3) means that the duty applies to "home to school to home" travel arrangements, and not travel between educational institutions.
297. Section 508B(4) sets out a non-exhaustive definition of "travel arrangements". These may include the provision of a seat on a bus provided by the local education authority; the provision of a bus pass on a public service bus; provision of an escort; mileage allowances for travel by car; cycling allowances; and so on. Further details will be provided in guidance issued by the Secretary of State. This subsection also explains that certain arrangements will only count if they are made with parental consent, for example, the payment of a cycling allowance or mileage allowance.
298. Section 508B(5) means that a local education authority cannot conclude that, merely because a parent has a car and could drive his or her child to school, the local education authority will not be under a duty to make arrangements. If a parent wishes to drive his or her child to school in lieu of the local education authority making travel arrangements, the parent can do so, but such arrangements can only be entered into voluntarily.
299. Section 508B(6) to (8) means that, for example, travel arrangements cannot be considered to have been provided free of charge if the parent of a child has to pay for a smart card (such as an Oyster card) that facilitates free travel.
300. Section 508B(10) defines "relevant educational establishment" in relation to "eligible children". The "relevant educational establishments" are either 'qualifying schools' which are listed at paragraph 14 of Schedule 35B, or places (other than schools) where a child is receiving education by virtue of arrangements made under section 19(1) of the 1996 Act.
301. Section 508B(11) allows for regulations to be made to modify the application of section 508B(1) and (2) in relation to the small number of eligible children receiving education at more than one relevant educational establishment. For example, children of no fixed abode might be registered at more than one school, and other children may be registered at a hospital school and another school, etc.
302. Section 508C provides local education authorities with discretionary powers to make arrangements for children who are not 'eligible children' under section 508B.
303. Section 508C(1) to (3) provides a power for local education authorities to make travel arrangements to facilitate attendance for children not meeting the definition of 'eligible children' in Schedule 35B. For example, local education authorities may wish to make travel arrangements for children, attending schools preferred on strong religious or philosophical grounds, or for children below compulsory school age or living within statutory walking distance. Statutory walking distance is defined in section 444(5) of the 1996 Act as meaning (a) in relation to a child who is under the age of eight, two miles and (b) in relation to child who has attained the age of eight, three miles, in each case measured by the nearest available route. Many local education authorities have made such arrangements for many years and this power will enable them to continue to make such arrangements.
304. By contrast with section 508B, there is no requirement for these discretionary arrangements under section 508C to be provided free of charge.
305. Section 508C(5) provides a power for local education authorities to pay all or part of the reasonable travel expenses of children who have not had travel arrangements made under subsection (1). This is similar to the existing power under section 509(3) of the 1996 Act.
306. Section 508D requires the Secretary of State to issue guidance to local education authorities relating to the discharge of their duties and powers contained in sections 508B and 508C, and for local education authorities to have regard to such guidance. This section also provides that regulations may require local education authorities to publish information relating to the discharge of their functions under sections 508B or 508C.
307. Subsection (2) of clause 65 introduces Schedule 8.
Schedule 8: Travel to schools etc: meaning of eligible child
308. Schedule 8 inserts Schedule 35B after Schedule 35A to the 1996 Act.
309. Schedule 35B defines "eligible children" for the purposes of section 508B, being those categories of children in the area of a local education authority for whom the authority is required to ensure that suitable home to school travel arrangements are made under that section. A condition of each category is that an eligible child is of compulsory school age.
310. Paragraphs 2 and 3 provide that one category of "eligible children" is children with special educational needs, a disability, a temporary medical condition restricting their mobility, or any combination of these. Where such children cannot reasonably be expected to walk to the "qualifying school" at which they are registered, or any other place at which they are receiving education by virtue of arrangements under section 19(1) of the 1996 Act, and where those children meet the other requirements set out in paragraph 2 and 3 (as the case may be), the local education authority will be under a duty to secure that suitable home to school travel arrangements are made for them.
311. Two of the requirements in paragraph 2 are that the qualifying school at which the child is registered must be within walking distance of his or her home; and that the local education authority has not made suitable arrangements for him or her to become a registered pupil at a qualifying school nearer to his or her home. Those requirements do not, however, apply in the case of a child who is receiving education at a place other than a school.
312. Paragraphs 4 and 5 provide for another category of "eligible children". Where children, who meet the other requirements of paragraphs 4 and 5, could not reasonably be expected to walk to a qualifying school at which they are registered pupils or any other place at which they receive education by virtue of arrangements under section 19(1) of the 1996 Act, having regard to the nature of the routes which they could reasonably be expected to take, the local education authority will be under a duty to secure that suitable home to school travel arrangements are made for them.
313. Two of the requirements in paragraph 4 are that the qualifying school at which the child is registered must be within walking distance of his or her home; and that the local education authority has not made suitable arrangements for him or her to become a registered pupil at a qualifying school nearer to his or her home. Those requirements do not, however, apply in the case of a child who is receiving education at a place other than a school.
314. Paragraphs 6 and 7 provide that a further category of "eligible children" is children living outside walking distance of the qualifying school or other place which they attend for whom the local education authority has made no suitable alternative arrangements for them to have boarding accommodation at or near the school or for enabling them to become registered pupils at a qualifying school nearer to their home.
315. In the case of such children, the local education authority will be under a duty to secure that suitable home to school travel arrangements are made for them.
316. Paragraph 8 relates to pupils registered at a school, but attending a place other than a school, following their exclusion from the school. In such circumstances, the duty to make travel arrangements will apply to the other place rather than the school.
317. Paragraphs 9 to 12 provide that certain children who meet the requirements of those paragraphs and the "appropriate condition" contained in paragraph 13 are also "eligible children".
318. Paragraphs 9 and 10 relate to children who have attained the age of 8 but not the age of 11.
319. Under paragraph 9, where such a child is a registered pupil at a qualifying school which is more than two miles from his home and no suitable arrangements have been made by the local education authority for enabling him to become a registered pupil at a qualifying school nearer to his home, if the "appropriate condition" (set out in paragraph 13) is met, the local education authority will be under a duty to secure that suitable home to school travel arrangements are made for him or her.
320. Under paragraph 10, where such a child is receiving education at a place (other than a school) by virtue of arrangements under section 19(1) of the 1996 Act, which is more than two miles from his home, if the "appropriate condition" (set out in paragraph 13) is met, the local education authority will be under a duty to secure that suitable home to school travel arrangements are made for him or her.
321. Paragraphs 11 and 12 relate to children who have attained the age of 11.
322. Paragraph 11 has the effect that a local education authority will be under a duty to secure that suitable home to school travel arrangements are made for such a child where he or she is a registered pupil at a qualifying school which is more than two miles, but not more than six miles, from his or her home, there are not three or more suitable qualifying schools which are nearer to his or her home and the "appropriate condition" (set out in paragraph 13) is met.
323. Paragraph 12 has the effect that where such a child is receiving education at a place (other than a school) by virtue of arrangements under section 19(1) of the 1996 Act, which is more than two miles, but not more than six miles, from his or her home, and the "appropriate condition" (set out in paragraph 13) is met, the local education authority will be under a duty to secure that suitable home to school travel arrangements are made.
324. Paragraph 13 provides that the "appropriate condition" for the purposes of paragraphs 9 to 12 is met if either (a) the child is within section 512ZB(4) of the 1996 Act (provision of free school meals) or (b) a parent of the child, with whom the child is ordinarily resident, is a person to whom working tax credit is awarded and the award is at the rate which is the maximum rate for his case or, in the case of an award to him jointly with another, at the rate which is the maximum rate for their case.
Clause 65: LEAs in England school travel schemes
325. Subsection (1) inserts a new section 508E into the 1996 Act.
326. Section 508E gives effect to new Schedule 35C to the 1996 Act, which allows local education authorities in England to make school travel schemes covering home to school travel arrangements for pupils of compulsory school age or below. Where such a scheme is in force the local education authority must give effect to it and has no functions under new sections 508B and 508C of the 1996 Act (as inserted by clause 64) in respect of children covered by the scheme.
327. In putting their schemes into effect, local education authorities must have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State.
328. Subsection (2) of clause 65 introduces Schedule 9.
Schedule 9: School Travel Schemes
329. This inserts a new Schedule 35C into the 1996 Act.
330. Paragraph 1 allows individual local education authorities in England to make school travel schemes for their area. If two or more local education authorities want to work together, they must each make a scheme for their own area, operating in a coordinated way. Schemes made by local education authorities will only come into effect if approved by the Secretary of State under paragraph 10. Before a local education authority submits a scheme application, it must consult as necessary on the proposals included in the scheme (details of the consultation process will be included in guidance).
331. Paragraph 2(1) requires school travel schemes to set out in general terms the type of travel arrangements the "scheme authority" (that is, the local education authority making the scheme) considers appropriate for children attending schools (including PRUs), further education institutions, or any other place where exceptional arrangements for education are made.
332. Paragraph 2(2) provides that the type of travel arrangements to be set out under paragraph 2(1) are either arrangements to be made by the scheme authority or arrangements to be made by any other person or both.
333. Paragraph 2(3) explains that school travel schemes may cover not only the provision of transport, but also other arrangements such as measures to make walking and cycling all or part of a route to school more attractive. A school travel scheme may include provisions for complete or partial reimbursement of travelling expenses, for example providing a travel card on public transport, mileage allowances for parents conveying pupils to school in remote rural areas, or a contribution towards the cost of cycle equipment. This mirrors the arrangements set out in section 508B.
334. Paragraph 2(5) provides that where arrangements contained in the scheme are to be made by any person other than the scheme authority, but are not made or are so made but do not comply with the requirements of the scheme, the scheme authority must make suitable alternative arrangements.
335. Paragraphs 3 and 4 deal with arrangements that must be made for 'eligible children' (such children being of compulsory school age) and draws on Schedule 35B to the 1996 Act (see the notes above relating to Schedule 35B). The duty in relation to such eligible children mirrors the duty under section 508B(1) (save for the requirement in that provision that the travel arrangements are provided free of charge).
336. Paragraph 5 and 6 require the scheme to set out a charging policy. No charge may be made under the scheme for travel arrangements for 'protected children'.
337. Paragraph 6 defines "protected children" as children of compulsory school age who: have special educational needs and/or a disability and/or mobility problem which prevent them from walking even short distances; or who are from low income families; or who can not reasonably be expected to walk to school in reasonable safety because of the nature of the route(s) to their school.
338. Paragraph 7 means that charging policies must not discriminate against children with special educational needs and/or a disability and/or mobility problem: where charges are permitted, these must be no more than those applied to their counterparts who do not have special educational needs, a disability, or a mobility problem.
339. Paragraph 8 allows for unpaid charges in respect of anything provided by the scheme authority in pursuance of arrangements made by them to be recovered as a civil debt.
340. Paragraph 9 specifies that where a parent or child incurs expenditure as a consequence of a school travel scheme, the expenditure must be reimbursed by the scheme authority in the case of a protected child.
341. Paragraph 10 requires schemes to be approved by the Secretary of State before they come into force.
342. Paragraph 11 allows scheme authorities to amend or revoke school travel schemes. Whilst they may revoke schemes unilaterally, permission must be sought from the Secretary of State before schemes are amended. Once approved, amendments must be put into effect by the scheme authority.
343. Paragraph 12 requires local authorities to provide such information as is required by the Secretary of State to facilitate the monitoring and evaluation of schemes.
344. Paragraph 13 makes provision for the Secretary of State to issue and revise guidance relating to school travel schemes, and for the Secretary of State to consult as necessary before issuing or revising such guidance.
Clause 66: Piloting of school travel scheme provisions
345. This clause provides that the new provisions inserted by clause 65 of and Schedule 9 to the Bill must be piloted in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State. Subsection (2) provides that such regulations may impose a limit on the number of school travel schemes that can be in force while the new provisions are being piloted. It is currently anticipated that regulations will impose a limit of 20 school travel schemes in England. The number of pilots can be expanded, through secondary legislation, if demand from LEAs proves high.
Clause 67: Power to repeal school travel scheme provisions etc
346. This clause requires the Secretary of State to prepare and publish an evaluation of schemes. Such an evaluation must be undertaken and published before 1 January 2012. The clause also gives power to the Secretary of State to provide by order that the new provisions will cease to have effect. Such an order may contain transitional
provisions and is subject to the requirement of the approval of both Houses of Parliament.
347. Subsections (3) and (4) provide that the earliest and latest dates on which the new provisions could cease to have effect are 1 August 2012 and 1 August 2015 respectively.
348. It is envisaged that an order under this clause would be made if, as a result of the piloting of the new provisions under clause 66, those provisions are not considered to be a success. If an order is not made, the new provisions will continue after the pilot is completed and there would then be no limit on the number of participating local education authorities.
Clause 68: LEAs in England: provision of transport etc for certain adult learners
349. This clause inserts a new section 508F into the 1996 Act. That section deals with a small number of adults who currently benefit from transport arrangements made by local education authorities under section 509 of the 1996 Act.
350. This section ensures that local education authorities can continue to make such arrangements, as section 509 of the Act will no longer apply in England.
Clause 69: Amendment of Section 444 EA 1996
351. Section 444 of the 1996 Act outlines the situations in which a parent may have a defence in law against a prosecution by a local education authority for their child's non-attendance at school. Section 444(4) provides a parent with a defence if he proves that the school at which the child is a registered pupil is not within statutory walking distance and, where the child is not a boarder, no suitable arrangements have been made by the local education authority for his transport to and from the school or for enabling the child to become a registered pupil at a school nearer to his home.
352. This clause amends section 444 by inserting new subsections (3A) to (3D), which are intended to make it clear that in England:
Clause 70: Learning and Skills Council for England: transport etc for persons of sixth form age
353. The amendments made by this clause aim to transfer greater responsibility from the Secretary of State for Education and Skills to the Learning and Skills Council for England (the LSC) in relation to the provision of transport by local education authorities and their partners for 16 - 19 year olds. This provision enables young learners to get from home to their place of learning e.g. school or college.
354. The changes will make the LSC responsible for managing operational arrangements including issuing guidance to local education authorities on how they should develop transport policy statements under section 509AA of the 1996 Act; dealing with case work and queries from students and parents; and liaising with local education authorities where their local policies are challenged. The LSC will also offer advice to the Secretary of State where there may be a case for her to consider directing local education authorities to improve the arrangements set out in their transport policy statements.
355. These functions are currently provided under sections 509AA to 509AC of the 1996 Act. The measures provided for in this clause are intended to ensure that transport services continue to be available but that they are managed more efficiently in the learner support unit at the LSC. This will allow the Department to continue the transfer of the management of learner support to the LSC as recommended in the Department's efficiency scrutiny.
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