Review of Home to School Transport

There are now approximately 84,000 pupils eligible for transport assistance in Northern Ireland. This means that roughly 26% of school pupils is being transported to and from school every day at a cost of nearly £81m per year.

The current home to school transport policy has remained largely unchanged for over 20 years. In this time period there have been significant changes in the educational landscape and the needs of children and young people.  This, coupled with the challenging financial climate in which we are now operating, means that the Department needs to consider if we can continue to do things in the same way.

The Home to School Transport Review Project will therefore explore if there are more efficient and effective ways of providing transport assistance to pupils.  There is no agenda or preferred option for how home to school transport should be provided in the future, other than any changes must fit with the Department’s wider education objectives and be sustainable in the long term.  The review will therefore consider a broad range of options and not all options would result in a reduction in expenditure or the number of pupils in receipt of transport.  It will also consider how any revised policy could contribute to a range of draft Programme for Government outcomes, for example, reducing air pollution, increasing the use of public transport and reducing traffic congestion.

As any potential changes to the current policy may impact on the lives of parents, children and young people and the wider public, the review commenced on 3 December 2018 with a period of engagement with all interested stakeholders.  The purpose of this engagement is to start a conversation about whether the current home to school transport policy needs to be changed and, if so, to identify the options that should be considered.  To allow as many stakeholders to contribute to this process as possible a number of different engagement approaches have been adopted. These include:

  • an online questionnaire on the Department’s website;
  • public engagement events;
  • facilitated focus groups with parents and with children & young people; and
  • engagement with organisational stakeholders including local councils, unions and political representatives.

In addition to the public engagement, we have been liaising with colleagues in other government departments to identify the contribution home to school transport has on wider societal benefits within the draft Programme for Government and whether increasing access to home to school transport could further contribute to these outcomes.

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