Concern over long school journeys for SEN pupils

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

With the number of pupils needing places in special schools set to rise by 11,000 in the coming years, concern has been voiced at the distance SEN students are being forced to travel to go to school.

A research report has found that students must travel an average of four miles each way to attend special school in urban areas. This distance rises to 10 miles in rural areas and there are “significant numbers” of pupils travelling further still.

The analysis, which has been published by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) think-tank, notes that the government has set out a commitment to improve access to “good” schools, arguing that too many children do not live within a reasonable distance of a good school.

However, at the same time, measures to improve access to special schools have not also been proposed.

Furthermore, the report warns of a risk to those students attending special schools who are reliant on home-to-school transport services.

It states: “For some pupils these distances risk becoming insurmountable, if they are not already. A reliance on home to school transport leaves pupils vulnerable to cuts in local authority budgets and changes to local provision. In the absence of alternative arrangements, these pupils could end up leaving the system altogether.”

Jon Andrews, the report’s author and director for school system and performance at the EPI, said: “There is an on-going debate about providing children with a good local school. However, relatively little is said about the needs of the 110,000 pupils in England who attend special schools. Our analysis finds that these pupils are, on average, travelling three times as far as other pupils to get to school each day.”

The report itself concludes: “If the government is serious about providing good and accessible schools for all pupils then they need to give greater attention to special schools.”

The report comes as it is estimated that the number of pupils who need places in special schools will increase by 11,000 over the next five years, as part of the general rises in the pupil population.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “It is clearly vital that particular thought is given to how and where these places are provided to ensure that the distance young people have to travel to school is kept to the minimum possible.”

He added: “These young people are obviously among the most vulnerable in our society and must be a priority in terms of place-planning. It is also important that any decisions over local transport services take into account the needs of pupils who travel to special schools.”

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