The effects of legislative, demographic and social changes on the provision of school transport services by local education authorities in the United Kingdom
The current basis of school transport provision by the Local Education Authorities was introduced during the 1940s with the role of facilitating the attendance of pupils at the nearest appropriate school and ensuring that access to education was not based upon a child's place of residence or upon parental means. To meet this objective, the provision of free school transport was considered necessary if a child lived beyond the minimum walking distances, established as two miles for pupils of under eight years of age (eleven years in the case of Northern Ireland) and three miles for older pupils. In addition, Local Education Authorities have wide discretionary powers to provide school transport to pupils not statutorily entitled. During the past twenty years, this basis of provision has received repeated criticism for failing to address the issues of rising expenditure on school transport, equity, road safety and parental choice of school. This thesis, therefore, examines the long term demographic and social trends affecting the provision of school transport services by the Local Education Authorities and the institutional responses to these trends. It also examines the current provision of school transport at individual authority level and the recent changes to both public transport and education legislation, to establish whether there is a case for changing the basis of provision to address these issues. Having established that there is a case for changing the basis of provision, recent proposals for change are reviewed and alternative bases of provision, including the system of school transportation in the USA, are discussed in the context of the issues on which criticism has focussed. This shows that the three alternative bases of provision with the scope to address these issues to the greatest extent are: widening the availability of free school transport to all pupils; reducing the minimum walking distances; and flat-fare charging. These three alternatives are then evaluated, with the economic implications of their introduction, not only for the Local Education Authorities, but also parents and society in general, being assessed. From this, it is concluded that the introduction of a flat-fare charging policy could address all the issues to the greatest extent, whilst offering the most economically feasible alternative basis for the provision of school transport provision by the Local Education Authorities in the UK.