New rules for school transport appeals
March 12, 2012
Parents will find appealing over school transport decisions tougher under new rules set to be introduced in Wokingham.
There were 20 appeals for school transport last year, with eight of those winning support and leading to transport worth more than £27,700 being awarded.
Wokingham Borough Council has decided to review its school transport appeals process because it believes the process is ‘inconsistent’ for parents and council officers.
It proposes to introduce a two stage method of dealing with appeals. Under the first stage, once an appeal form has been received, officers will assess whether the appeal is likely or not to be successful. If they decide the appeal would be dismissed if it progressed, the officers dismiss it.
If it is decided the appeal should be heard, it will go forward to the next stage to be heard by the school transport appeals panel.
In a report to the council’s licensing and appeals committee, officers say: “The committee is asked to consider how the council should deal with transport appeals when it is clear that they are outside of the policy and therefore unlikely to be successful.
“This both raises the expectations of parents and requires a considerable amount of officer resource.
“Cases that would fall into this category might include, for example: situations where the family have chosen an out-of-catchment school and have been clearly informed that they will be responsible for transport; where the parents dispute the distance; where parents seek a review of the safety of a route; or where the parents simply disagree with the home-to-school transport policy.
“In these circumstances it would be time-wasting for the parents and the school transport appeals panel to follow through an appeal and therefore a system is needed that would enable parents to be advised that there would be no appeal.”
The council says it has received complaints as a result of its existing policy, including a case where it had two similar appeals with different outcomes.
New catchment areas for secondary schools begin this year and the council has noted that the budget on transport will need to be carefully monitored when the changes come into force. The appeal process was discussed by the licensing and appeals committee on Monday.