CHILDREN with special educational needs and disabilities in Bath and North East Somerset could be required to attend a nearer school to qualify for council-funded home to school transport after a change to an “outdated” policy.

An equalities impact assessment said it would make it “less likely” for some children to get the transport support. But the council’s head of special educational needs and disabilities insisted children would not be asked to move schools and no children currently receiving the support would lose it.

In the UK, children who are unable to walk to school because of their special educational needs or disability and whose parents cannot take them may be entitled to free transport to school, as part of an education, health, and care plan (ECHP) drawn up with their local authority. After new government guidance was issued in January, Bath and North East Somerset Council is proposing changes to its “outdated” home to school transport policy.

The changes will add requirements into the policy for children to attend the closest appropriate school for their needs in order to qualify for the free transport. If parents or carers request a particular school to be named as their child’s school in their EHCP but there is a space available at a nearer suitable school, the parent or carer will be responsible for getting the child to school.

At a meeting of the council’s children, adults, health and wellbeing scrutiny panel on Monday May 13, the panel’s vice-chair Liz Hardman (Paulton, Labour) described the move as “really quite concerning.” She warned it would have an “emotional impact” on affected children.

But Laura Donnelly, the head of special educational needs and disabilities at the council, said: “We have no plans to ask parents to move their children to other schools but we will allow our parents to have the choice of our new schools when they are opening which may well be closer to home, but at the moment that’s not something we are planning to do at all.”

The council has written to all parents and carers of children with special educational needs and disabilities currently receiving school travel support, and contacted all of the schools which they attend. Six in-person drop-in events have been held across the area over the plans.

The policy will be finalised through a single member decision on June 10.