Consider your travel options

Once you know where your child will be studying next September, you will need to consider how they are going to get to school.


Will they walk, catch a bus or travel by car? If their new secondary is just around the corner then it should be within easy walking distance of your home. But if its further away it may mean your child will be catching the bus for the first time by themselves. Or, you might find it’s easier for you to drop them off in the car on the way to work.


If your child will be walking to their new school, you will need to think about whether they will go alone, with friends, or whether someone will walk them. 


As the nights start drawing in, make sure they can be clearly seen when they’re walking to and from school. It’s worth buying reflective high-visibility stickers to put on their school bags. It may be that you want to accompany your child at the start until they are used to the route and you are happy to let them go by themselves, or with their friends. 


If the school is further away, your child may be automatically entitled to free transport up to the age of 16.


To qualify they need to attend the nearest suitable school, which must be further away than statutory walking distance of three miles for pupils aged eight or more. Statutory walking distance is measured by the shortest route a child, accompanied if necessary, can walk with reasonable safety. 


If there is no such route, the local authority must provide free transport no matter what distance you live from the school. The local education authority or governing body will either provide its own transport, hire coaches, or provide free bus or train passes for use on public transport. 


In some cases, a travelling allowance may be paid to pupils who provide their own transport, for example, a cycle allowance. 


Pupils who do not qualify for free transport may be allowed to travel on spare seats on school buses for a fee.


Your local council will be able to tell you about what transport options are available in your area and what support is on offer. 


If your child will be taking public transport, it may help to calm any nerves by practising their route before the start of term. This will help them to get used to getting out of the door and to the bus stop on time. Whether it’s public transport or a bus provided by the council or school, its worth having a Plan B in case your child misses their lift. 


Make sure they know what they need to do if this happens, whether they should call you or another relative, or get a taxi. 


If it’s the latter, make sure that they have ‘emergency money’ to pay for it and that they know what it’s for and that it should be kept it in a secure place in their bag.


GET ON YOUR BIKE AND KEEP FIT AND HEALTHY


Another option worth exploring when considering transport to school is cycling. According to Cycling UK, cycling to school helps pupils keep healthy and fit. It also has the capacity to boost their confidence, independence and sense of self-worth, plus their navigational and   road-craft skills.


The charity also believes cycling is a skill for life and that by encouraging as many children as possible to see it as viable transport it will help to ward off car dependency in adulthood,  and contributes to reducing the volume of motor traffic in the future. 


If your child would like to cycle to school, it’s a good idea to consider a course like Bikeability, which teaches valuable skills, such as good road positioning, signalling and visibility and can help parents and children feel at ease on busy streets.


See www.cyclinguk.org for more information

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