Sussex Downs College in Eastbourne has welcomed parents to a SEND Transport event, to provide information on the travel support available to children with additional learning needs once they turn 16.
Sara Candler, Project Manager, East Sussex County Council Children’s Services, gave a talk to 30 parents of children with additional learning needs. John North, Travel Training Team Leader employed by National Star College, joined Sara. He spoke about Independent Travel Training available to students living in East Sussex. Michelle Nice from East Sussex Parent & Carers’ Council (ESPaCC), attended to listen to parents’ concerns.
Free school transportation for ages 4-16 year olds is currently provided by the local authority if students with additional needs meet the criteria. At sixth form age, discretion is used to provide transport for families with the most exceptional circumstances only.
During the information morning, Sara addressed issues raised by parents and provided information on applying for funded transport as early as possible. The main concern centred around the travel support available to their children once they turned 16. The school participation age has raised to 18 but free transport stops at 16 unless there are exceptional circumstances. This misalignment can be a problem for parents.
Alongside the funded transport available, children could receive LIFT (‘Learning Independence For Travel’) training. The programme has a high success rate and sees John North and his team work with up to 12 students at one time across East Sussex. Following a referral, a 10-week assessment is carried out to see if the student could travel to College independently.
Travel Training isn’t suitable for all, but John North and the LIFT team work closely with parents to make that judgement. The scheme develops the child’s independence and confidence and reinforces skills including road safety and time recognition.
One parent attending the information morning said, “This event has been really useful. My son starts senior school soon and working out the logistics of his travel is so hard.”
Sara Candler comments, “My role is to work closely with schools to make sure parents are applying for transport help early on. The application form is long and comprehensive but we are showing parents the online application system today. The main question parents have to ask is: what would happen if my son or daughter didn’t get transport to College? What would they do?”
Penny Mackay, Faculty Director for Progression Studies at Sussex Downs College, adds, “We want parents to be fully aware of the situation they face once their child turns 16. We want to provide as much support to local families as possible and hosting an event like this is key to conveying the information.”
Parents who currently receive funded transport to school and require ongoing support should apply for post-16 transport online.