A 12-week consultation has started looking at how to make school transport in the Scarborough area fairer and if money can be saved.
North Yorkshire County Council has put forwarded a number of proposals about what it will continue to fund, on top of the services it is obliged to provide.
The council is responsible for transporting about 20,000 pupils a day and, as the largest rural county in England, said a large portion of its education budget is spent on transporting children to and from school.
The amount spent in 2018/19 is set to be £24.7m, which amounts to more than a quarter of its £88m education budget for children and young people.
It has a statutory responsibility to provide travel assistance between home and school for eligible children, but the consultation will look at the discretionary help the council provides above and beyond this.
The proposals include:
* Providing free transport for all eligible children in the county when they start school in the reception year. Children in North Yorkshire presently only qualify for free transport when they turn five years old. It is hoped the proposal will help parents who plan to return to work when their child starts school and bring the authority in line with neighbouring councils.
* Collection from pick-up points, unless medical, mobility or special educational needs require door-to-door collection. Currently the authority uses a combination of pick-up points and door-to-door provision.
* The collection points would be safe areas pupils could walk to, such as existing bus stops. In areas where buses follow convoluted routes through housing estates, journeys to school can sometimes approach the maximum amount of permitted time. Under the proposals, pick-up points would keep to the main roads on such estates.
* Similarly, in cases where children living on farms are dropped off at their front door in individual cars or taxis commissioned by North Yorkshire, they would be collected at the nearest road. This would mean the council could commission larger vehicles to pick up a number of children at the same time and cut journey times, providing a more sustainable and environmental solution.
* Only providing free school transport to and from the pupils’ main home address. Transport to an additional address would involve a charge covering the cost of transport. This would reduce the number of empty bus seats that arise where students receive two transport passes for two different addresses and allow more students to obtain a place on a bus.
* To adopt a single rate charge for all discretionary transport. Discretionary transport is provided by the council to help students not eligible under the home to school transport policy.
* Introduce a £30 fee for replacement school transport bus passes. Passes are currently replaced for free.
* Introduce an application process for home to school transport. The current system assumes all eligible children will be requiring transport and services are commissioned accordingly. The application would take into account other formal arrangements which have been made for children, such as after-school clubs or child minders.
* Making free transport available to the pupil’s catchment school or nearest school. Currently, the council offers transport to catchment schools and any school closer to their home address. This will still be available to all pupils living further than two miles from their nearest school (for children under the age of eight) or three miles (for those aged eight to 16.)
Cllr Patrick Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s executive member for education and skills, said: “As an authority, a lot of the home to school transport services we offer are above the statutory minimum, but we need to ensure what we offer is fair and consistent to everyone.
“We also recognise we’re a rural county without the public transport links some other areas have and recognise the difficulties this presents across North Yorkshire.
“We want to protect transport from home to school for those who need it the most and for those who are entitled to it.”
The county-wide consultation with parents, students, school representatives and other members of the public will run until June 16.
People can take part in the survey online, at; https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/h2stransportconsult or attend a public consultation.
They will be held at Falsgrave Community Resource Centre, in Seamer Road, Scarborough, on Wednesday between noon and 2pm, or at Scalby School in Fieldstead Crescent, between 5pm and 7pm on the same day.
There will also be sessions at The Green Lane Centre in Whitby on April 30, between noon and 2pm and again from 5pm to 7pm.