I was concerned today to read about Rural England research which has found that three fifths of young people in rural areas of England lack adequate public transport to get to secondary school. The report, entitled The State of Rural Services, goes on to say that the lack of public transport is harming educational opportunities for young people. It is obvious that where public transport does not allow pupils to get to and from school, either because bus routes and timetables do not coincide with school start and finish times or simply because there is no bus at all, pupils will be reliant on their parents driving them to school.
This increases congestion at one of the busiest times of day for our road network and increases risk outside schools as parents drop off and pick up their children, but more concerning is the fact that any child whose parents cannot access a car will find their educational opportunities significantly restricted.
Local Authorities do of course have some statutory transport obligations in relation to home to school transport, but many pupils do not qualify for this. In any event, the problem is not so much the lack of access to any school but the fact that a lack of transport prevents parents from choosing the school that will be the best for their child.
One option is for schools to consider working with the transport industry to investigate what services could be provided to improve accessibility for prospective pupils. A school bus network and travel planning advice about public bus services that serve a school are both valuable tools to increase the catchment area of a school, and parents really value high quality information which is personalised to them.
My team is responsible for undertaking transport audits at schools across the UK, and we offer these free of charge in order to help schools become more accessible. If you would like to widen your potential market, please do get in touch. We would be very happy to assess the transport provision that you are offering at the moment, and make recommendations as to how you can improve.