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Submitted by Kent County Council
Many parents of children entitled to free transport to school in Kent will find the process of obtaining the relevant passes has been much easier for the year ahead.
Historically, all parents have been asked to request free school transportation and wait for their child’s eligibility to be assessed by transportation agents.
However, the team has been working hard to implement a number of improvements to the Free School Travel assessment processes, which has resulted in changes to how this year’s requests will be handled.
Due to these internal changes, Kent County Council can now notify many parents of their child’s eligibility without the need for an application by using a geographic information system that automatically identifies the nearest school to a child and confirms if it is farther than the relevant legal distance of three miles.
A KCC spokesperson said: “This change will remove much of the work associated with the main process during the team’s busiest time, which would allow significantly more capacity to be allocated to completing requests for transportation for children with special educational needs that require a more detailed consideration of individual student needs.
“We expected the process to remain unchanged this year, but we have seen a significant increase in SEN requests in what is already the department’s busiest time.
“The transport sector continues to be under considerable pressure due to current world events, which is why KCC is doing everything in its power to ensure that the transition to the new school year is smooth.
“We hope this will simplify the tasks parents need to complete before their child starts school this year.”
When informed of the free transportation offer, parents will be asked to consider whether or not their child will make full and regular use of it during the coming school year. KCC will incur costs assuming that all students travel each school day, so it would be an inefficient use of public resources to claim transport that will not be used as a primary method of access to school by a child.
KCC will contact ordinary families this week to let them know if their child is eligible for free school transport. Eligible families will then be contacted again in the coming weeks so that further information can be provided about the child, including a passport-type photo so that a pass can be produced.
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