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Temporary vacant seat scheme

Vacant seat update - 31 August 2021

Applications are currently suspended

The decision to suspend the Temporary Vacant Seat Scheme has been kept under regular review, and whilst changes to Government guidance have ended the need for school bubbles and social distancing on transport, guidance on the application of Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR) on home to school transport networks has been reinforced. 

How does PSVAR affect the operation of the Temporary Vacant Seat Scheme?

In order to comply with PSVAR, vehicles with more than 22 seats must be wheelchair accessible, as well as meet more general accessibility requirements including, among other, specifications for seats, steps, floors/gangways and handrails.

PSVAR only allows seats to be sold on compliant vehicles.

Most of the routes serving our high schools use vehicles with more than 22 seats, the majority of which do not currently comply with PSVAR.

For this reason, PSVAR prevents the council from being able to sell vacant seats on all vehicles used for home to school transport.

Please note PSVAR compliant vehicles will be contracted and used when required by an eligible pupil. 

Current position

Having reviewed the situation, the Council has concluded that new Government guidance as to how the non-statutory temporary vacant seat scheme should operate cannot be met for several years because transport operators in the region do not have enough compliant vehicles. What could be provided within the law would be an unfair, hybrid system which would potentially result in one family paying several hundred pounds for the same service that another family would receive for free, and still leave other families without any option. 

Therefore, the council’s assumption is that the Temporary Vacant Seat Scheme will not be reinstated, unless a legal and fair solution is presented to us during the next six weeks. 

All interested parties are invited to share their views and ideas through a survey, with a final decision to be taken as soon after as possible to provide clarity to those interested.

The survey will close at 12.00 midday on Tuesday 12 October 2021. 

Please do not call as staff are unable to provide any further information at this time. If you would like to share your thoughts and views, please complete the online survey

If a child is not eligible for free home to school transport, it is the parents or carers legal responsibility to make travel arrangements for their child/ren and ensure they attend school. 

This does not affect those of statutory school age who are entitled to free Home to School Travel Assistance and it does not affect the Council’s post 16 transport offer, as detailed in the post 16 transport statement. 

Notes

It is important to note that the Temporary Vacant Seat Scheme is a discretionary scheme. There are no entitlement criteria - temporary vacant seats are allocated on a first come first serve basis and there is no guarantee of a temporary vacant seat being available. 

Temporary vacant seats (if offered) can and have been withdrawn at any time without notice. Parents have always been informed that they should not rely on the scheme and should always consider alternative arrangements in case a seat is not available. 

The council is not legally responsible for transport arrangements for non-entitled pupils nor is it responsible for making alternative travel arrangements for pupils as a result of the non-availability or withdrawal of a seat. There is no right of review or appeal regarding the temporary vacant seat scheme.  

Around 112,000 Staffordshire children are not entitled to free transport and make their own way to and from school each day.

What is the scheme?

This scheme is where we have hired a vehicle and it has more seats than we need for pupils entitled to free or subsidised transport. Spare seats may be available through our application process for pupils not entitled to free transport.

The number of seats for this scheme are limited and we cannot guarantee a place. There is no guarantee that a seat will be available under the scheme, nor is it a statutory requirement to offer a seat. Should a seat not be available you remain responsible for arranging and funding travel as you feel is necessary.

How do I apply?

Applications are currently suspended. If you wish to be updated with changes to the current situation please send your email address to TemporaryVacantSeatScheme We will only make contact with you if there are any changes to the current suspension of the scheme. Updates will be made on this page.

Local Transport Options

It may be possible for your journey to be made on the local bus network. For up to date information on services operating and timetables please see Plan-your-journey or Traveline Midlands

Other Options for Travel into School

Your data

Any personal data collected through your application for a temporary vacant seat is handled securely and in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998.

We will use the information to process your application for a temporary vacant seat.

The county council uses personal information about children and families to enable it to provide relevant services to them and to carry out specific functions for which it is responsible.

For more detailed information please see our data information pages.

When does transport start?

Mainstream schools

The Temporary Vacant Seat Scheme is currently suspended.

Special educational needs schools

The Temporary Vacant Seat Scheme is currently suspended.

Contact

Mainstream applications

Special Educational Needs (SEN) applications

Office hours

Monday to Thursday 8:30am - 5pm

Friday 8:30am - 4:30pm

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