Free school transport (by distance)

Find out if your child is eligible for free school transport.

1 Overview

Normally it is the responsibility of parents to get their children to and from school safely. Where help is agreed, it will usually be given through one or more of the following ways.

  • A free place on a contract or school bus.
  • A rail or bus season ticket.
  • A fuel allowance where travel by car is agreed.
  • A taxi or minibus, in exceptional circumstances only, usually for children with severe disabilities.
  • A contribution towards the cost of travel.

2 Eligibility

Free travel will be provided if a child:

  • is of statutory school age

Children are of statutory school age at the beginning of the term following their fifth birthday. School leaving age is the last Friday in June in the school year in which a pupil reaches the age of 16.

  • attends the catchment or nearest suitable school to their home

This is the school that caters for your child’s age group and is usually the nearest, geographically, to your home. Sometimes the furthest parts of a catchment area may be closer to an alternative school.

  • and, using the shortest route by road and/or walking route lives:
    • 2 or more miles away for a child under 8
    • 3 or more miles away for a child aged 8 and over.

Exceptions may be made where the County Council regards the walking route between the home and the school as too hazardous for the child to walk, even if accompanied by an adult. We take into account the age of the child and whether there is an alternative walking route.

This exception only applies where the child attends their nearest or catchment school.

If your child is not eligible for free transport you may still be able to apply for a paid for (concessionary) seat on a school bus, minibus or taxi.

Additional information

3 Apply

Starting secondary school in September

We will write to you by the end of the summer term asking you to confirm that your child requires transport if your child is:

  • on our system
  • starting secondary school
  • eligible for help with transport.

Once you've confirmed transport is required we will write to you with the travel details. 


Please contact us if you believe that you meet the criteria for free school transport and your child is either:

  • starting infant or primary school
  • joining a school at any other time during the year.

If your application is successful we'll write to you with more information about your child's free travel.

If your application is unsuccessful we'll write to you explaining why.

4 Collecting and using the pass

Your child’s pass will be sent to your home address.

In the case of rail passes, we are moving to a smartcard system and full details will be sent to you.

The pass can only be used:

  • by the child named on the pass
  • to travel to and from the address and school named on the pass
  • on school days
  • at the beginning and end of normal school hours, including after school activities.

The leaflet below provides further guidance about travelling.

5 Moving house

If your child attends the catchment or nearest school and you move away from the area, you may receive help. This would be subject to reasonable costs and of meeting the relevant distance criteria if all the following apply:

  • your new address is within West Sussex
  • your child continues to attend the same school
  • your child is in year 10 and has been following, for at least one term, a course leading to a public examination
  • the journey can be considered reasonable for the student.

If help is agreed it would stop at the end of year 11.

6 Contact our team

Last updated:
24 June 2024
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