Developing a School Travel Plan that caters for the needs of pupils with SEN

School Travel Plans (STPs) are documents drawn up by schools working in partnership with their local authority (and other agencies) to help them work towards and achieve two aims:

  • To make children safer on their route to and from school by improving the routes they use when on foot and bicycles and their skills and attitudes;
  • To reduce the number of cars being used on the school run, to reduce pollution and congestion as well as the danger to children.

STPs are essential for every school - they can not only help to reduce the chances of a child death or injury in your community, but also help you address other issues, such as the health and well-being of pupils, impact on the environment, and congestion and parking problems. It also enables you to apply for funding for measures proposed in your STP. However, it is essential that your STP takes the needs of all pupils into account.

For general advice on developing, and getting the most out of, an STP, click here.

For some specific advice on developing an STP that takes pupil's special needs into account, scroll down.

Work with local experts

The first step in drawing up an STP is to contact your local authority's school travel advisor (STA) or your local road safety officer if your local authority doesn't have an STA yet and work in partnership with your local authority. However, it is also a good idea to consult with special education needs specialists to ask for advice on both surveying children with SEN (as below) and on proposals that they believe should be included in an STP to take these pupils' needs into account.

Surveying children

Surveying children (to assess how pupils are currently travelling to school, how they would like to travel, and risks they may be facing) is a crucial initial step in drawing up an STP. It's crucial to ensure that your survey can be completed by children with SEN (or if necessary by their parents or carers) and that it includes scope for them to report any specific risks that they face.

Drawing up proposals for safer routes

Ensure proposals in your STP take needs, and specific risks that may be faced by pupils with SEN, into account. This should take into account both your survey of pupils and risk assessments of the safety of routes to and from the school. Risk assessments can be carried out by your local authority, but you should make clear to them that some routes are used by pupils with SEN, and therefore there may be additional or heightened risks. Your STP should set out how you intend to work towards reducing risk and improving walking and cycling facilities for all pupils, and should explain where certain measures may be particularly needed in order to protect children with SEN who are at greater risk. Click here for information on different measures that can be introduced to improve the safety of routes to school and the safety benefits of each.

Encouraging walking and cycling on journeys to school

It is important for any school, when drawing up their STP, to consider whether to actively encourage walking or cycling, depending on the road environment around the school and the risks faced by pupils who walk and cycle. You may decide to prioritise working towards measures to improve the safety of pupils walking and cycling (such as a crossing, lower speed limit and better signs) before taking steps to promote walking and cycling. It's important to carefully weigh up the benefits of walking and cycling with any risks posed to pupils, including additional risks faced by children with SEN.

In some cases, children with SEN may need parental supervision to walk and cycle safely beyond an age when other pupils need it, for example, due to difficulties perceiving and understanding risks they face on roads. It is important to consult with parents, carers and specialists to establish if this is the case and, if so, to take care not to single these pupils out. You may be able to encourage supervised walking and cycling among these pupils through direct communication with parents, explaining the benefits to children's health (and the local environment) of walking and cycling, and offering advice on doing so safely.

Encouraging walking and cycling outside school

Studies show that often children with SEN have little opportunity to put lessons on safe walking or cycling into practice[1] because of restrictions on their mobility caused by their disability or learning difficulty. Even if these pupils are unable to walk or cycle to school for whatever reason (such as living too far away, or not having a parent available to supervise) you can still encourage parents and carers to provide opportunities for children to walk and cycle (and practise lessons or training they have had) outside of school. You can do this by:

  • keeping parents and carers informed about what the children are being taught so they can reinforce these messages (e.g. include advice on safe walking and the Green Cross Code in your newsletter),

  • make clear the importance of children being able to practise what they've learnt (while being supervised if appropriate)

  • providing information on the benefits of walking and cycling

  • making suggestions for providing low-risk walking and cycling opportunities for children (e.g. arranging to accompany children on foot to a local park/leisure centre/shop every weekend using safe routes; or making use of a local off-road cycle path).

Considering other measures to make journeys safer and more sustainable

If walking and cycling to school is not an option for many of your pupils (this may particularly be the case for special schools with wide catchment areas), you can still use your STP to propose other measures to make journeys to your school safer and more sustainable. For example, you could consult your local authority on offering a school bus service that can be accessed by a greater number of pupils to cut car use, and improving the area outside your school where children get out of cars or buses to ensure children aren't put at risk by manoeuvring vehicles. Some information on STPs for special schools can be found on the Travelwise website.

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[1] The Road Safety of Children and Adults with Disabilities (Transport Research Laboratory, 2002)