Choice of secondary schools

Judith Dennett made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Education

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The request was successful.

Dear Department for Education,
I would like to know how many children in England and what percentage of children have the choice of only one secondary school within 15 miles of their home and are then not allowed travelling expenses to a school outside the catchment area of their home town.

Yours faithfully,
Judith Dennett

Department for Education

Dear Ms Dennett

Thank you for your recent enquiry. A reply will be sent to you as soon as possible. For information; the departmental standard for correspondence received is that responses should be sent within 20 working days as you are requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Your correspondence has been allocated reference number 2016-0019595.

Thank you

Department for Education
Ministerial and Public Communications Division
Tel: 0370 000 2288

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Department for Education

Dear Ms Dennett

Thank you for your request for information, which was received on 13 April. You requested information about how many children in England (and the percentage) have the choice of only one secondary school within 15 miles of their home and are then not allowed travelling expenses to a school outside the catchment area of their home town. I have dealt with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

At January 2015, based on straight line rather than travel distances, there were some 800 secondary school pupils in England (in Years 7 to 11) with only one secondary school within 15 miles of the home address. This represents 0.03% of the Y7 to Y11 secondary school pupil population. There were a further 40 secondary school pupils with no secondary school within 15 miles of the home address. We do not hold pupil level data on pupils claiming free school transport.

Local authorities have a statutory duty to make transport arrangements where a child is attending their nearest suitable school which is beyond statutory walking distance (2 miles for a child below the age of 8, and 3 miles for a child aged 8 or over); a child is unable to walk to school because of special educational needs, disability or mobility problems; or because the route is deemed unsafe. Parents of children entitled to free school meals or who receive the maximum level of Working Tax Credit are able to choose any of the three nearest suitable schools which are over 2 miles but not more than 6 miles from the child’s home, and the child will receive free transport to the chosen school. These distances are extended to 15 miles on grounds of religion or belief. Local authorities also have discretionary powers to make transport arrangements beyond their statutory duties.

Please note that ‘catchment area’ is not a recognised term in home to school transport legislation or guidance - local authorities are obliged to provide transport to the nearest suitable school with available places, regardless of whether it is designated the catchment school for admissions purposes.

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Yours sincerely

 Angela McNulty 

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