Changes to the eligibility rules for School Transport Assistance
The Ministry is changing the rules on eligibility for School Transport Assistance. This rule change will mean more students are eligible for School Transport Assistance.
What changes to the eligibility rules are taking place?
From the beginning of Term 2 (6 May 2013), children will be eligible for School Transport Assistance under the following circumstances:
- if in Years 1-8 and live more than 3.2 km from their nearest appropriate school
- if in Years 9 or above and live more than 4.8 km from their nearest appropriate school
Other eligibility rules such as the need to show a lack of suitable public transport (where applicable), will still apply.
Eligible students are offered either:
- a place on a Ministry funded school bus, or
- their parents could apply for Conveyance Allowance to help with the costs of travelling.
In a limited number of circumstances, some students are eligible for both a school bus place and a Conveyance Allowance.
If a student is currently eligible for School Transport Assistance, will this rule change affect them?
No. If a student is currently eligible for School Transport Assistance, their eligibility status will not change as a result of the rule change.
Why is the Ministry changing the rules?
The Ministry has decided to change the eligibility rules, so the minimum eligible distance changes at Year 9, rather than when a child turns 10.
Parents have pointed out their frustrations with the current rules. They have said that the eligible distance criteria do not change at a logical place. In some cases it has meant that two children from the same family and going to the same primary school were not both eligible to use the school bus, if one of them had reached 10 years of age.
The Ministry agrees that a more logical place to make this change in eligibility is when children reach year 9, when many children change schools. This rule change will make it simpler and easier for many parents to arrange the family school run.
Who will be affected by the rule change?
This rule change will only affect students:
- in Years 8 and below
- living between 3.2 km and 4.8 km from their nearest appropriate school.
All other students that are eligible for School Transport Assistance will be unaffected.
Some children might currently be travelling to school on a Ministry bus but paying a fare. Could they benefit from the rule change?
Yes, there will be some cases where children are currently travelling to school on a Ministry bus but paying a fare, because they are ineligible for assistance. When the rule change comes into force, they may become eligible for a school bus place at no charge. The rule change will only affect those students who are living between 3.2 km and 4.8 km from their nearest appropriate school and in years 8 and below.
Might the rule change affect whether there will be space on a school bus for a fare-paying student?
Ministry funded school bus services are designed to meet the travelling needs of eligible students. However, if there is space available, fare-paying students may be able to ride these buses, so long as all eligible students on the route are picked up. There is always a risk that fare-paying students may be declined service if the bus is at risk of being over-crowded. Bus operators are responsible for ensuring that they do not exceed the legal bus loading limits.
The Ministry estimates that as a result of the rule change, there will only be a small increase in the total numbers of students carried. Most newly eligible students will have previously been fare-paying students already riding the school bus. The change in rules will mean that instead of having to pay for a fare, these students will be eligible to ride the bus without charge, and would not therefore add to the total number of students on the bus.
The Ministry will be asking bus operators to monitor the capacity of individual buses, to ensure there is not a risk of over-crowding, and that all eligible students can be picked up.
Does the rule change apply to the eligibility criteria for a Conveyance Allowance?
Yes, the rule change applies to all forms of Ministry funded School Transport Assistance. This includes both daily school bus provision and the Conveyance Allowance. The Conveyance Allowance is offered to parents to assist with the costs of transport if a school bus is not available in their area.
What should parents do now if they think that their child might be eligible for assistance under the revised rules?
If a student is currently eligible for School Transport Assistance, parents do not need to do anything. Their current eligibility status will not change as a result of the rule change.
However, as the Ministry needs to plan school transport services for the start of Term 2, we encourage any parent who believes that their child meets the revised eligibility criteria and wishes to use a school bus, to fill out the School Transport Assistance application form and then forward it to their school for consideration. Once their school has completed Section B of the form, it will then be forwarded to the Ministry’s local Service Agent for consideration.
When will the revised rules come into effect?
The revised rule will take effect at the beginning of Term 2 (Monday 6 May 2013).
What should schools do to prepare for the changes in the eligibility rules?
We have asked schools to let parents know about this rule change as soon as possible. The rule change will only affect those students living between 3.2 km and 4.8 km from their nearest appropriate school and in years 8 and below.
We encourage parents who believe that their child might be eligible for assistance under this revised rule, and want to use a Ministry school bus, to fill out an application form for School Transport Assistance and return it to their school.
You can read the revised rules of School Transport Assistance and download the application form..
The Ministry agrees that the logical place to make this change in eligibility is when children reach Year 9, as that is when many children change schools.
Why does the Ministry not just have one distance for establishing eligibility for School Transport Assistance?
The Ministry considers that with age, most children gain greater independence and have greater capacity to make consistent and safe travel decisions by themselves, regardless of the modes of transport they use. The Ministry considers it is reasonable to expect older children to be responsible for getting to and from school for a greater distance than younger children.
How will Māori Medium schools funding be affected by the rule change?
The revised eligibility rules will apply to Maori Medium schools. Māori Medium schools receive funding based on the numbers of students attending the school that are eligible for School Transport Assistance. The Ministry is working through when funding for Māori Medium schools will be adjusted to reflect any newly eligible student numbers.
How will schools that are Directly Resourced for School Transport Assistance be affected?
The revised eligibility rules will apply to Directly Resourced schools. School Transport Assistance funding for Directly Resourced schools or networks of schools is based upon the number of eligible students. If the network includes significant numbers of students in the 10-12 year old age group who live between 3.2 and 4.8 km from their school, the number of eligible students may increase. Schools or networks in this category should contact their Service Agent for a review of their funding provision.