50 pupils with special educational needs could be among first to make their own way to school in cost saving/ training plan by county council

SEND pupils in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough could be taught to travel to school independently in

SEND pupils in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough could be taught to travel to school independently in a bid to save nearly £11,000 per pupil per year, Most currently use taxis. - Credit: supplied

Some of the 183 pupils in Cambridgeshire with special education needs and disability (SEND) who use taxis or get to school in low occupancy vehicles, sometimes with passenger assistants, could be taught how to travel independently.

This would mean them possibly using public transport or a normal school bus or even walking.

If funding for a study is approved, it could mean 50 pupils being trained over two years to travel to school independently, half by next autumn. Savings could mean up to £10,700 per pupil per annum.

It is one idea being considered by the county council in a bid to halt the escalating costs of school transport.

Cambridgeshire County Council could provide up to £410,000 to deliver savings in home to school and social care transport.

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A report to the general purposes committee next week says Cambridgeshire is not alone in facing escalating costs at a time where "complexity of needs" is placing extra pressure on the council.

The county's rural nature and a shortage of specialist vehicles and difficulties in recruiting passenger assistants are also creating additional challenges.

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Costs involved are massive for despite the county council making full year savings of £500,000 for SEND transport and £340,000 for mainstream schools transport, costs continue to rise.

"Since 2015/16, the costs associated with these services have increased from £18.3m to £21.2m in Cambridgeshire, and from £3.9m to £4.5m in Peterborough bringing the total service expenditure across both authorities to £25.7m in 2018/19," says the report.

"Demand across the services has also increased in some areas by up to 13 per cent during the 2015/16 period and it is anticipated that costs will continue to rise unless existing plans to improve demand management and efficiency are accelerated."

The SEND home to school transport budget has increased to £9.544m for 2019/20 "and could reasonably be expected to increase by over £1m a year unless significant changes are made," the committee will be told.

The city and county council are planning a joint review since "many Cambridgeshire and Peterborough schools are geographically close.

"It would therefore be sensible to explore whether jointly commissioning transport and routes would reduce duplication and result in efficiencies."

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