Independent Schools and School Travel Planning
Independent Schools (along with Special Educational Need schools and Rural Schools) are considered to be
more difficult to engage with the Travelling to School Initiative and when trying to encourage these schools to
develop their School Travel Plan. There may be many reasons for this some of which are common to any
type of school, some are common to these three types and others that are perhaps unique to a specific
category of school. The following information is intended to help School Travel Advisors and the pupils,
parents, staff, management team or governors of independent schools to develop a School Travel Plan.
An independent school is defined as any school that provides full-time education for five or more pupils of
compulsory school age, or one or more pupils with a statement of special educational need, or who is in
public care, and which is not a school maintained by a local education authority or a non-maintained special
There are around 2,200 independent schools in England educating about seven per cent of the entire school
age population. This figure varies regionally with about 10 per cent of children in the southeast in
independent schools rising as high as 13 per cent in London. About half have headteachers who are
members of associations affiliated to the Independent Schools Council (ISC). The ISC represents the 1,276
schools in membership of the principal heads, governors’ and bursars’ associations. What distinguishes
these schools from other independent schools is that they all meet the membership requirements of their
associations and are accredited and inspected under a framework agreed between ISC and the Department
for Education and Skills (DfES) and the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted).
Independent schools can set their own curriculum and admission criteria and are funded by fees paid by
parents and income from investment. Currently just over half of all independent schools have charitable
status. They do not have to follow the national curriculum, they are aware of it, but for most it will represent
only a basic minimum standard. They are not required either to employ the Key Stage assessment tests
though many prep (junior) schools do use Key Stage 1 and 2 tests simply as a benchmark exercise. Pupils
are, in most cases, prepared for the same final examinations (GCSE, A level and International
Baccalaureate) as at state schools. Every independent school must be registered with the Department for
Education and Skills to operate. Standards are regularly monitored by either Ofsted or the Independent
Schools Inspectorate, ensuring that the school meets and maintains the standards set out in the registration.
Independent Schools usually attract pupils from a much wider location and catchment areas can be much
larger. If pupils are travelling in from a wider area this is likely to make walking and cycling options less
feasible and reduces the probability of pupils travelling together with friends or in groups. This may mean
that ideas and solutions are more challenging to establish
Content of an Independent School Travel Plan
The national minimum standard and quality assurance processes have been devised as a mechanism to
ensure that travel plans are of a particular standard before being submitted and receiving additional DfES
grant funding. Although Independent Schools are not eligible for this funding the standard is still appropriate
and should be adhered to, to ensure that the content and quality of any travel plan is of a level that should
ensure longevity, assist with delivery of its specified aims and targets and generally be as affective as
possible in bringing about long term change.
Although the lack of additional capital grant funding from DfES may suggest there is no incentive to get
involved with the travelling to School initiative there are many other benefits for a school, its pupils, parents
and staff and those living locally who may be affected.
For a proportion of Independent schools, reducing car use on the school run will not be a main focus to a
travel plan due to the influence of wider catchment areas and a high availability and dependence on private
vehicles. A number of families are likely to have second cars, which would be available for the school run.
Easy access to a vehicle can be a critical matter when deciding on transport options and the cost of travel is
less likely to be a major issue for parents. In some instances schools have been able to provide facilities
such as a car park or drop off area for parents thus catering for private car use, which can sometimes mean
that the school sees little congestion and dissipates the necessity or attractiveness of park and stride type
schemes. Any or all of these factors makes promoting sustainable alternatives more challenging.
However, some schools, such as Pipers Corner in Buckinghamshire, have decided to encourage car sharing
as a way of reducing the number of cars arriving at the school gate. Schools and school travel advisers
should therefore keep an open mind, as with state schools, the focus and reasons for getting involved in
travel planning will vary according to each specific school.
Independent Schools tend to be smaller in size than many other educational establishments. This can mean
that any gains in mode switch to more sustainable transport types may be less prominent when viewed in
wider perspectives. As with rural, SEN and indeed any school there are many benefits to be gained from a
STP beyond the journey to school such as more independent travel, greater awareness of sustainability
issues, improved road safety skills, the health and environmental consequences of transport choices etc.
Other issues that can affect the interest and desire of an independent school to become involved in the
Travelling to School Initiative include
A proportion are boarding schools, have staggered or different start and finish times and may not
consider traffic or congestion as being a problem, or they may feel that they want to accommodate those
that are arriving by motorised travel (especially boarders with luggage and those travelling a distance)
Some are also in rural settings and have additional issues associated with these locations such as
inadequate footway or cycling provisions or poor public transport.
Academic achievements may already be high which they would not want to disrupt
Some are faith schools and can be cautious of information being in the public domain
It is not unusual for an independent school to provide their own transport that they feel they manage well
Support for Independent Schools
Independent schools are outside the control and influence of local authorities. Whilst Education Directorates
have extensive details for most educational establishments as well as systems and procedures for keeping
in touch with them in many cases this does not extend to the independent sector and awareness of
establishments and their details may be vague, incomplete, out of date or non-existent. Every independent
school must be registered with the Department for Education and Skills to operate and consequently details
including contact information, size, type and location can all be found on Edubase (www.edubase.gov.uk).
The Travelling to School Initiative is jointly funded by the Departments for Transport and Education & Skills
and the Independent sector is included within the target audience. Although independent schools do not
qualify for the Devolved Formula Capital Grant they are still entitled to receive the same advice, support and
assistance from a School Travel Adviser that maintained schools are. There can sometimes be tensions
when LA resources are available to the independent sector on a similar footing to other education
establishments especially when independent schools are in close proximity to maintained schools and there
is competition for pupils.
There are subtle differences in suggested approaches to independent schools that should be treated more
as business entities. Much guidance available locally is thought to have a primary feel and consideration
should be given to tailoring this more for the audience, research the school and target the guidance if
possible, rather than providing generic information.
Try not to promote anything until the issues are understood, a simple (pre survey) analysis conducted by
the school (e.g. bursar or pupils) could establish;
o Number of staff
o Number of cars on site between 8am and 9am
o Rough percentage of pupils arriving by car
o Rough percentage of pupils arriving by coach
o Number of coaches
Find out what issues/concerns are important that can be built into the travel plan eg
o Safety in the car park
o Carbon footprint
o Cost/effectiveness of the school bus
Independent schools are run as businesses, and if it is important to attract pupils from other areas, it
may be appropriate to review any existing bus service provision to see if more business can be attracted
from other areas. An audit would also identify where children are travelling from and whether or not this
relates to any existing bus provision, especially if local public services don’t stop close enough to the
school to allow the children to walk the rest of the way in.
Identify how Independent schools compete with each other for ‘business’ and how the STP could be
seen as offering greater competition or a particular selling point.
If there are both day and boarding Independent schools, it may be prudent to begin with the non-
Target preparatory age groups – there is likely to be more potential for change in mode here as there is
more probability that this age group is brought to school by car rather than bus.
If there is a chance in the future that the school may wish to present a planning application then a
condition may be set for the school to develop an STP, and the school may benefit from starting that
Regional meeting or local meetings; inviting the bursar (who reports to the school governors), curriculum
advisor, management team. An independent school could host such meetings. Other representatives
may include; pupils, parents, marketing officer, site management rep, teaching staff rep, support staff
rep, local residents rep, parish council rep.
The Bursars Association (members of the association are also bursars from maintained schools) is likely
to be happy to pass information about the project on to head teachers. This information would need to be
personalised specifically for Independent School bursar posts. Membership of the Bursars Association
is open to bursars, school business managers, senior administrators (the extent of senior management
posts and the titles vary but generally the title of bursar is used) from all types of schools, both
maintained and independent, and all categories of schools e.g. junior, primary senior, secondary, senior.
The Carbon Trust offers secondary schools and businesses free support to reduce their energy use and
cut carbon emissions that includes a free one-day audit. Further information can be found at
www.carbontrust.co.uk . The report that is produced identifies possible financial savings and proposes
initiatives that the schools (and businesses) could consider. Interest free funding is then available. One
Independent school has already been able to update their school boiler. There is also great educational
value here. Schools could consider becoming a ‘sustainable school’ and ‘transportation’ plays a part in
Demonstrating the benefits of school travel planning
Examples of objectives and linked actions that could feature in a good school travel plan
Objectives Linked action in action plan
To reduce school related travel by car as Involve the Travel Plan working group at parents’
a demonstration of environmental evenings.
responsibility Bursars mailing – information about school bus, coach,
To improve awareness of travel issues and car sharing.
and the impact of traffic on the Promote bus routes.
environment and the community Work in partnership with other schools in the area.
To minimise the impact of traffic on the Audit current bus use, identify where pupils are
local community travelling from, consider introducing a new coach
To act in the best interests of the village service (or alter a current service) if the demand is
community there. A survey could indicate that the bus services
To improve travel to school for staff and don’t provide the required support.
visitors The school manages the school bus.
Stagger school club finishing times
To encourage a reduction in car use, Provide secure cycle storage facilities and lockers
even if it is just for one day per week Introduce school mini-bus between school sites
To promote healthy living and reduce car Cycle paths
use Promote cycling
To reduce congestion (cleaner, healthier, Establish walking bus and/or park and stride.
safer) Conduct audit of bus routes, train routes, cycle and
To raise awareness of sustainable pedestrian routes and promote to school community.
methods of transport to all members of Include information within school prospectus, ‘new
the school community starters’ pack, school newsletter and/or display in
Provide public transport and/or school bus timetables
Provide information for members of staff
Poster campaigns and competitions
Displays eg prepared by Year 6 ‘How we travel to
school’ and ‘How our grandparents travelled to school’
Walk To School Week
Park and Walk days
To raise awareness of road safety to Integrate road safety education fully into classroom
parents and children topics and general curriculum
To work in partnership with the local ZigZag banners – the danger of parking on zigzags
community to ensure that children travel Home to School agreement.
more safely Pedestrian, cycling and/or independent travel training
To develop a school road safety policy in conjunction with parents.
To increase safety and improve the WTSW held in conjunction with presentations and
environment around school visitor speakers such as police, fire, SCP etc
Safemark – bus initiative
Conduct audit of popular or potential walking and
cycling routes identifying issues and barriers to higher
levels of use.
Identify potential highway improvements that are likely
to improve safety or perceptions of safety.
Path and foliage clearing
Restrict car parking spaces to 6th formers who have
undertaken specific training eg safer positive driving,
pass plus, young drivers.
More visible winter uniform.
To promote the healthy option Healthy Lifestyles week
Pupil involvement Road Safety lessons incorporated into the PSHE
To include travel and environmental curriculum.
issues in the school curriculum Road markings and traffic lights on the playground.
Survey – how grandparents travelled to school,
comparison with present day.
RAC Grass Routes Challenge (Yr8 Geography)
BSM Ignition programme.
The following is included in the Independent Schools Inspection Framework handbook (available from the
Independent Schools Inspectorate ISC web site), and can be evidenced by an active and owned STP.
2.1 The School provides a range of educational opportunities suited to the interests, aptitudes and
needs of all pupils. The report will include judgements and explanations about whether:
2.1.3 Pupils’ experiences are enriched by Involvement in the development and delivery of the STP as
extra-curricular activities, links with the a whole.
community, and provision for voluntary Identification of issues and problems affecting school
service and work experience for those in journeys and engaging with those who have the power to
senior schools resolve or minimise the issues.
2.1.4 Due attention is given to preparing Independent travel
pupils for the next stage of education, training Potential consequences of non sustainable travel choices
or employment and for adult life
2.2 Pupils achieve good levels of knowledge, skills and critical and creative understanding in their
subjects and activities, and learn to apply them effectively.
2.2.ii Pupils develop the essential skills and attitudes for work and study
Pupils are articulate, listen effectively, read Find out from staff and students why they choose their
intelligently and write fluently and creatively particular travel mode to and from school.
Find out from staff, students, parents and local residents
what problems are caused by the school run.
Pupils apply mathematics and mathematical Preparing travel surveys
concepts effectively Analysing
Pupils make effective used of information, Consulting with the whole school community to find out what
communication and control technology problems are being caused by the school run.
Pupils reason and argue cogently and think School council developing the travel plan
for themselves Promoting the benefits of sustainable travel
Pupils take notes, study and organise their Developing some or all of the STP document
Pupils study and work effectively both on Identify other partners who may be able to help develop
their own and co-operatively with others and solutions to the school run problems
Pupils settle and apply themselves, and Accomplishing actions and bringing about solutions to
persevere in and enjoy their work and issues identified
2.3 The pupils demonstrate well-developed spiritual, moral, social and cultural awareness.
2.3.3 Pupils develop socially in their ability to Responsible attitude
accept responsibility for their behaviour, Road safety awareness
show initiative and understand how they can Behaviour whilst travelling by bus
contribute to community life, including a Safe cycling
broad general knowledge of public Workings of local and national government
institutions and services in England
3.2 The school has an effective partnership with parents and worthwhile links with the wider
3.2.2 Parents have good opportunities to be Parents evenings
involved in activities in the school and in the Responding to questionnaires
work and progress of their children Being part of the STP working group
3.2.5 The school promote positive links with Local residents and businesses consulted and involved
the wider community
A STP can provide pupils with an opportunity to learn about their local environment and the impact that
their travel choices may have on it. A school with a travel plan demonstrates both commitment to the
immediate health and safety of their pupils and to providing them with skills and knowledge for future
years. Links with health, physical activity, safety, environment, future life attitudes, skills, beliefs, and
Health and Safety
A school needs to ensure a safe and positive environment for students who will benefit from this. They
have a statutory duty of care that they owe to all visitors including pupils, which would include safety
issues of children leaving the school entrance to perhaps go to separate buildings.
Other benefits of School Travel Planning for Independent Schools
Casualty reduction and/or road safety awareness
Sustainable schools, Eco Schools and/or Healthy Schools status
Every Child Matters
Accessibility and social inclusion
Healthy living blueprint / our healthier nation
Student participation and consultation
Further initiatives or ideas that could be used
Post code coloured badges / coffee morning
Sustainable travel map – where you are coming from and the transportation options available.
Assess movement of pedestrians and cyclists to/from and within the school grounds
Traffic calming – on/off school site
Improve condition of footpaths, cycle ways lighting provision etc. within and in vicinity of the school
Provide improved school warning signs
Assess movement of buses and taxis within the school grounds
Provide a sheltered waiting area for pupils waiting for buses and/or parents waiting for pupils
PR – Information via; newsletters, prospectus, displays, travel pack, route maps, new parents evening,
Local STP Award schemes
Parents transport committee
Bursars job description to include STP coordinator for the schools
Project for students that evidences project management, responsibility etc
Involve the whole school community:
o Involve the school council in the process and decision making
o Plot children's routes to school and issues relating to those routes
o Introduce a suggestion box available for staff, pupils, residents, and parents comments or ideas
relating to travel.
Whilst local policies will vary Safer Routes to School and other Local Transport Plan funding is usually
available to support and encourage sustainable travel to any educational establishment and should be
available to support independent schools and some of their proposed actions.
Many of the difficulties and situations suggested above mean that engaging and working with independent
schools to overcome some of these issues, change attitudes and influence behaviour is more challenging
and could be more time consuming. As a result local authority School Travel Advisers may be concentrating
their time, efforts and resources on what may be considered to be easier hits. It is not suggested that
schools in the independent sector do not have access to or are not availing themselves of the support that is
available but rather that the targeting and approach of schools in the independent sector may be further
down on the current priority list for STA’s. Independent schools may be less aware of the Travelling to
School Initiative however any school that wishes to become engaged and involved is encouraged to seek out
their authorities School Travel Adviser and request support and assistance. It is very unlikely that requests
of this nature will be declined unless strict priorities have already been established and even then it should
only be delayed and possible for assistance to be programmed for a future point in time.