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School Transport

General Information


The Council provides free transport to all pupils who live more than the statutory walking distance from their designated catchment school, which is over two miles for pupils less than 8 years old and over three miles for pupils aged 8 and over. In Orkney, this reduces to over 1.5 miles for all pupils during the winter terms (October break to Easter break). These distances are measured by the shortest available safe walking route. Distances will be measured electronically using the Council's geographic information system and Ordnance Survey large scale digital mapping.

The Council does not provide transport for pupils attending nursery or pre-school.

Pupil Pick-Up/Drop-Off Points

Local Authorities are not required to provide ‘door to door’ transport. Transport is usually provided as close to home as practical, however parents can be expected to walk/transport their child up to the qualifying distance, as detailed above, in order to reach the pick-up/drop-off point on the established route - likely to be the nearest main road. Parents/carers are responsible for this part of the journey.

The Council will endeavour to assess new pick-up/drop-off points to ensure that potential dangers are identified, and solutions are found to keep risks to a minimum. If required, advice may be sought from Road Officers/the Police. Any risk assessment carried out on a pick-up/drop-off point is made on the assumption that pupils will be accompanied by a responsible adult from their home to and from the pick-up/drop-off point.

Parents/carers are responsible for their child’s journey to and from school, or where transport is provided, between home and the pick-up and drop-off point.

Parents/carers should note that drivers are not required to help children cross roads and parents/carers should advise their children accordingly. You are responsible for advising your child in road safety.

Catchment Areas

Transport is only provided to the school for the catchment area where you live. If you elect to place your child in a school within a different catchment area (known as a Placing Request), the Council will not provide transport.

Parental Responsibility

Parents/carers are ultimately responsible for the proper and safe behaviour of their child when getting on, whilst travelling and getting off the transport provided. They are also responsible between home and the pick-up and drop-off point, immediately prior to boarding school transport each morning and again following the afternoon journey.

It is advisable that parents/carers wait at their children’s drop-off point and accompany them across the road if necessary as parents/carers are responsible for their children’s safety after they have left the school transport vehicle. School bus drivers are not required to help children cross roads.

Parents/carers are responsible for advising their child in road safety.

Never take a signal from any driver to cross - they may not be able to see if the road is clear in both directions.

Parents/carers are also reminded that they are ultimately responsible for the behaviour of their child when travelling on school transport. Parents/carers have a duty to read through the Code of Conduct with their children and explain its importance and consequences for not adhering to it.

Make sure the child is aware of what to do if the transport is late or does not arrive, or if they fail to catch the transport for any reason. (Parents/carers are responsible for their child until transport arrives.)

Pupils should wear, or carry, something bright or hi viz and dress warmly in case there is an unexpected delay.

Behaviour on all modes of School Transport

Pupils should understand and adhere to the Code of Conduct and full details are provided in PDF format within the 'Related Downloads' section of this page. Persistent misbehaviour may result in withdrawal of school transport entitlement. Parents/carers may be held responsible for any damage to school vehicles caused by their children and financially liable for any subsequent and necessary repairs.

Pupils who travel on other modes of transport (e.g. ferry, plane or taxi) who misbehave, cause damage or injury may, at the Council’s discretion, have their entitlement to school transport withdrawn.

Orkney Ferries staff and other operators can report instances of anti-social behaviour by pupils on the journey to Education, Leisure and Housing.

Seat Belts

All school transport vehicles are fitted with seat belts. Provision of free school transport can be withdrawn where a pupil does not wear a seat belt.

Nominated Passengers

Nominated places may be allocated by the Council to pupils who do not qualify for transport but live on an established bus route where the bus serving the route has available empty seats. The Council reserves the right to withdraw transport if the seat is required for a pupil travelling to their entitled school. Under such circumstances parents/carers will be provided with ten working days written notice to make alternative transport arrangements.

Nominated passengers may also be asked to relinquish their place on school transport at any time if it is deemed necessary for any other reason at the Council’s sole discretion. This will not be done without prior written notice.

Medical Issues

In exceptional circumstances, home to school transport may be provided on medical grounds, to enable pupils to attend their designated catchment school even though they may live within the statutory qualifying distance from the school. An application should be made if a pupil who is attending their correct catchment school is unable to walk to school due to a medical reason. Supporting written medical evidence must be obtained from a GP or hospital to confirm that the pupil is unable to walk to school and the likely period of incapacity. Please note: Medical grounds do not mean automatic entitlement. Any entitlement will be reviewed on an annual basis.

Additional Support Needs

Any child with additional support needs would be individually assessed by a member of the Support for Learners Team and, where appropriate, arrangements will be made to ensure the child is transported suitably and safely.

School Transport Policy

A copy of the Council’s School Transport Policy is available in PDF format from the 'Related Downloads' section of this page.


The Council requires three to five working days to organise and arrange transport for a new pupil between home and school, or implement a change of address which may also mean a change of bus route. If there are capacity issues on the route then it may take longer to allocate spaces as nominated passengers are entitled to ten working days’ notice to make alternative arrangements.

Anti-Social Behaviour

The Council will not tolerate anti-social behaviour on any mode of school transport (bus, ferry, plane, taxi). It can be reported by a pupil, parent/carer, driver/operator, teacher or member of the public.

Education, Leisure and Housing may request an investigation into the incident by working closely with the school and transport operator. This would normally involve taking written statements from pupils who witnessed the incident and interviewing individually those pupils who were named or identified as involved.

Drivers/operators may also be requested to submit a report. Any information given is treated in confidence. The investigation will seek to establish, as far as possible, exactly what happened and who was responsible. In very serious cases, the operator may call the Police; particularly if there has been damage to the vehicle. The Police will carry out their own investigation and may wish to interview pupils involved.

Following an investigation, further actions against pupils will be agreed between Education, Leisure and Housing and the school. This is usually in the form of exclusion from transport for a defined period. Persistent misbehaviour will result in permanent withdrawal of school transport entitlement. The action taken will depend on the severity of the incident and whether a pupil has previously been involved in anti-social behaviour. When exclusion from transport has been agreed, parents will normally be notified in writing and given an appropriate period of notice before the exclusion period starts. This is to allow parents/carers an opportunity to make alternative transport arrangements. During the exclusion period, it remains the responsibility of the parents/carers to ensure their child’s continued attendance at school.

In very serious cases, where it is considered that the safety of the vehicle, pupils or other road users would be put at risk by allowing a pupil to continue to travel, exclusion from transport may start immediately and without written notice. In such cases, the school or service will attempt to contact parents/carers to make them aware of the situation and arrange for them to collect the pupil from school.

Parents/carers and pupils should be aware that CCTV equipment is operational on some modes of transport.

Vehicles/vessels using CCTV will have notices displayed to this effect. Recorded images may be shown to school staff or the Police to identify individual pupils.

School Transport Code of Conduct

Code of Conduct for Bus Users

Before the Journey

Pupils should:

At the End of the School Journey

Pupils should:

During the Journey (for all modes of transport)

Pupils should:

Further Information

Further details of various aspects of school transport provision, including the School Transport Policy, newsletters, advice to and the responsibilities of parents/carers, and frequently asked questions are available in the 'Related Downloads' section of this page.

If you have any queries or require further information, please contact:

School Transport, Education, Leisure and Housing, Orkney Islands Council, School Place, Kirkwall, KW15 1NY.

Telephone: 01856873535 extension 2427.

Email: Education and Leisure.

Related Links

School Place, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1NY

Telephone: 01856 873535

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Orkney Islands Council: BOREAS DOMUS MARE AMICUS