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Change to the eligibility rules of School Transport Assistance – taking effect from the beginning of Term 2
I am writing to let you know that from the beginning of Term 2 this year (6 May 2013), the Ministry is changing one of the eligibility rules for School Transport Assistance, which could impact on the travel plans of some of your students.
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 for free, if one of them had reached 10 years of age.
We have decided that it is more logical to change the distance eligibility criteria at Year 9, as that is when many students change schools. We hope this change will make it simpler and easier for many parents to arrange the family school run. It will also mean that more students are eligible for School Transport Assistance.
Who will the rule change affect?
This rule change will mainly affect students in Years 7 and 8, and only those 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.
This rule change will mean that more students will be eligible for assistance – either a school bus place, a Conveyance Allowance for their parents to assist with the costs of transport or in a limited number of cases, both. It could also mean that some students who are currently paying a fare to their local bus company, might be eligible for a free school bus. Also, there is a risk that some students who will continue to be ineligible may no longer be able to access the service as a fare paying passenger, if legal bus loading limits are reached.
What do schools and students need to do now?
As our Service Agents need to plan services ahead of the start of Term 2, I encourage you to highlight this rule change with your students’ parents as soon as possible. Any student who thinks that they might be eligible for assistance under these revised rules and wants to use a school bus place if offered, should fill out a School Transport Assistance application form and return it to you for completion of Part B of the form. You should then forward the completed form to your local Service Agent for consideration.
Guidance on the rules of School Transport Assistance and the application form is available from the Ministry’s website – http://www.minedu.govt.nz/NZEducation/EducationPolicies/Schools/SchoolOperations/SchoolTransport/Eligibility.aspx
Getting this information to the Ministry’s Service Agents as soon as practicable will allow them to put any additional services in place before the beginning of the new school term.
Hon Nikki Kaye, Associate Minister of Education announced this decision over Easter. As a result, you may receive queries from parents and from students about this rule change. I have attached a set of likely questions and answers which will assist you. I have also included a shortened version which you might like to forward to parents, for their information.
The school transport information on the Ministry’s website has been updated to reflect this change. See www.minedu.govt.nz/schooltransport. I have attached a copy of the revised Fact Sheet 1 which outlines the new eligibility rules and how they apply.