Local authorities are managing a perfect storm when it comes to spend on home-to-school transport for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Our recently launched free-to-use dashboard to help local authorities within England better understand and benchmark their county’s spend on home-to-school SEND travel against their peers in ten comparable counties.

Taking the Core Cities group in England¹ as a sample set, the average spend on a home-to-school transport package for a child or young person (pre- and post-16-years-old, averaged) is £2,808 annually.

Sheffield is the best-performing city, while Leeds and Newcastle are the most challenged – despite managing a lower pupil density than on average. Newcastle and Sheffield have the same pupil density but show a significant £2,500 difference per pupil per year.

“The key factor in determining the cost of SEND transportation is not so much where you live, but where you go to school and how,” said Rob Bradshaw, a principal at Gate One.

“Local authorities are transporting more pupils, with more complex needs, further, for longer. The major driver of cost is a combination of supply factors – the price that can be achieved in the transport market for a contract plus the supply of available school places that can meet education need.

“The continued rising cost of providing these transportation services is a significant pressure point across all counties,” continues Rob. “But home-to-school SEND travel and transport is a statutory service, so knowing the cost drivers is crucial to understanding how to change behaviour to better support this strategic issue.

“In considering their commissioning, local authorities need to think about how they can promote the best outcomes for children and young people, encouraging the transition to adulthood and maximising independence.”

1 The ‘Core Cities’ group represents Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield.


Rob began his career in local government before moving into consulting, working for two of the Big Four firms and joining Gate One in 2019. Rob has accumulated a decade of experience delivering complex transformation programmes across local government, healthcare and central government. Rob is passionate about making public services work better for people who rely on them most. He thrives working with clients in integrated teams to solve problems and deliver meaningful change.