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Independent Travel Training

Independent Travel Training in West Sussex – Guidance for Parents

Within West Sussex 1,644 children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) who have an EHCP are transported to school up to 16 yrs (2017 figures.) Post-16 267 students with SEN are transported , primarily to their local College or Sixth Form and to other schools out of county.

What does Independent Travel Training mean?

Independent Travel training means teaching the basic skills to enable your child/young person to start travelling within their local community with increasing independence. It does not mean that your child is suddenly left unaccompanied and expected to fend for themselves; for most people this means a gradual withdrawal of support over a journey or route, either from parents, carers or teachers.

Travel training initially includes teaching young people to walk specific routes to where they want to go ie to shops, Colleges, travelling by bus, train, walking or cycling. Some modes of transport may be more applicable than others, depending on the individual or where you live. Ultimately, the aim is to transfer skills learned from a specific journey to all situations in the community.

Benefits for Parents/Carers

  • Increased opportunities for parents/carers to enjoy their own leisure time; increased chances of working
  • Decrease in constant Caring role
  • Increasing chances of child/young person being able to participate in the local community, live independently and possibly have access to employment
  • Increased independence may mean less reliance on Adult Services in the future

“My daughter has additional needs, a learning delay and traits of Autism and a Medical condition of Neuropathic Bladder. I applied for transport to college as she had been granted transport to school. I was offered a taxi , home to college and back for which I was grateful but I felt it would not help her learn an important life skill. I contacted you and explained this and was granted a train pass. we had a few practices and when the day came she went for it , although I arranged for a friends son to travel with her on first day and another friends daughter the second. I was more nervous than when she started primary school and peered through railings at train station with tears in my eyes. I am so pleased to say she has mastered this quite quickly even connecting trains. It has taken many months for me to relax a bit and many grey hairs. I am so pleased for her and very grateful to you for letting her have this chance. She has lost items and had some returned so I am grateful to station staff too.” West Sussex parent.

Frequently asked Questions about Independent Travel Training

Why do I want my child/young person to travel independently?

  • Young people who have had travel training may find the increased independence gives them improved self- esteem and confidence.
  • They will be less reliant on parents and carers to take them to places. This again will increase confidence and opportunities.
  • Greater opportunities to participate in social activities e.g. sports, Guides, Scouts, Youth activities.
  • More likely to find themselves paid work or volunteering opportunities in the future because they can travel.
  • Increased chances of living independently.
  • Potential increased health benefits.
  • Promotes equality of opportunity and independence.

When should I start Travel Training my child/young person?

Obviously this is an individual decision based on circumstances and the needs of the child/young person. In general, however, the earlier the training starts the better, given that it can take years to practice and to embed the procedures. It is acknowledged that some children will never travel independently, but the aim would be to possibly be more independent than previously, if only by a margin.

Certainly, if not started before, the ideal time is Year 10, during the transition phase, as once the young person leaves school at the end of Yr 11 the rules for Post-16 transport change and a contribution, which can vary annually, applies. Transport is also only for those who are eligible. The charge is currently £651 per year, although exceptions for low income families apply. (2020-21 charges.)

So how do I start to help my child/young person prepare for travel training?

Here are some basic ideas and suggestions to start with, which can be done at any age:

  • Encourage your child to think independently about what they need for any occasion before leaving the house i.e. coat, bag, money, keys etc.
  • Teach money handling skills when you both go to the shops.
  • Encourage your child to speak to or point out other authority figures when out in the community i.e. Police

Community Support Officers (who have often been in schools), adults in the ticket office at stations, train stations and point out which adults could help them in the future. Increasing communication skills will assist your child across all scenarios.

  • Encourage your child to start buying their own ticket, with supervision, at self-service machines at train and bus stations for example, when you travel together.
  • Try a day trip on public transport. (ideas are below of how to do that.)
  • Walk around your community, to the park, shops etc. Talk about safe places to cross and explain how to use a pedestrian and zebra crossing.
  • Try to teach telling the time in both analogue and digital format as public places may have either.
  • Apply for communication cards which are often available from specific charities i.e. National Autistic Society

These can be handed out if your child becomes uncomfortable in a public place. They often state the child’s difficulties i.e. autism, communication difficulties and states that they may require assistance and/ or being left alone if their behaviour alters whilst out in public.

  • Parent/Carer could wait outside school door at the end of the day (rather than go in)
  • Parent/Carer waits at the school gate at the end of the day to allow child to walk that far themselves
  • Parent/Carer gradually staying further back at the beginning and end of the school day to allow entry and exit into/out of school independently
  • Once your child can use a phone, perhaps encourage them to undertake a small journey and text you when they are there (reassurance for both of you!) This could be a trip to the local shops to spend pocket money, for example. It sounds expensive if I need to use the bus or train…….

What Help Is available?


You can apply for the Disabled Person’s Bus Pass and submit the necessary evidence, which allows the child/young person to travel for free throughout West Sussex, at all times, including holidays and weekends. You can also apply for a Companion Pass at the same time to allow somebody to escort your child/young person and to teach the basics of travelling. Again, evidence that a Companion is required will have to be submitted and the pass can only be used when accompanying the Young Person. Stagecoach have an App which can be downloaded onto a smart phone which gives live journey times, the ability to purchase tickets, shows in minutes when the bus is due and can show where the next stop is. This is visual and could help reduce anxiety. Look online at the Stagecoach app and the accompanying video shows how travel has changed. Many buses also have lower floors so wheelchairs can access them. Helping Hands’ cards are advertised from the main bus companies for free. The links to the websites are below. The cards include signs such as ‘Please tell me which bus stop to get off,’ ‘Please give me time to sit down before you move’ etc. The idea is to show the driver as you get on. The links below show the Journey Assistance cards that can be used to indicate that you may need help in getting off at the right stop, time to sit down etc. The journey planners are also on the main website.

Travelling by Train

A Disabled Person’s Railcard is also available. This will give one- third off the cost of rail travel. There are usually special offers on too regarding family and group travel. Southern Railway lists downloadable leaflets which cover topics such as travel support cards (which state where you are travelling to and contact details), a visual communication guide where a passenger can point to pictures which will cover all the likely questions at a station such as, ‘When is my train?’ ‘What platform does it go from?’ ‘Where are the toilets?’ ‘Where can I get food and drink?’

How do I start planning my route on public transport?

Maybe you travel by car or walk so travelling by public transport is new to you too. Help is at hand. There is a good network of public transport available within West Sussex and you can find out different ways of doing the same journey by using a journey planner.

Journey Planner

These websites enable you to enter the starting and end point of a journey and will give options via car, walking, train, bus or cycling (or a combination of them.) They will give timings of trains and buses (plus the number of the bus) and estimated times of walking etc, so you can get a comprehensive journey plan.

Who does Travel Training? Charities, such as Kidz /PACSO/Barnardo’s are all commissioned by WSCC and are advertised on the Local Offer at Travel Training is not advertised as a stand-alone aim; it is often an integral part of the programmes already offered by these charities.
  • Barnardo's Moving Forward Project West Sussex Life Skills Youth Group Crawley based
  • Springboard Horsham and Crawley based
  • Autism Sussex children offer 121 outreach support
  • Fun and Breaks (FAB ) the young person is paired with a volunteer. How about asking the volunteer to use public transport with your child when going on activities?

As part of their offered programmes independence skills are often offered as a course. Personal budgets can be used to ask a PA to take a young person out into the Community and teach some travel skills i.e. reading a bus/train timetable, walking to an activity rather than driving etc.

Some of the above charities, like Barnardo’s in Crawley, run personal independence programmes that are organised over a number of weeks and cover skills such as money handling, food preparation and staying safe. PACSO in Chichester runs a Jobs Club, for instance, one weekday evening.

Special Schools often do some basic travel training as part of the curriculum (i.e. walking to shops as part of Cookery lessons) and Colleges, if offering a Skills for Life/Independent Living programmes, should be providing independent travel training skills as part of the curriculum.

If your child/young person has an EHCPlan it is worth checking, as part of the Annual Review process, that any training, which has been offered as part of the curriculum, is being undertaken. Indeed, the travel requirements for your child will be reviewed annually at this meeting, and the current levels of transport assistance are not always guaranteed on an annual basis.

GPS can be activated on your young person’s phone and/or you could teach your young person to text, so you can be in communication once they start the small steps of independence i.e. asking to post a letter in a box at the end of the road etc. Apparently there are shoes which have a tracking device within the shoe on. Whether you would wish to do this would be an individual decision. Apps can be downloaded from the various travel companies onto a smart phone. These give real time information about the arrival times/platform numbers (where applicable) of trains/buses. This information can help reduce anxiety as they help reduce the unexpected. A visual planner, which puts tasks and times in order is a useful tool and is being used as an educational aid in some schools. It is available for download on itunes currently £14.99.

Can I use a Personal Budget/PA’s time for Travel Training?

  • Yes you can. You could always check [email protected] who could advise you on how to do this.
  • Direct payments and Personal budgets can also be used as long as the personal budget is supporting the aims of the EHCP.
  • If you have queries and/or receive mid-low DLA then advice can be sought at [email protected]
  • Why not ask your PA to walk/take a bus/go on a train/practice a route to school/College with your child? If they are both going on a cinema trip etc then why not walk/use public transport rather than going in the PA’s car?

    Who could teach my young person to drive?
    • Amanda Boxall DVSA ADI based in Horsham is on the Local Offer Amanda Boxall DVSA ADI and has experience in teaching students with SEND how to drive. Recent success stories have included two pupils with Aspergers.
    • is based in Bognor and Chichester also advertises on the Local Offer.

    What about learning to cycle? There is a national bikeability scheme on and in Horsham there is a scheme called which you might like to access. It is believed the scheme also runs in Crawley. Schools often teach cycling as part of the cycling proficiency course and your young person should be encouraged to participate. There are cycle paths around in West Sussex which do not have traffic, and they would be an ideal place to start. Centurion Way in Chichester is an old railway line; there are open spaces, recreation grounds, old tennis courts which could be used to at least start learning to ride. There is a Shoreham Beach to Worthing path also. On the Local Offer there is there is a company that hire out tandems, which may be an enjoyable way to start cycling, especially for younger children. ----

      Examples of Success Stories

      Crawley College worked in partnership with Southern Rail to trial a 'Try a Train Day'

      HTML tutorial

      "There were nine students in total to trial this new scheme and it was a fantastic success. The two groups completed the same journey over two mornings, comprising of a change to help them understand this process and stretch and challenge their abilities. We had a stop in Haywards Heath for a drink and the students were commenting on how much they were enjoying the process. We already have a waiting list for the next travel training session we will deliver in the future" - Quote from staff member at Crawley College

      Supported Apprenticeship Programme

      Alan Sealby was taken on a supported apprenticeship programme via Chichester College and has since been offered a paid job. He learnt to travel independently which enabled him to travel to his first paid job with an organisation. “I can take my mum and dad to different places, “I can get the train.” “I’m going to save up my money and treat mum and dad.” Look at his interview on Youtube.