Parents, students, teachers and bus operators are being asked to comment on two reviews which recommend a number of changes to the way school bus services are provided for and which students should be eligible.
Transport Minister Eric Charlton said one review examined the provision of buses to meet the needs of all students, while the other looked specifically at the transport needs of students with disabilities.
"The general review recommends that eligibility to use free or subsidised services should be extended to include four-year-olds and all students living more than 4.5km from their nearest Government school," Mr Charlton said.
"Different levels of provision are recommended for service to Government and private schools and metropolitan and country areas, but there will be no change to the present requirement for a minimum of eight students for services in country areas.
"Students in many areas will also benefit in summer because of greater provision of air conditioned buses."
The independent chair of the review, Ms Barbara Morrell, said the recommendations resulted from extensive consultation with users and providers of school bus services.
Among recommended safety initiatives were the adoption of a set of bus maintenance standards, flashing lights on contract school buses and use of two-way radios outside urban areas.
"The review recommends no change to the current policy of not requiring seat belts to be provided in school buses," Ms Morrell said.
"The safety record of school bus services is outstanding. Each year buses transport students nearly 30 million kilometres, and there have been only a handful of crashes with no resulting fatalities for many years,"she said.
The Review of Transport Assistance to Students is open for public comment and will be assisted through information sessions held around the State starting on June 15. The closing date for submissions is July 17.
Mr Charlton said a separate report into the provision of bus services for students with disabilities had recommended no changes should be made that would disadvantage any student enrolled at a specialised education facility.
He said students enrolled at both Government and non-Government specialised education facilities would be equally eligible for transport assistance.
"The report recommends an over-riding principle that the transport needs of each student should be assessed and met on an individual basis," Mr Charlton said.
"In the Government school system this would be done through Education Department placement committees. Non-Government schools would need to set up similar arrangements.
"The report recognises that students with disabilities and their families need to use respite care from time to time and this presents difficulty with transport.
"Under present arrangements some parents have to choose between respite and education. This is clearly unfair and the report recommends these difficulties be addressed in consultation with education providers."
Mr Charlton said more than 40 submissions had already been received from parents of children with disabilities, Government and non-Government agencies and bus operators,
The draft recommendations in the report are supported by the Disabilities Services Commission, the Association of Independent Schools, the Catholic Education Office and the Education Support Principals' Association.
The Access to Education report is now open for further public comment. A series of information sessions will be held starting on June 30 to give parents and others the chance to ask questions and clarify issues of concern.
Mr Charlton said every submission would be considered and be the subject of a final report to him by September.
Details of the information sessions and copies of both reviews are available on the Internet at http://www.transport.wa.gov.au/linking/school_bus.html or by telephoning Ms Dianne Stewart on (08) 9320 9751
For further information contact Ms Barbara Morrell on:
Perth: 08 9247 3029
Farm: 08 9820 4046
Mobile: 041 238 1418
Fax (Farm): 08 9820 4026
MEDIA CONTACT: Doug Cunningham 9321 7333