Digital transformation of home-to-school applications at Central Bedfordshire

Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) wants to improve and streamline its school transport service and has combined Jadu CXM with QPaths. 

At a recent webinar, Aubrey Smith, from CBC, gave an overview of how they are using Jadu CXM to automate several council processes – from waste management to school transport applications. 

Moving applications online

He explained it was about making efficiencies and one aim was “to remove any manual activity or improve service delivery where we can” and for all requests to be made online. 

They have integrated their School Transport Auto Eligibility System with QPaths to calculate walking distances from a student’s doorstep to the school gate.

School transport applications made on paper have been replaced with a digital version. The team used to spend a lot of time processing lots of separate forms manually. They now have one online form for all types of applications. 

They found that even with all the required information provided, there was no quick process to decide on whether a child was eligible for school transport assistance. 

Manual processes were taking too long

He said: “We are an efficiencies project, so of course we are looking for efficiencies. And what we found, was that the main issue the service had was [the school transport planners] were manually processing applications throughout June, July and August. 

“And they were running out of time towards the end of August to efficiently plan the routes. Considering that we spend £8m or more a year [on transport], we needed to find a way to allow them to spend time to optimise those routes and reduce that cost. 

Codifying and streamlining the decision process

They designed a “decision tree” to evaluate which children were eligible. The data required included age, whether the child attends their nearest school, walking distance between home and school and what sort of route, family income and health or SEND requirements.  

Aubrey said they needed to match the information from the school admissions process and the school transport application form. 

The council teamed up with data analytics company Methods to design a suitable system to work out how many children were likely to be eligible for school transport before any applications are received.

Accurate, safe walking route calculations

One of the hurdles CBC needed to overcome was calculating walking routes accurately. QPaths works out the walking distance, which involves calculating the specific journey from the child’s address using the UPRN (Unique Property Number) to the nearest school gate. 

Aubrey said: “[QPaths] also takes into account whether a route is viable on safety grounds.”

Automatic error detection

He went on to explain how the Jadu CXM system picks up any errors such as people applying from the wrong authority area.

When an application is eligible the whole process is automated, but if an application is marked as “not eligible”, it is sent for a manual review. Applicants are not automatically declined.  

Exceeded expectations

Aubrey said: “When we set out on this journey, we said ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could get 50% [applications] automated’. 

So the actual results, taken about a week ago, after about 1,200-300 applications, and 53% of all applications were automatically marked as eligible. That’s it, no human intervention – bus passes posted, emails out to parents.

Aubrey Smith, Central Bedfordshire Council

“Not eligible was 17%, so those two combined takes us up to 70%, so 70% of all applications had an immediate automatic response. We did review the 17%, although just with a light touch.”

Now only 9% of applications need full manual review

He added CBC were getting 91% accuracy in terms of eligibility based on the criteria around distances and unsafe routes. Only 9% needed a full manual review. 

Aubrey said: “Now, you’ve got to put this in context, last year that would have been 100% – to this year only 9% needed a full review. 

Improved customer service too

He concluded the webinar by adding:

“I do want to point out that although we are saying efficiencies, this is also massively improved customer service as well. 

Aubrey Smith, Central Bedfordshire Council

“People are doing it online, getting quick responses, they’re getting updates and obviously they’ve also got an account so they can see what’s happening.” 

You can watch the full webinar on YouTube

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