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Home to school transport Coronavirus update for autumn 2020

Please see below some frequently asked questions on home to school transport for the 2020/21 academic year in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The following FAQs have been produced to help you understand what transport arrangements will be put in place from this August/September for pupils who are entitled to transport assistance from us. They apply to both mainstream pupils and those with SEND (unless otherwise stated below).

We will update them as government guidance is published and updated, so please check back regularly.

Will school transport still be provided?

We have an obligation to continue to provide transport for pupils we consider eligible under our policy. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has made the planning of school transport extremely difficult and we may be physically unable to deliver home to school transport for every pupil that requires it in time for the start of the autumn term.

Can you guarantee that my child’s transport will be available from the start of the new academic year?

We are working hard to ensure that your child’s transport arrangements will be in place by the start of term however there are reasons that this may not be achieved, including:

  • we received your child’s transport application form after 8th June 2020, it can normally take up to 15 working days from the date we receive the form to organising transport assistance this increases considerably in the busy summer period 
  • we would normally allow at least 6 months to plan the majority of home to school transport, but we have now had to do that in just six weeks due to the current situation
  • the continually evolving Covid-19 situation has meant we have had to review how we deliver transport (detailed in our position statement) and we were only able to start planning your transport in early July when we received initial Government Guidance and final Guidance was only issued on 11th August.

When will I hear what transport my child’s transport arrangements are?

We normally aim to inform you of your child’s transport arrangements by early August each year, however this is not going to be possible this year.

We anticipate that we will have transport arrangements confirmed for all children and young people who had transport previously and have not changed school by the start of term.  However, for new pupils, or pupils having a change of school, transport may be delayed and not in place for the start of term.

Please don’t contact us as we will be in touch us as soon as your child’s transport arrangements are in place.

Unfortunately, late applications for transport provision will inevitably mean that the pupils concerned are unlikely to have transport in place for the start of term.

How will transport be provided?

We have developed a position statement that outlines how we will carry your child/children to school.  In developing the position statement, we have followed Government Guidance on safe return to school.

Will the transport be the same as last year?

In a lot of cases school transport will be similar to last year, but there will be some occasions where we will need to change the service and we would appreciate your assistance in preparing your child for this.

For children travelling on buses and coaches direct to schools this is known as dedicated transport.  As the users are often the same group of children travelling regularly and they do not mix with the general public on the transport this helps limit the number of other people with whom they come into contact and the government has stated that there is no need to adopt social distancing on these vehicles.

Where your child/children are travelling on a public bus and mixing with the general public then social distancing does apply.

In most cases where children are traveling in minibuses and taxis then social distancing does not apply.

How many children will be able to travel on each taxi/bus/coach?

Based on Government Guidance, we will be using most of the vehicle’s available capacity on dedicated transport.  On public buses the number of pupils that will be able to travel at any one time will be reduced due to social distancing requirements.

The government has suggested staggering school start/finish times - how will this affect school transport?

The availability of suitable vehicles at school start and finish times is going to be very limited. In most cases it will not be possible to arrange transport around each school's needs and therefore we will only be operating one inbound and one outbound journey.

What about school ‘bubbles’ – will they apply on school transport?

The government guidance for return to schools acknowledges that implementing ‘bubbles’ even partially will bring benefits, but states that schools may need to allow mixing into wider groups in certain circumstances, this includes on transport.

With limited vehicle capacity and the complexity of home to school transport arrangements there will be limits to the extent to which the school’s bubbles can be matched with transport arrangements.

How will transport look for SEND pupils?

The transport arrangements for pupils with SEND will be looked at individually. We have reassessed every child’s needs in respect of Covid-19 to minimise the risk of transmission to either the child or transport staff.

Subject to those additional individual risk assessments, it is probable that alternative vehicle provision will be made and/or that passenger assistants (escorts) will be required to wear PPE due to the need to be in close proximity to the children to carry out their role. We have categorised children to identify those with higher needs in respect of Covid-19 and these have led to further measures that transport staff will put in place. These are outlined in the documents below:

Measures for children requiring extra support due to behavioural needs  Opens new window

Measures for children requiring extra support due to medical needs  Opens new window

Measures applicable to all children  Opens new window

Will children or young people have to wear face coverings?

In accordance with advice from Public Health England, from the autumn term, we recommend that children wear a face covering when travelling on dedicated transport. 
A face covering is a covering of any type which covers your nose and mouth. They:

  • may be particularly useful where measures such as distancing and sitting in bubbles or year groups are not possible
  • may help children to feel more confident about using home to school transport and parents to feel more confident about their child using home to school transport
  • should not be worn by those who may not be able to handle them as directed (for example, young children, or those with SEND) as it may inadvertently increase the risk of transmission
  • are not a substitute for other protective measures such as good hand hygiene.

Some commercially provided school transport services ('School Specials') will have their own rules about the wearing of face coverings.  On public buses wearing of face coverings is mandatory to all those over 11 years of age.

Will drivers and passenger assistants be wearing PPE?

By PPE, we mean equipment such as fluid-resistant surgical face masks, disposable gloves, disposable plastic aprons and eye protection such as a face visor or goggles. We do not mean face coverings. Drivers and passenger assistants will not normally require PPE on home to school transport, even if they are not able to maintain a distance from the children and young people on the transport.

Where the care of a child on home to school transport ordinarily requires the use of PPE, that should continue as usual.

Drivers of buses, coaches, taxis and minibuses do not have to wear face coverings. We, however, have recommended that drivers and passengers assistants transport pupils with SEND wear face coverings.

What other measures will be in place for my child or young person travelling on dedicated transport?

We will continue to develop our procedures working with schools, places of education and transport operators to draw up other good practice measures for example:

  • seating arrangements so that children and young people understand where they need to sit on home to school transport - ensuring the same children always sit together will help to minimise the number of contacts each child has - for example:
  • first in, last out, with those children getting on first seated at the rear of the bus and the bus filling forwards (such arrangements will require clear communication between schools and families and children);
  • avoiding the use of face to face seating on home to school transport wherever possible.

What other measures will be in place for my child or young person travelling on wider public transport?

In addition to the mandatory wearing of face coverings for those over 11, social distancing will mean around only one person per double seat and only sit with someone if they are in your household bubble, there will be no standing allowed and everyone will need to wash or sanitise their hands before and after the journey.

What if there are too many people to socially distance when my child or young person is travelling on wider public transport?

We are working with the operators to identify particular areas where this may happen, and additional special school services will be put on.  Details will be available from the Operator. 

Can I still buy a spare seat on a school bus (‘farepaying places’)?

Our prime function is to provide transport for those pupils that we legally have to and, because the availability of transport is likely to be much reduced, then there are unlikely to be any farepaying places available for the 2020/21 academic year.  If circumstances change we will continually review this.

What can I do to help?

If possible (and we know this won’t be an option for many families), you could accompany your child to school, ideally on foot, by bike, or any other means of active travel.

For SEND pupils eligible for transport assistance we also have the Personal Transport Budget scheme (PTB).

Should I car share?

The national advice is to try not to share a vehicle with those outside your household or support bubble, while recognising this isn’t always possible. 
Some of the suggested measures to take are:

  • if possible, share the transport with the same people each time
  • keep to small groups of people at any one time
  • open windows for ventilation
  • travel side by side or behind other people, rather than facing them, where seating arrangements allow
  • face away from each other
  • clean your car between journeys using standard cleaning products - make sure you clean door handles and other areas that people may touch
  • ask the driver and passengers to wear a face covering.

My son/daughter is due to start a new course at college in Leicestershire in the next few weeks, but we’ve not had any indication as yet of transport arrangements?

We’re aware of the situation and we’re working hard with colleges in encouraging them to provide us with their timetables, as soon as possible, so we can plan the transport required. Parents should also be contacting the respective college to discuss any issues they may have.

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