School Services from September 2020
Posted on July 3, 2020
The Government have published some encouraging information about School Transport services for the Autumn term on the Gov.uk website.
It is copied out in full below, but the gist of it is that School buses can operate at full capacity. It is also important to note that they feel that schoolbuses are safe to use. The guidelines that are listed below will be fully complied with, as will any others that are published subsequently.
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Here is the transcript from gov.uk
Section 2: School operations
Social distancing has significantly reduced available transport capacity. This guidance sets out a new framework for supporting transport to and from schools from the autumn term.
We are making a distinction between dedicated school transport and wider public transport:
- by dedicated school transport, we mean services that are used only to carry pupils to school. This includes statutory home to school transport, but may also include some existing or new commercial travel routes, where they carry school pupils only
- by public transport services, we mean routes which are also used by the general public
Dedicated school transport, including statutory provision
Pupils on dedicated school services do not mix with the general public on those journeys and tend to be consistent. This means that the advice for passengers on public transport to adopt a social distance of two metres from people outside their household or support bubble, or a ‘one metre plus’ approach where this is not possible, will not apply from the autumn term on dedicated transport.
The approach to dedicated transport should align as far as possible with the principles underpinning the system of controls set out in this document and with the approach being adopted for your school. It is important to consider:
- how pupils are grouped together on transport, where possible this should reflect the bubbles that are adopted within school
- use of hand sanitiser upon boarding and/or disembarking
- additional cleaning of vehicles
- organised queuing and boarding where possible
- distancing within vehicles wherever possible
- the use of face coverings for children over the age of 11, where appropriate, for example, if they are likely to come into very close contact with people outside of their group or who they do not normally meet
Dedicated school services can take different forms. Some journeys involve coaches regularly picking up the same pupils each day, others involve use of a minibus whilst other services are used by different pupils on different days, or by pupils with SEND. The precise approach taken will need to reflect the range of measures that are reasonable in the different circumstances.
It will also require a partnership approach between local authorities, schools, trusts, dioceses and others. In particular, it is imperative that schools work closely with local authorities that have statutory responsibility for ‘home to school transport’ for many children, as well as a vital role in working with local transport providers to ensure sufficient bus service provision. DfE will shortly publish new guidance to local authorities on providing dedicated school transport, based on the framework outlined here.
Given the pressures on public transport services it may also be necessary to work with local authorities so that they can identify where it might be necessary to provide additional dedicated school transport services, including in places where these services do not currently operate. The government is currently evaluating this position and will set out next steps shortly.
Wider public transport
In many areas, pupils normally make extensive use of the wider public transport system, particularly public buses. We expect that public transport capacity will continue to be constrained in the autumn term. Its use by pupils, particularly in peak times, should be kept to an absolute minimum.
To facilitate the return of all pupils to school, it will be necessary to take steps to both depress the demand for public transport and to increase capacity within the system. Both will require action at a national and local level. Schools have a critical role to play in supporting collaboration between all parties – providers, local authorities, parents and pupils.
Schools should work with partners to consider staggered start times to enable more journeys to take place outside of peak hours. We recognise that this option will be more feasible in some circumstances than others.
Schools should encourage parents, staff and pupils to walk or cycle to school if at all possible. Schools may want to consider using ‘walking buses’ (a supervised group of children being walked to, or from, school), or working with their local authority to promote safe cycling routes. The government has announced a £2 billion package to promote cycling and walking, including to support pop-up bicycle lanes and widened pavements. For some families, driving children to school will also be an option.
However, these options will not be suitable for all. The Department for Transport is asking local authorities to:
- urgently work with schools to survey parents on their typical routes to school and potential alternatives
- consider a range of options for shifting demand for public transport onto other modes
- consider using traffic demand management approaches in order to ensure that children are able to attend school from the start of the autumn term
Travel patterns, the availability of vehicles, the length of journeys undertaken, and other local pressures on public transport vary significantly. The government recognises the challenge but is confident that if all available options are considered by all parties it will be possible to reduce demand and ensure transport is available for those who need it most. Experience during the 2012 London Olympics showed that it is possible to make a very real difference to travel patterns where there is a concerted effort to do so and where the general public understand the imperative for doing so.
Families using public transport should refer to the safer travel guidance for passengers.