Schools in North Yorkshire will be fully open to welcome all pupils and home-to-school transport will be back in operation from the start of the autumn term next week.

Over the summer holidays, schools have worked on measures to allow them to fully reopen to pupils of all ages from the week beginning Monday, September 7.

They have planned individually how they will arrange children in bubbles to minimise contact, using risk assessment templates developed by us in conjunction with headteachers and the unions.

Teaching bubbles, which involve pupils spending the day with the same group of people within school, are among the bespoke measures which will be employed by individual schools depending on their site, student population and other factors.

Stuart Carlton, Corporate Director of Children and Young People’s Services said: “We are looking forward to welcoming pupils back to the classroom after the months of uncertainty and upheaval brought about by the pandemic. Although there will be slight changes to the traditional school day, teaching staff are focused on bringing about a safe return to education for young people as quickly as possible.”

All schools within North Yorkshire, whether local authority maintained schools, or academies, have been provided with a named education adviser throughout the Covid crisis as a key point of contact and to support schools with any concerns over the safe opening of schools and nurseries.

Schools will have made additional arrangements to minimise risk, and will communicate plans to parents and carers. These will include using strategies such as one-way systems, minimising movement around the school buildings and providing additional hygiene measures. They may include adjustments to lesson and break timings during the day and lunchtime arrangements, and changes to start and finish times to minimise congestion around the school.

Home to school transport

The home to school school transport network which was in place prior to the lockdown is being reinstated where circumstances allow. In almost all cases, services will run from the same places and to the same timetable as normal. Extra buses will be provided on some public service routes to minimise pupils’ contact with the public before going into school.

Unlike for public transport, Government guidance is that social distancing is not required on dedicated home to school transport, as school buses and taxis will be carrying the same group of children on a regular basis and no members of the public travel with them.

Vehicles will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before each journey. Parents and pupils are being asked to play their part in safety measures by making sure they:

  • Wash or sanitise their hands prior to each journey.
  • Queue at their designated bus stop/collection points in the usual orderly manner and take particular care not to make unnecessary contact with other pupils
  • Where there is a seating plan provided by the school, sit in the appropriate seat. Otherwise, sit in the furthest rear seat available in the morning. Pupils should also try to use the same seat and sit with the same group of pupils each day.
  • Based on Public Health England recommendations, pupils aged 11 and over are encouraged to wear a face covering provided by parents or carers. This will help ensure the safety of each pupil, the driver and other pupils travelling on the bus.
  • Where school transport is shared by children attending different schools, pupils should sit together based on the school they are attending wherever possible.
  • Where pupils travel to school using public transport, the law requires that if they are over 11 years old they must wear a face covering unless they have a valid reason for exemption. They should adhere to mandatory 1m social distancing.

Children with special educational needs and disabilities with complex health needs will have the need for additional measures identified in their individual transport risk assessment. Additional personal protective equipment (PPE) will need to be worn by some drivers and passenger assistants where a pupil’s risk assessment has identified this as necessary. Where it is possible for them to do so, pupils are advised to use a face covering, but it is understood that some pupils will not be able to do this due to the nature of their needs.

Where pupils exempt from wearing face coverings are using public transport, they could be asked by drivers why they are not wearing one. To avoid the risk of challenge, or being refused travel, it is advisable to carry some form of documentation to prove an exemption if available.

The County Council has worked with transport providers to put arrangements in place to minimise contact with members of the public on public transport. In some cases, the service will be “closed” to the public and operate as a dedicated home to school service, but in others, the County Council has increased vehicle capacity to ensure seats will be available for pupils travelling to school.

Cllr Patrick Mulligan, Executive Member for Education said: “We would like to reassure parents and pupils that everything possible is being done to enable children to return to school and education as swiftly as possible, as well as minimise the risk of spreading the virus. The instructions for travelling on school buses are straightforward and largely the same as if you were visiting a shop or other public place; remember to wash your hands before you get on a bus and, if you’re over 11 and able to, wear a face mask.

“We expect that things will soon feel second nature to pupils and they can settle back into their school routine quickly.” 

If your child’s pass has not yet arrived, you can still use the transport. As with every other year operators will carry children without a pass for the first two weeks of term. View bus timetable information.

Following some of the positive changes to travel patterns we have seen during the lockdown, families are being asked to consider whether they can rethink the school run, and walk or cycle to school where possible, as part of a travel campaign. The campaign, which forms part of the County Council’s Schools Travel Demand Management, is focused on helping individuals to make a positive change to the way our children travel to school in North Yorkshire. To keep-up-to-date with the campaign, and find out how you can get involved, follow the Open North Yorkshire Facebook page.

Get more information on home to school transport in North Yorkshire.