Home to school transport will resume next week in North Yorkshire, with extra hygiene measures in place for the start of the Autumn term.
As schools, parents and pupils prepare for the start of the new school year, the 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 for dedicated home to school transport is that social distancing is not required, 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, then sit in the appropriate seat, otherwise sit in the furthest rear seat available in the morning. Pupils should also try and 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 individual 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 and straight forward 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.”
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.
For more information on home to school transport in North Yorkshire, visit the council’s main website.