Preparations are finalised for SCC funded school travel for the new school term.
SCC have made preparations to ensure that all pupils who are eligible for SCC funded school travel are transported to school safely for the start of term.
SCC transports approx. 12,000 pupils which is approx. 12% of the school population.
On the 11 August 2020 the Department for Education published official guidance on the measures that need to be in place to ensure that school transport is covid-19 safe. SCC have been working closely with bus operators and schools to put these into place.
There are three types of school transport on which that children will travel, these are either a dedicated closed contract, shared or public transport route. The guidelines for these routes are slightly different, as follows:
The majority of eligible pupils travel to school on dedicated, closed routes. This means that the vehicle only carries school children and on these routes social distancing will not apply. There will be other measures in place to ensure pupils safety, for example children need to make sure they wash their hands before and after travelling, no eating and drinking will be allowed on these vehicles. Face coverings are also recommended for children aged 11 and over.
There are also a proportion of children who travel to school on shared routes, this is where most passengers are pupils going to school or college but there are also a few members of the public travelling on the vehicle. SCC have worked closely with operators to ensure that there is enough space on these shared transport routes. Pupils should observe social distancing guidelines with members of the public and sit in the seats marked, they can sit next to members of their family or school. On these routes face coverings will be mandatory unless a child is exempt from wearing one, in line with guidance.
For pupils who travel to school by public transport where routes are used mainly by the general public, social distancing will apply and face coverings will be mandatory unless exempt from wearing one.
For pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) most of their routes are dedicated so this means there is little change to their transport. Where changes are being made we are getting in touch with the families to explain the arrangements for the new term.
A child must not travel on any of these routes if anyone in their household has symptoms of COVID-19 which are a new persistent cough, high temperature or change in their sense of taste or smell. If the child or anyone in the household has these symptoms, then public health advice should be followed as usual.
Planning school transport has been complex as SCC has to plan transport across the three types of school travel routes. This involves, trying to predict how many fare paying passengers there will be on shared and public routes. This has an impact on dedicated routes and how many spare seats will be available. We may need to use some of the spare seats for entitled pupils, but this will not be known straight away. Therefore, spare seats will still be unavailable to enable SCC to monitor capacity. Parents will be able to apply for spare seats from October half term subject to availability.
Councillor Mary Evans, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education and Skills said;
“The Passenger Transport Team has worked closely with schools and transport operators to ensure that suitable travel arrangements and safety measures are in place for all eligible pupils for the start of the school term. I appreciate that going back to school will be an anxious time for many families. I would like to reassure them that our priority is to ensure the safety of children on their journeys to and from school.”
“I am very disappointed that we are not able to open up applications for spare seats until October Half Term. While spare seats are never guaranteed, I recognise that these are important transport options for some families. If a parent has no means whatsoever of getting their child to school, SCC may be able to help by using discretionary power to offer transport arrangements. This would only be done where it is clear that this is absolutely essential to enable a child to attend school.”
For further information visit www.suffolkonboard.com