From September there will be no requirement for social distancing on dedicated home to school transport (services which exclusively carry children and young people travelling to school or college), as:
- the overall risk to children and young people of serious illness as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19) is very low
- they do not mix with the general public on those journeys
- home to school transport often carries the same group of children and young people on a regular basis, and they may also be together in school or college
- It will not be realistically possible to transport in year-group bubbles due to the geographic nature of the school routes. It is also difficult to enforce initially, but in practice this often occurs with younger age groups occupying the front seats through to older children to the rear. Where necessary due to the volume of children and young people using a public bus service to travel to and from school, temporary designated bus services will run as school or college only services. Although social distancing guidelines that apply on public transport will not apply on dedicated school transport, social distancing should still be maximised within vehicles wherever it is possible, between individuals or ‘bubbles’.
- there is no requirement for drivers or passenger assistants to wear face coverings on dedicated school buses
- it is very important to maximise the ventilation of fresh air (from outside the vehicle) on dedicated school and college transport, particularly through opening windows and ceiling vents and operators will be asked to keep their vehicles well ventilated throughout the journey.
Guidance for parents with children and young people travelling on dedicated school transport
- Children and young people must not use school transport if they are displaying Coronavirus symptoms or if self-isolating
- Children and young people must only travel on the school bus route they have been allocated a seat on by Transporting Somerset
- Children and young people should ensure social distancing as much as is practically and safely as possible when waiting for the school bus
- Children and young people should wash their hands in line with the 20 second Government guidance prior to leaving home to catch the bus, and if possible, sanitise their hands before boarding the bus and again on disembarking
- Children and young people should board the bus in a calm and orderly manner
- Once seated, children and young people must stay in their seat with their seat belt on
- During the journey children and young people must adhere to Transporting Somerset’s ‘Behaviour Protocol’ and must not eat or drink on the bus
- Once at school, children and young people should disembark from front to back in a calm and orderly manner
In line with Government advice it is strongly recommended that secondary aged children and young people wear a face covering on dedicated school transport unless they fall into one of the exemption categories. Disposable face coverings should be disposed of in a covered bin, re-useable face coverings should be placed in a plastic bag that they can take home with them. Children and young people should wash their hands prior to removing and after removing their face covering.
There is no requirement for children and young people to sit in the same seat every day, however this is encouraged wherever possible to minimise the number of potential contacts. Some seats maybe marked as being ‘out of use’ particularly the front row. Children and young people should not sit in any seats marked as not for use. Where children and young people from different school’s travel at the same time on the same school bus, the children and young people from each school should sit together as a group.
We will be taking quick and necessary action with children and young people who do not adhere to the ‘Behaviour Protocol’ or are not following COVID-19 Government guidance and recommendations. If a child is removed from transport due to bad behaviour, it will then become the parent or carers responsibility to ensure their attendance at school at their own expense.
Children and young people displaying symptoms
Children and young people must not travel on school transport if displaying symptoms. If your child falls ill during the school day, it is parental responsibility to ensure your child is picked up from school, and only returns to school and school transport when it is safe to do so, in line with Government guidance.
Cleaning on school transport vehicles
Operators will be cleaning their vehicles in line with Government guidance and the recommendation that frequently touched surfaces are cleaned during the day after each journey where possible.
Consistent drivers and passenger assistants
Transport will be provided by your normal bus, coach or taxi operator at normal times unless you have been written to with details of a change. Operators are encouraged, where practically possible, to ensure the same driver, passenger assistant and vehicle is used daily on each route.
Choosing not to use school transport
If you choose not to send your child to school on the transport arranged by Somerset County Council, you will have to make your own arrangements, however it is important that you follow Government guidelines and your child’s school policy regarding gatherings around entrances, arrival and departure points.
Children and young people accessing public transport
Children and young people travelling on public services which have been temporarily designated as school and college only services, will not be required to socially distance, but the wearing of face coverings on public transport services is mandatory, unless the child or young person is exempt. Children and young people travelling on these services who are not entitled to free school transport will be charged the same as the equivalent fare on normal public transport.Where dedicated school, college and public services operate at the same time, drivers will advise children and young people if they are unsure of which bus to board.