The Department for Education (DfE) has produced school transport guidelines as it prepares for a full return of students in September, and Devon County Council has been working with schools, colleges and transport operators to plan for this return.
Social distancing guidance, which applies to passengers on public transport, will not apply on dedicated school transport which is not open to the general public. This is because the government believes the overall risk to students and young people from coronavirus (COVID-19) is low, they do not mix with the general public on those journeys, and the home to school transport carries the same group of students and young people on a regular basis.
However, the County Council, is asking that students aged 11 and over wear a face covering when travelling on school transport, unless they are exempt from wearing one.
Many young people travel to and from school or college by public transport. With social distancing measures remaining in place on these public services, we have identified areas where additional capacity is required, and will be providing around 70 duplicate vehicles across the county at peak times dedicated to school and college students. Full details of these additional services can be found on the Travel Devon webpages.
Although school “bubbles” cannot be replicated on dedicated school transport services, children will be asked to sit in their year groups on larger vehicles, wherever possible, with youngest students sat at the front. Schools are also being invited to draw up seating arrangements if they wish, and to be on hand at the end of the school day to assist students.
Students, drivers and passenger assistants will be advised that they must not board school transport if they or a member of their household has symptoms of coronavirus. If they develop symptoms while at school they must not travel home on school transport.
Councillor James McInnes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for education, said: “The priority is to make school transport as safe as possible in order to enable students to attend school while minimising the risk of transmission of COVID-19. We are working to the government guidance on the transport arrangements but we appreciate that some parents may prefer for their child to walk or cycle to school instead of using school transport. That will be down to parental choice.”
Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for transport said: “We are working with our transport providers and schools/colleges to provide additional capacity where it’s required on the network, and we’re confident that we have a clear picture as to where this will be. We’re also working with operators to ensure that they adhere to the latest guidelines regarding vehicle cleaning arrangements.”
More information is available at https://www.devon.gov.uk/coronavirus-advice-in-devon/document/schools-and-families/#section-1