As the start of a new, challenging school year nears, Lytham St Anne’s parents and carers may well be very concerned about how their children are going to safely travel to and from school and college. Parents may be reassured that school and colleges are taking their duty of care and the safeguarding of their children very seriously. However, they may be anxious about the consequences of the journey to and from school when walking, cycling or a car journey is not an option.
So, as the doors of educational settings are set to reopen in two weeks’ time, the Government has issued advice about travelling to and from educational settings on both public and dedicated school buses.
Predictably, the advice says that schools and colleges should further encourage parents, staff and pupils to walk or cycle to school where it is safe and appropriate to do so. Cars should, if possible, be avoid because of congestion and environmental concerns.
However, bus drivers will be very pleased to learn that the advice says that there is no expectation for drivers to police pupil behaviour. Their role is to focus on driving the vehicle safely. However, there are a wealth of recommendations
The advice says:
- School and college should stagger start and finish times
- Bus services used predominantly by school children should be designated ‘school only services’
- Additional coaches should be contracted to provide dedicated school transport services
To prevent the spread of Covid-19 on dedicated school buses the advice says that:
- Children and young people aged 11 and over should wear a face covering when travelling on dedicated transport.
- Children, young people, drivers and passenger assistants must clean their hands before boarding transport and again on disembarking.
- Frequently touched surfaces should be cleaned after each journey wherever possible, and enhanced cleaning should take place at the end of each day.
- Children should be encouraged to carry tissues on home to school transport. These will need to be disposed of in a covered bin. Where it is not possible to have a bin on board, schools should have a suitable disposal process on arrival, in line with their process for disposing of face coverings.
- Children either sit with their ‘bubble’ on school transport, or with the same constant group of children each day
- Children and young people from different schools should not travel at the same time or, if they do, the children from each school should sit together as a group
- There should be a ‘first in, last out’ system, with those children getting on first seated at the rear of the bus and the bus filling forwards (such arrangements will require clear communication between schools and families and children)
- The use of face to face seating on home to school transport should be avoided wherever possible
- Good ventilation of fresh air wherever possible by keeping windows, or roof lights, on home to school transport, open should be ensured.
- If a child or young person develops symptoms whilst at school or their place of education, they will be sent home. They must not travel on home to school transport. The school or place of education should contact the parent or carer who should make arrangements for the child or young person’s journey home.
Lancashire County Council’s head of public and integrated transport, Oliver Starkey, announced that the authority was working with school bus operators on plans to prevent the spread of coronavirus, saying, ‘These (plans) include managing queues, maximising ventilation, and ensuring vehicles are sanitised.’
‘We are also working closely with the bus companies to identify where there may be a need to provide additional services as schools return due to the reduced capacity on each vehicle as a result of the continued need for social distancing on public buses. The confidence of parents and children about going back to school is crucial. They have been told all the way along about the importance of social distancing – and our young people have more knowledge about what they should be doing than they are given credit for.’
Deputy Labour opposition group leader John Fillis said he was shocked to learn that social distancing would not be a requirement when Lancashire’s school buses return to the roads next month, ‘It’s easy to imagine that some poor kids will be terrified at being put on a packed bus. What’s the point in being in a bubble when you arrive at school if you’re sandwich-packed on a bus to get there and back?’