Home to school transport update for autumn 2020

We acknowledge that there have been and continue to be some delays in the processing and delivery of home to school and college transport. We are very sorry for this and confirm that we are working to get this resolved and transport in place as soon as possible.

We are aware that families also have questions and concerns regarding the practicalities of transport arrangements due to the current Coronavirus pandemic. We have produced this Frequently Asked Questions Document (FAQ) as a measure of information and reassurance at this difficult time.

The following FAQs have been drawn up to clarify what transport arrangements will be put in place from this academic year for pupils who are entitled to transport assistance from us. These arrangements apply to both mainstream pupils and those with special educational needs or disability (SEND) (unless otherwise stated below).

We will update these in line with any revisions to published government guidance. Please do check back regularly to stay informed.

Will school/college transport still be provided?

We have an obligation to continue to provide transport for pupils we consider eligible under our policy. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has made the planning of school transport extremely difficult. We are sorry that this has impacted on our ability to promptly deliver home to school transport for every pupil that requires it in time for the start of the autumn term.

We are working to ensure that all outstanding transport requests are dealt with as soon as possible.

It usually takes up to 10 working days from the date the Transport Delivery Team receives the referral from the eligibility assessment team, to organising transport assistance. This can increase considerably during the summer as families apply close to the deadline for making applications.

If you were notified that transport has been approved more than 10 days ago and arrangements have not been confirmed for you, please let us know by completing our online complaint form. Simply click on 'how to make a complaint' to access the form.

We usually allow around 5-6 months to plan most of the home to school/college transport. We have now had to do that in a greatly reduced timescale due to the continually evolving Covid-19 situation. Initial government guidance was received in early July and final guidance was issued on 11th August. We acknowledge that this will have had an onward impact on Surrey families.

If transport is not yet in place, when will I hear what my child's transport arrangements are?

We continue to aim to get arrangements in place as quickly as possible and anticipate the majority will be completed during October 2020.

We very much acknowledge that waiting to hear what the formal arrangements are will add to anxieties you are already experiencing. We are sorry for this. In order to make the arrangements as quickly as possible it would greatly assist us if you could please not contact us again if you have already applied for school or college transport and received an acknowledgement of your application. You will be contacted as soon as your child's transport arrangements are in place. Please be aware that due to these unprecedented times, first contact may be from the transport provider. You will receive formal notification in due course.

How will transport be provided?

We have produced a guidance document for our transport providers, which outlines the measures that will be taken on dedicated school transport. This has been developed following government guidance on the safe return to school and will be updated if further guidance is issued. Links to both documents can be found at the end of this section, but the key points of guidance from the Department for Education are below:

  • Students should not travel if anyone in the household has symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Social distancing is not mandatory on dedicated school transport where the same group of passengers is travelling together daily. Note that social distancing and face coverings are requirements on public transport.
  • Precautions and general hygiene should be observed including:
    • hand washing before and after each journey
    • recommended wearing of face coverings where possible
    • additional cleaning of vehicles by transport providers, especially hard surfaces

Some useful links

Covid-19 – SCC Guidance in Safer Working for Dedicated Home to School Transport (PDF: 237KB)

11 Aug DfE guidance – Transport to school for schools and other places of education: autumn term 2020

Will the transport be the same as last year?

Wherever possible, transport will be the same, or similar. There will be occasions (not always in our control) where we will need to change the service. We acknowledge that for some children this may be upsetting and would very much welcome your assistance in preparing your child for this.

For children travelling on contracted transport direct to schools this is known as dedicated transport. The users are often the same group of children travelling regularly and they do not mix with the general public on the transport. This helps to limit the number of other people with whom they come into contact. The government has stated that there is no need to adopt social distancing on these vehicles.

Where your child/children are travelling on a public bus or train and mixing with the general public, then social distancing does apply.

In most cases where children are travelling in minibuses and taxis then social distancing does not apply.

How many children will be able to travel on each taxi/bus/coach?

In accordance with government guidance, we will be using most of the vehicle's available capacity on dedicated transport. On public buses, the number of pupils that will be able to travel at any one time will be reduced due to social distancing requirements.

The government has suggested staggering school start/finish times - how will this affect school transport?

The availability of suitable vehicles at school start and finish times is going to be very limited. In most cases it will not be possible to arrange transport around each school's needs and therefore generally we will only be operating one inbound and one outbound journey. We acknowledge that this may impact on some families.

What about school 'bubbles' – will they apply on school transport?

The government guidance for return to schools acknowledges that implementing 'bubbles' even partially will bring benefits. It also states that schools may need to allow mixing into wider groups in certain circumstances; this includes on dedicated school transport.

With limited vehicle capacity and the complexity of home to school transport arrangements there will be limits to the extent to which the school's bubbles can be matched with transport arrangements.

How will transport look for SEND pupils?

The transport arrangements for pupils with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) will be as per the government guidance. Where necessary or appropriate, an individual assessment of a child's needs in respect of Covid-19 will inform actions and decisions to minimise the risk of transmission to either the child, their household or transport staff.

For those higher need cases where PPE will be required to worn, as against face coverings, further measures will be put in place.

Will children or young people have to wear face coverings?

In accordance with advice from Public Health England and the Department for Education, from the autumn term, we recommend that children wear a face covering when travelling on dedicated school transport.

A face covering is a covering of any type which covers your nose and mouth. It:

  • may be particularly useful where measures such as distancing and sitting in bubbles or year groups are not possible.
  • may help children to feel more confident about using home to school transport and parents to feel more confident about their child using home to school transport.
  • should not be worn by those who may not be able to handle them as directed (for example, young children, or those with SEND) as it may inadvertently increase the risk of transmission.
  • are not a substitute for other protective measures such as good hand hygiene.

On public buses and trains wearing of face coverings is mandatory to all those over 11 years of age.

Will drivers and passenger assistants be wearing PPE?

By PPE, we mean equipment such as fluid-resistant surgical face masks, disposable gloves, disposable plastic aprons and eye protection such as a face visor or goggles. We do not mean face coverings. Drivers and passenger assistants will not normally require PPE on home to school transport, even if they are not able to maintain a distance from the children and young people on the transport.

Where the care of a child on home to school transport ordinarily requires the use of PPE, that should continue as usual.

Drivers of buses, coaches, taxis and minibuses do not have to wear face coverings. We, however, have recommended that drivers and passengers assistants who transport pupils with SEN, wear face coverings.

What other measures will be in place for my child or young person travelling on dedicated transport?

We will continue to develop our procedures working with schools, places of education and transport operators to draw up good practice measures to meet government guidance.

What other measures will be in place for my child or young person travelling on wider public transport?

In addition to the mandatory wearing of face coverings for those over 11, social distancing will mean around only one person per double seat and only sitting with someone if they are in your household bubble. There will be no standing allowed and everyone will need to wash or sanitise their hands before and after the journey.

What if there are too many people to socially distance when my child or young person is travelling on wider public transport?

We are working with the operators to identify particular areas where this may happen. Additional government funding has been used to put some additional services on these areas until October half-term.

Can I still buy a spare seat on a school bus or other school transport vehicles (concessionary seat scheme)?

Our statutory function is to provide transport for those pupils that are legally entitled to travel assistance. The availability of transport is likely to be much reduced, and with the restrictions on the number of seats that can be made available for fare paying passengers under Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR), there is a limited capacity.

The allocation of concessionary seats on vehicles other than coaches is usually started at October half term. Due to the unprecedented number of requests for transport received after the deadline for applications this year, this process may be delayed.

What can I do to help?

If possible (and we know this won't be an option for many families), you could accompany your child to school, ideally on foot, by bike, or any other means of active travel.

For SEND pupils eligible for transport assistance we also have the Independent Travel Allowance – details can be found in section 9.2 of our Home to School/ College Travel and Transport Policy June 2020 (PDF: 634KB)

Should I car share?

The national advice is to try not to share a vehicle with those outside your household or support bubble. We recognise that this isn't always possible. In those instances, some of the suggested measures to take include:

  • if possible, share the transport with the same people each time
  • keep to small groups of people at any one time
  • open windows for ventilation
  • travel side by side or behind other people, rather than facing them, where seating arrangements allow
  • face away from each other
  • clean your car between journeys using standard cleaning products
  • Ensure you clean door handles and other areas that people may touch
  • ask the driver and passengers to wear a face covering.

My son/daughter is due to start/has started a new course at college, but I've not had an indication yet of transport arrangements

We very much acknowledge the current delay in putting transport arrangements in place. We are sorry for this. We are continuing to work through these requests as quickly as possible. We aim to have all current requests actioned by 31 October 2020.

Will my child's attendance record be affected if they are unable to get to school due to transport delivery difficulties on the part of the Council?

We can confirm that the code to be used by schools should be Code Y: Unable to attend due to exceptional circumstances.

This code can be used where a pupil is unable to attend because:

  • The school site, or part of it, is closed due to an unavoidable cause; or
  • The transport provided by the school or a local authority is not available and where the pupil's home is not within walking distance; or
  • A local or national emergency has resulted in widespread disruption to travel which has prevented the pupil from attending school.

Files available to download