Unfortunately, like many other local authorities, the service we are able to provide is being severely impacted by the well-publicised national driver shortage. It may therefore take us longer to put transport arrangements in place. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience, but every effort is being made to minimise the impact on families.
We are aware that families have questions and concerns regarding the practicalities of transport arrangements due to the current Coronavirus pandemic. The following information clarifies what transport arrangements will be put in place from this September for pupils who are entitled to transport assistance from us. These arrangements apply to both mainstream pupils and those with special educational needs or a 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.
Transport arrangements for September for those in receipt of contracted transport.
Transport is provided into 500 plus education settings and this is reviewed each summer to take account of leavers and new starters. This will ensure that the transport is efficient and cost effective. As per the council's Travel Assistance Policy for learners, shared transport will be provided wherever possible.
For existing passengers, 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. Where there are no planned changes, you will receive confirmation of pick and drop off times direct from your transport provider.
For new applicants, and those where the travel arrangements are changing, you will be informed of the arrangements as soon as possible to make any necessary preparations.
The summer review is a major task that we plan to have completed by the end of July. However, the review timescale can be effected by the number of late requests for transport received. This may result in some transport not being in place for the start of term. You will be notified as soon as possible if this is the case and, if you made your application in good time, then you will be reimbursed for making your own arrangements to get your child to school.
Post 16 transport arrangements for September
Requests for post 16 contracted transport are usually planned during August, but the ability to have transport in place for the start of term can be impacted by the number of late requests for transport received, as has happened in recent years. This may mean that you will need to make your own arrangements for the start of term until transport is in place.
We will notify you if transport will not be in place for the start of term and advise you of the likely timescale for a transport start, so you can make alternative arrangements. If you made your application in good time, then you will be eligible to receive reimbursement.
As per the council's Travel Assistance Policy for learners, shared transport arrangements will be put in place wherever possible. You are reminded that free transport is provided on a discretionary basis and is available at the beginning and end of the school/college day only, and individual timetables are not able to be met. Therefore, students should expect some waiting time. If a student is not able to wait for any significant amount of time, then arrangements will be considered on an exceptional basis.
Late applications for travel assistance
If you apply late for travel assistance during the normal admissions round, then we cannot guarantee that arrangements will be in place for the start of term. An application is classified as late if:
- Your child has an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) and you applied after 31 March.
- If you are Post 16 and you applied after 30 April.
A review of all transport is carried out over the summer and, for late applications, arrangements for getting transport in place will be affected by a number of factors including the total number of late requests received and whether the school/college applied for has already been reviewed.
We will try and meet the start of term dates where possible, but please note that for any application received after 6 May it is highly likely that transport will not be in place for the start of term. A late submission will mean that you will automatically be offered temporary travel allowance if your child is eligible for support.
Guidance for the Autumn term
Children travelling on contracted transport direct to schools 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, and we will be using all of a vehicle's available capacity where possible.
Where your child/children are travelling on a public bus or train and mixing with the general public, then social distancing does currently apply.
With limited vehicle capacity and the complexity of home to school transport arrangements, there were limits last academic year to the extent to which schools' individual needs relating to bubbles and/or staggered timings could be matched with transport arrangements.
The government has announced its intention to end the need for children and young people to be in consistent group ("bubbles") for the Autumn term 2021, so it is expected that, for September, transport arrangements will have largely returned to normal, with one inbound and one outbound journey per day for the majority of passengers and shared transport wherever possible.
Updates to government advice on home to school transport during COVID-19 (GOV.UK) will be published on these pages, so please check back regularly.
The transport arrangements for pupils with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) will continue to be as per the government guidance at the time. 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 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be required to be worn, further measures will be put in place as appropriate.
In accordance with the government advice on home to school transport during COVID-19 (GOV.UK) updated on 19 July 2021, we will be using most of the vehicle's available capacity on dedicated transport. The key points in the updated guidance from the Department for Education are as follows:
Schools and colleges no longer need to:
- keep children and young people in consistent groups or bubbles
- be responsible for tracing close contacts of those who test positive for COVID-19 - close contacts will be identified via NHS Test and Trace
- wearing face coverings is no longer a legal requirement on public transport but the government expects and recommends that they are worn in enclosed and crowded spaces where you may come into contact with people you don't normally meet.
On dedicated transport:
- we recommend that children and young people aged 11 and over continue to wear a face covering when travelling to secondary school or college
- we no longer recommend maximising distancing and minimising mixing, but unnecessary risks such as overcrowding should be minimised.