East Lothian Council is writing to all families who use home to school transport to outline the new travel arrangements and their responsibilities for keeping themselves and fellow passengers safe
Face coverings will be mandatory on all home to school transport – contracted or public service
The implications of physical distancing has impacted on capacity across the school transport network. While contracted transport is viewed as an extension of the school estate, requiring little distancing, this does not apply on public services. The council provides around 1,200 pupils with bus passes for travel on these routes. Guidance also states that pupils attending separate schools should travel separately on contracted routes, and transport arrangements have been put in place to allow this to happen.
This affects some routes where primary and secondary pupils previously shared transport – separate buses will now be provided for primary and secondary schools. This applies even if the children are from the same family group.
The council has worked closely with transport providers to apply Scottish Government and Transport Scotland guidance on safe provision and find appropriate solutions. The priority is to provide a service that is safe for pupils, drivers and escorts.
26 new buses have been commissioned across contractor and public service routes to allow pupils to continue to travel safely to school. The cost to the council is around £1.7m.
Guidelines are also being shared with families along with their passes on their responsibilities to ensure safety.
- Families should provide their pupil with hand sanitiser, which must be used prior to boarding the bus
- Face coverings will also be mandatory on all home to school transport – contracted or public service – to avoid any confusion (medical exemption cards available here)
- Failing to adhere to these guidelines could lead to a pupil being refused entry to the bus
- Seating plans will also be introduced on buses
Timetables have been brought forward to allow pupils to be transported and families will be informed of the new timing arrangements when they receive their passes.
These measures have been introduced in response to the current Covid-19 public health emergency and will be subject to review in line with any further Scottish Government guidelines.
Cabinet member for Education and Children’s Services, Councillor Shamin Akhtar, said: “I know this will be a relief for many parents who rely on our home to school transport services but who were also concerned about what this would look like in the current health emergency. Our officers have worked hard with transport partners to enable us to provide a service to families. We are in the process of sending out bus passes and timetables and would ask that all families pay particular attention to their responsibilities for keeping their own children, drivers and other passengers safe. This will be essential to the operation of the service.”
East Lothian Council will adopt face coverings as required on all school transport to provide consistent message across the transport and stop any confusion. The exemption rules for face coverings are the same as public transport and an exemption card can be found here.
Section 42 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 states that an authority should provide assistance with transport for children who require to walk more than two miles for school pupils under eight, or three miles for those aged eight and over.
East Lothian Council’s policy is to provide transport for pupils who have a walking distance of two or more miles.
The council currently provides home to school transport for 2450 pupils across East Lothian in three categories: contracted transport, public service transport routes, and additional Special Needs transport.
New arrangements are in place for home to school transport from August 2020