School transport plans for when pupils return back to school in September have been announced with extra services being laid on and social distancing not being a requirement.
Devon County Council has confirmed 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 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 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.
Social distancing measures remaining in place for young people who travel to and from school or college by public transport.
Areas have been identified where additional capacity is required. The council will be providing around 70 duplicate vehicles across the county at peak times dedicated to school and college students.
The additional services are being providing from 29 schools and colleges including Axe Valley School, Brixham College, Clyst Vale College, Dartmouth Academy, Kings School, Ottery, St James School, Exeter and Tavistock College.
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.”
Full details of additional services can be found on the Travel Devon webpages.
More information is available at https://www.devon.gov.uk/coronavirus-advice-in-devon/document/schools-and-families/#section-1