Updated COVID regulations for Home to School Transport – December 2021

Introduction

On 29 November 2021 the Department for Education refreshed its guidance in relation to home to school transport. The government advise that it is important that we all use personal judgement to manage our own risk, and continue to act carefully and remain cautious.

Bus companies for instance can set their own guidance for passengers and many in England are still requiring passengers to wear face coverings. Everyone needs to continue to take the well-rehearsed practical measures to protect themselves and others around them, as the Covid-19 disease is still infecting large numbers of the UK and global populations.

By working together we’ll keep everyone as safe as they can be. The offer of Covid-19 safe school transport is made by the local authority to parents/pupils, but if any parents wish to make their own alternative transport arrangements at their cost this will be understood.

Principles

  1. Safety of the public, pupils and staff will equally be paramount
  2. Government guidance relating to home to school transport https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1036663/.pdf  Schools_guidance_update_for_Omnicron_-_29_Nov.pdf
  3. Dedicated transport to schools and colleges COVID-19 operational guidance (publishing.service.gov.uk) 

Illness/shielding

  • Drivers, Passenger Guides and pupils must not travel on transport if they are feeling unwell, and specifically if they or a member of their household have symptoms of coronavirus which include a new, continuous cough, high temperature, or loss of taste or smell – in this event they should stay at home, self-isolate and get a test (by calling 119 or following this link:  https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test ). The NHS continue to report that the main symptoms of Coronavirus (Covid-19) are a high temperature, a new, continuous cough and a loss or change to the sense of smell or . Whilst awaiting PCR test results (and where the test is positive for the required isolation period after), Drivers, Passenger Guides and pupils must not travel on home to school transport.
  • Any pupils becoming ill at school should be taken home by their parents (NB parents should have transport contingency arrangements in place to do this).  Transport will only be arranged to return pupils with symptoms home where all other alternatives have been .

NHS test and trace

  • If you have been informed by NHS Test and Trace that you are a contact of a person who has had a positive test result for COVID-19,please ensure you follow the very latest guidance in relation to testing and isolation (https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus ).  Drivers and guides must not report to work if they have any symptoms at all.

Hygiene

  • At all times, everyone should maintain good hand hygiene (e.g. washing hands with soap and water or alcohol hand sanitiser, particularly straight before and straight after journeys), avoid direct hand contact with eyes, nose and mouth, and use tissues to catch coughs and sneezes (or at least to cough/sneeze into the crook of their elbow) disposing of tissues in a bin as soon as possible (i.e. ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ – https://www.england.nhs.uk/south/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2017/09/catch-bin-kill.pdf )
  • Coronavirus is an easy virus to kill when it is on skin. This can be done with soap and running water or hand sanitiser prior to and after the journey to school (
  • Hand sanitiser will be available on home to school transport and pupils should be asked to sanitise their hands during the journey.

Self-isolation

  • If pupils have any symptoms of coronavirus they should self-isolate at home and arrange to have a test to see if they have coronavirus. If anyone in their household has symptoms, they should self-isolate.
  • Children, Drivers and Passenger Guides who have been in contact with someone who has developed symptoms must follow the latest government advice in relation to isolation and testing (

Loading capacities

  • Dedicated school transport will continue to operate to full loading capacities, which it has done in most local authorities across the country since reinstatement back in September 2020 (and in Birmingham since September 2021). This is in line with advice from the Department for Education.
  • Public transport (local bus services and trains) will from 19 July 2021 generally operate at, or close to full capacity but operators may impose some restrictions and requirements, such as the wearing of face coverings (masks) for passengers – the government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport.
  • Where pupils not entitled to free transport normally use public buses to get to school, parents may still wish to continue to consider other travel options, notably walking, cycling or scooting. The other main option for parents is travel by car, but parents may wish to avoid car sharing. If none of these options are available to parents, pupils should use public transport. All this will help ease capacity pressures on public transport and help further reduce any transmission of the disease by separating pupils from the travelling public.

Operators

Cleaning

  • Coronavirus is understood to be easy to kill on surfaces – normal cleaning products will do this. Operators should ensure that all touch points on school transport vehicles have been cleaned to protect against coronavirus prior to and after every new journey – this includes door handles, keys, handrails, armrests, seat backs, seatbelts, driver controls, etc. [NB operators should contact us if they have any difficulties in sourcing appropriate cleaning supplies/PPE].  It should be evident to passengers and their families that additional cleaning measures are in place.
  • On-board disposable cleaning fluids/cloths/disposal gloves and a suitable secure on-board bin for disposal of any cleaning items, tissues or PPE, for in-journey use, should be provided

Staff and testing

  • The government and the council are encouraging everyone to take part in regular lateral flow testing to tackle the spread of coronavirus, particularly as a lot of cases are thought to be asymptomatic.
  • Staff should have regular lateral flow Covid tests – residents can obtain free tests or free lateral flow testing kits for their asymptomatic staff and they are urged to arrange for twice weekly staff testing. This will support the fight against the virus, help keep staff and their families safe, and at the same time protect passengers, pupils, schools and their families.
  • Regular rapid testing will help to identify people who may unknowingly spread the virus. Operators should keep a record of their employees’ tests and results, and both negative and test results should be reported to the NHS.
  • Report a COVID-19 rapid lateral flow test result – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
  • Where there are any positive cases, the employee should isolate immediately and the NHS will offer a PCR test to confirm positive lateral flow tests.
  • Any staff member who has symptoms of Covid (19) should isolate immediately and get a PCR test. In these cases, this web link should be used:
  • Get a free PCR test to check if you have coronavirus – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
  • Staff employed by operators should note that indoor mixing in poorly ventilated areas is particularly risky and operators may wish to discourage this – and must have mitigations in place, particularly where ventilation is poor. Operators should support individual workers who choose to use face coverings.

Seating

  • From September 2020 there will be no social distancing on dedicated contract (closed) school buses and taxis, which means that vehicles will operate at up to 100% capacity – it’s important to note that no members of the public travel on these buses/taxis whilst on council contracts and they are restricted to the same group of pupils each day.
  • From the autumn term 2021 it is advised where possible that on school buses each pupil uses the same seat each day. Once the seating arrangements are established, where possible they should be replicated daily
  • Passengers should be spaced on the vehicle as much as possible.
  • As before, siblings from the same household can sit next to each other
  • Drivers are expected to advise on safe travel and instruct pupils about safe seating arrangements, but they are not expected to police arrangements such as seating plans, queues or the wearing of face covering – their role is to focus on driving the vehicle safely.  However, it should be noted that some schools may require face coverings to be worn when on the school site and in those cases, pupils should not be unloaded until pupils have put on their face coverings.

Ventilation

  • Operators should continue to provide good vehicle ventilation when carrying passengers (such as using the vehicle’s air blowers, opening windows and roof vents, etc., where practical) to help reduce the chance of potential airborne infection

Infection control

  • Drivers and Passenger Guides may wish to use alcohol hand sanitiser at intervals throughout the journey and should always do so after performing tasks such as helping a child into the vehicle or handling a child’s belongings.
  • Boarding at a school or transport hub, should take place in an orderly fashion. When boarding takes place at school or at a hub Drivers and Passenger Guides are encouraged not to congregate unnecessarily.
  • Where Drivers and Passenger Guides enter school premises, they should be aware of any other restrictions related to the site such as maximum room capacities and adhere to those rules accordingly.

Face coverings

  • Pupils over 11 years should wear face coverings whilst travelling on school buses or taxis. Wearing face coverings may not always be possible, particularly for SEND pupils or if exemptions apply.
  • Drivers/ Passenger Guide staff should wear face coverings/ or visors particularly when assisting pupils although drivers may remove their face coverings if it obscures their vision when driving.

PPE

  • Drivers and Passenger Guides will wear PPE appropriate to the risk assessment for their role, the pupils on board and the nature of the staff interaction with them.
  • When applying or removing fluid resistant face masks or other PPE, it is important that the wearer’s hands are washed/cleansed for 20 seconds before and after each use

Communications & pick-up points

  • Our transport providers endeavour to maintain consistent staffing although unfortunately that is not always possible, for example if a member of staff is required to isolate at short notice.

Risk assessment

  • An additional risk assessment should be carried out where circumstances change or where there are additional issues present. Parents and carers will be contacted directly if they are affected by this.

Seating

  • If the Passenger Guide needs to fasten a passenger’s seat belt/harness, this should be done with minimal physical contact, wearing appropriate PPE

Wheelchairs/handling

  • If Drivers and Passenger Guides have to manoeuvre wheelchairs, they should clean the wheelchair handles and brake levers prior to pushing the wheelchair. Likewise, if installing car seats or booster seats, clean the hard surface areas (e.g. outer shell, buckles) before installing in the vehicle and clean them after use – for these tasks PPE may be worn.
  • Proper planning and the use of appropriate PPE may be needed for wheelchair users and those with SEND where handling and sustained contact may be required for getting on and off vehicles, as in the ambulance procedure.
  • Any unnecessary moving and handling or close sustained contact with the pupil will be avoided
  • The UK government has issued advice in respect of COVID-19 infection prevention and control and operators and staff should be aware of this and keep up to date with the latest guidance.

Face coverings

  • Where SEND pupils can wear face coverings on provided transport, we would encourage this (unless exempt). Ideally pupils should not touch the front of their face covering during use or when removing them. Hands should be washed for 20 seconds immediately on arrival, and disposable face coverings placed in a covered bin or, for reusable face coverings, in a plastic bag. We are mindful that the wearing of a face covering may inhibit communication with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound.

Temperature testing

  • Temperature screening will not normally operate on SEND or any other school transport. Parents should not send pupils to school if they have a fever or are unwell.