News and Updates on home to school transport

New FAQs to help with the return to school

We have created a list of Frequently Asked Questions in relation to transport for the start of the Autumn Term 2021.  We hope that these are useful as your child or children prepare to return to school in September.

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Home to School Transport Newsletter – September 2021

Dear Parent or Carer

I hope that you and your family have had a good start to the new term and that your transport experience has been a positive one.

We appreciate your support during the first few weeks of term and we are aware that there were some ‘teething’ problems for which we apologise.  You will be aware that we had to change one of our providers during the summer holiday which created some unforeseen issues for the service.  We have created a very short (2 minute) survey to capture your thoughts on the service so far this term, from which we can learn and plan for next year.

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/MVNXT35

Requests for changes to transport
We care for 4,000 children on over 1000 routes and transport them safely to and from school.  So, I hope you will appreciate that it is not possible to make last minute changes to routes and transport that has been carefully planned.  Some transport routes include a number of children and therefore any delays or interruptions can create stress and anxiety for several vulnerable children and their parents or carers.  Once the transport routes have settled and our passengers are all familiar with and comfortable on their transport, we may be able to accommodate some changes, but we do not anticipate this being until after half term.

If you decide not to use Home to School transport for a particular journey for your child, it is imperative that you let Travel Assist your bus/taxi operator and your school know in plenty of time. 

Last minute changes create stress for vulnerable passengers and issues for schools and operators who are responsible for the safety of every child and then have to locate children who have been taken off transport by their parent/carer.

Home to School Parent/Carer Charter
We have created a parent/carer guide for Home to School transport which explains the service in more detail and sets out what we expect from parents/carers in order that the service runs smoothly.  It is available here.

Parents and carers are also politely reminded that they need to bring their child to the agreed pick up point in the mornings.

Improvements for September

We hope that children are beginning to benefit from some of the improvements we have been able to make including some shorter travel times on some journeys.  The latest update from the service (24/9/21) shows the following:

  • 99% of routes operated successfully
  • 99% of routes were on time
  • 91% of calls were answered with an average waiting time of less than two minutes

You are invited to a HATS Open Meeting – Monday 4th October

We are inviting parents who use HATS transport to an open meeting next Monday 4th October at 6pm.  This will provide an opportunity for parents/ carers who may have experienced difficulties with the start of term transport to talk directly to HATS colleagues.  This will be attended by HATS staff, Council officers and Councillor Thompson.  Please click on the link here in order to join the Zoom meeting.

Meeting ID: 812 6504 1923, Passcode: 829464

Delays to Bus Pass applications and renewals

Due to the high volume of applications being received by Travel Assist, after the start of the school year, there is a delay of up to approximately one month in processing some new and renewed Bus Passes, for which we apologise. Before contacting Travel Assist regarding your outstanding application please check your junk mail for Council emails regarding eligibility or bus pass codes and only contact Travel Assist if the application is older than 20 working days.

We are advising applicants to make their own travel arrangements at this time, and for all eligible applications delayed for 20 days or more a reimbursement will be paid for the cost of your child’s daily bus fare. 

Please send claims to travelassist@birmingham.gov.uk with ‘Bus Pass Claim’ in the subject field.

We would advise all parents and carers of pupils moving to high school to apply for their child’s bus pass immediately their school place is confirmed in March, to avoid delays at the start of term.

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Home to School Transport Update 10th September 2021– HATS routes

Dear Parent/Carer

I am writing to provide you with an update on Home to School Transport for this term as I am more than aware that the start of term has been difficult.

First of all, I am very sorry that this first week of term has not gone according to plan and that some of you have experienced a poor or interrupted service. While the vast majority of routes across the city have run on time, we know that in your school this is not the case and that the service has fallen below the standards that we expect of our services and that this will have caused inconvenience to you and your family. We very much apologise for this and will ensure that lessons are learned for next year to avoid this situation arising again. Transporting children safely and reliably is very important to us as a service and we will continue striving to improve.

I am also aware that due to a very high volume of calls and emails received, you may have struggled to contact the service and again, I apologise for this. Despite our best efforts, we received more than a week’s worth of calls on the first day and were not able to deal with the volume of calls adequately. Volumes of calls are now returning to normal so you should expect to be able to contact the service now with any queries on the usual number 0121 303 4955.

Whilst HATS and the Home to School Transport team have all worked as hard as they can, mobilising at such short notice has proved to be more problematic than anticipated. Therefore, we have taken the decision in collaboration with the school to pause services briefly whilst we review and ensure that HATS is able to provide safe and reliable services to all pupils going forward. We apologise for this situation and will provide a further update about services for next week. I know my team will work tirelessly together with HATS to ensure that services can be stepped back up as quickly as possible.

I also want to make sure that you are aware that in this interim period, you are entitled to apply for and take up a personal travel budget. Information on personal travel budgets can be found on the Local Offer here – https://www.localofferbirmingham.co.uk/home-to-school-transport/independent-travel-training/

If you are interested in accessing a personal travel budget you can email us at this address – HTSTransport@birmingham.gov.uk. This address has been specifically set up for parents at schools experiencing difficulties with mobilisation and responses will be fast tracked. A personal travel budget entitles families to 45 pence per mile for 4 journeys per day. We hope that this will be helpful for some families and enable you to transport your children to school without incurring personal costs.

We commit to providing a further update to you and parents which will provide information on routes coming on stream over the next 7-10 days.

In the meantime, please do contact us at HTSTransport@birmingham.gov.uk

with any further questions or concerns and we will do our best to respond promptly.

Mary Jefferson

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Update 27 August 2021

Dear Parent or Carer

We are making our final preparations for school transport for your child/children for the start of the new school year.  If you have not already received a letter about transport, you will be hearing from both the City Council and your transport provider (the bus or taxi firm which transports your child/children) in the coming few days with the details of your transport, your meet and greet and pick up and drop off times.  We do appreciate your patience and appreciate that it is vital that you have this information as soon as possible.

However, I write to tell you that the City Council has suspended its contract with Kings Norton Coaches and we are aware that this may create some anxiety for families that have relied on Kings Norton Coaches for their Home to School Transport in the past.  I write to reassure you that we have secured an alternative supplier, Green Destinations to take over the contract previously operated by Kings Norton Coaches.  You may wish to read more about them here: www.greendestinationsltd.com

If you have received a letter already stating that Kings Norton Coaches will be your transport provider for next term, apologies, that will now have changed to Green Destinations.

The issues that we uncovered with Kings Norton Coaches arose as we carried out additional compliance checks on providers relating to their readiness for the new school year.  This is a rigorous set of checks that we now perform to ensure that the highest levels of health and safety are in place at all times.  During these checks, we found that Kings Norton Coaches had not reached the high standards that we require.  We have acted quickly to replace the supplier, which is now Green Destinations and we are now transferring existing travel arrangements across to the new provider.  We are also working to minimise any disruption to families following this change in provider.

Green Destinations are part of our existing Home to School Transport fleet and are a Birmingham based company who have offered us a very good service to date.  

I hope that this answers any questions you may have about Home to School transport for September, however as always, if you have any queries or comments please contact the Travel Assist team who will be able to help.  There is also detailed information about Home to School Transport on the Local Offer website – www.localofferbirmingham.co.uk/home-to-school-transport/

Your sincerely

Mary Jefferson

Head of Service, Home to School Transport
Education and Skills Directorate, Birmingham City Council
travelassist@birmingham.gov.uk – 0121 303 4955

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Update 26 August 2021

Bus Pass Codes are being sent out and parents and carers can expect to receive theirs in the next few days.

Birmingham City Council are phoning some parents in regard to their Personal Transport Budget, or outstanding Home to School Travel arrangements.  Please listen out for calls that may come at evenings or weekends as well as during working hours and the number may say ‘unknown’. Thank you

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Letter being sent to parents affected by the change in transport provider from NBT to HATS

Dear Parent or Carer

I write to you as we make our final preparations for the school transport for your child/children for the start of the new school year.  If you have not already received a letter about transport, you will be hearing from both the City Council and your transport provider (the bus or taxi firm which transports your child/children) in the coming few days with the details of your transport, your meet and greet and pick up and drop off times.  We do appreciate your patience and appreciate that it is vital that you have this information as soon as possible.

You may have heard that the City Council has terminated our contract with North Birmingham Travel (NBT) and we are aware that this may have created some anxiety for families that have relied on NBT for their Home to School Transport.  I write to reassure you that we have secured an alternative supplier, Healthcare and Transport Services (HATS) to take over the contract previously operated by NBT.  You may wish to read more about them here: www.hatsgroup.com/our-services/home-to-school-transport-services/

I am aware that some people will have heard this news via social media in the first instance, and I apologise that you are only just hearing from us formally.  If you have received a letter already stating that NBT will be your transport provider for next term, apologies, that will now have changed to HATS.

The issues that we uncovered with NBT arose as we carried out additional compliance checks on providers relating to their readiness for the new school year.  This is a rigorous set of checks that we now perform to ensure that the highest levels of health and safety are in place at all times.  During these checks, we found that NBT had not reached the high standards that we require.  We have acted quickly to replace the supplier, which is now HATS and we are now transferring existing travel arrangements across to the new provider.  We are also working to minimise any disruption to families following this change in provider.

HATS are a national provider of Ambulance and Home to School Transport and they have committed to providing a first class service for our families and children from for start of the new academic year.  HATS have significant experience providing school transport at a number of other authorities including a large number of London boroughs and the Welsh Government.

I hope that this answers any questions you may have about Home to School transport for September, however as always, if you have any queries or comments please contact the Travel Assist team who will be able to help.  There is also detailed information about Home to School Transport on the Local Offer website – www.localofferbirmingham.co.uk/home-to-school-transport/

Your sincerely

Mary Jefferson

Head of Service, Home to School Transport
Education and Skills Directorate, Birmingham City Council
travelassist@birmingham.gov.uk – 0121 303 4955

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Personal Transport Budget – incorrect letters 

We are aware that some of the Personal Transport Budget letters that have been sent to parents and carers from the Home to School Transport Team, are incorrect.  We apologise and assure you that correct letters will be sent out shortly

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North Birmingham Travel – update

In preparation for organising travel arrangements for Home to School Transport for SEND children for September, we have terminated our contract with North Birmingham Travel (NBT) owing to a breach of contract on their part.  We want to assure our service users, that we have done this in the best interests of children.  We also want to reassure parents that owing to the extra contingency that the City Council bought in in preparation for any unforeseen issues, we intend to replace this resource immediately and do not expect families to experience any interruption to service as a result of this decision. 

If NBT is your transport provider, a member of the Home to School Transport contract team will be in touch with you shortly in order to let you know who your new provider will be.  In the meantime don’t hesitate to get in touch with us via Travel Assist if you have any questions.

travelassist@birmingham.gov.uk

0121 303 4955

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Post 16 and Personal Transport Budget Update
Extension to deadlines – look out for letters regarding Personal Transport Budgets and Post 16 transport. The deadline for applying or renewing has been extended. Please contact Travel Assist for more details. 
 
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SEND Home to School Transport – August Newsletter

Letters are currently being sent out to you with details of your child/ren’s routes and pick up slots for September.  You will also be contacted by your travel operator (i.e. coach or taxi company) later in the month to arrange a ‘meet and greet’ session where you will have an opportunity to meet your child/ren’s driver and guide (where applicable) before the start of term. 

During the first couple of weeks of the new term, we anticipate allowing time for routes to ‘settle’ as commuters return to the office and negotiate the Clean Air Zone for the first time.  During this time, we will only be able to address urgent issues and pick up slots will only be changed if they impact the route or schedule or where there are absolutely exceptional circumstances around pupil need.

COVID arrangements
From September we will no longer be operating the COVID bubble system and pre-COVID arrangements will be in place again.  However, we will continue to carefully follow health and safety protocols, including increased cleaning regimes on vehicles.  Transport staff may choose to continue to wear face coverings (drivers are not required to wear them whilst driving).  We ask that pupils wash their hands with soap and water, or hand sanitiser prior to boarding.  In addition, if your child has any symptoms of COVID-19 or has been required to isolate, they must not travel.

It is vital that all children, young people and students, including those with complex or additional health needs, are supported to continue their education and care in their education or children’s social care setting, or travel arrangements where it is safe to do so.

Some children, young people and students require procedures that may generate aerosols, such as inhalers. Aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) can increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the presence of a positive case between those giving and receiving care. Please be assured that we continue to follow government guidelines in relation to this issue and adapt this guidance to meet the local and specific circumstances.

Post 16 Transport
The deadline has now passed for applications, any late requests should be sent immediately, however transport for September cannot be guaranteed.

Information for September

Extra cover for routes
The Council’s contractors already build in contingency to cover staff sickness and vehicle breakdown.  In addition, the Council is also securing a small amount of additional contingency transport capacity as requested by the Department for Education, to cover any additional transport which may be needed.  In effect, from September, we are able to call on alternative providers to quickly cover for any problems, minimising disruption to families, passengers and schools.

The Home to School transport operation is very complex and details of routes and services may change over the summer; however, we will let you know about any changes as soon as they occur.  Thank you in advance for your patience.

In turn, please let us know of any changes to your circumstances so that we can adjust your arrangements as necessary.

Parent Transport Budget
Please note, in order to secure September payment, the deadline for submitting all paperwork for PTB applications is 31st August 2021.

Home to School Parent/Carer Charter
We have created a parent/carer guide for Home to School transport which explains the service in more detail and sets out what we expect from parents/carers in order that the service runs smoothly.  It is available here.

Parents and carers are also politely reminded that they need to bring their child to the agreed pick up point in the mornings.

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Notice for New Home to School Transport Applications

As a result of the size and complexity of the Home to School Transport operation in Birmingham, any new applications received now are unlikely to result in awarded transport being secured before the start of the Autumn term, September 2021.

Parents’ and Carers’ Charter

Parents’/Carers’ Transport Guide  
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SEND Home to School Transport – July Newsletter

We write with further information on ‘Home to School’ transport to keep you up to date and let you know what you can expect from our service during the summer.

The government are signalling an end to all COVID restrictions at the moment.  When term resumes in September we will be returning to pre-COVID travel arrangements, so there will no longer be bubble arrangements for home to school transport.  This means that passenger numbers on each vehicle will be governed by journey times and pupil needs.

We will continue to carefully follow health and safety protocols, including increased cleaning regimes on vehicles and transport staff may choose to continue to wear face coverings (drivers are not required to wear them whilst driving).  We ask that pupils wash their hands with soap and water, or hand sanitiser prior to boarding.  In addition, if your child has any symptoms of COVID-19 or has been required to isolate, they must not travel.

Extra cover for routes

The Council’s contractors already build in contingency to cover staff sickness and vehicle breakdown.  In addition, the Council is also securing a small amount of additional contingency transport capacity as requested by the Department for Education, to cover any additional transport which may be needed.  In effect, from September, we are able to call on alternative providers to quickly cover for any problems, we minimise any disruption to families, passengers and schools.

Families will also be aware that the Clean Air Zone went live on 1st June.  Families should be aware that September sees increased traffic volumes and this along with new routes people take outside the clean air zone may mean journey times take a few weeks to settle at the start of the year.  This is quite normal and could be more so as some people return to offices for the first time.  Generally these routes settle in the first few weeks of term and will ultimately lead to quicker journey times.

We (either the Council or the transport operator) will be in regular touch over the coming weeks to let you know:

  • Your operator details
  • Your guide details
  • Your route details
  • Your drop off and pick up times
  • Details of your meet and greet session

We would be very grateful if you would wait for us to contact you rather than contacting us.

Please also let us know of any changes to your circumstances so that we can adjust your arrangements as necessary.

The Home to School transport operation is very complex and details of routes and services may change over the summer; however we will let you know about any changes as soon as they occur.  Thank you in advance for your patience.

We are pleased to say that currently our transport is running 99.6% of all its routes on time, and we are determined to build on this improvement.

Parents and carers are also politely reminded that they need to bring their child to the agreed pick up point in the mornings. 

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SEND Home to School Transport Contract News

This update is to tell you the latest ‘Home to School’ transport news in readiness for the new term in September.

In addition to existing routes due to continue for a further two years, from September 2021, Birmingham City Council has awarded ‘Home to School’ transport contracts previously held exclusively by National Express Accessible Transport (NEAT) to be delivered going forward by both AFJ Travel Ltd and to National Express Accessible Transport.

Home to School ImageWe recognise that both the City Council and its chosen travel operators are on an improvement journey and we want to reassure you that we are working with all our suppliers to provide a much better service going forward. The Council has made huge investments in a new and very experienced transport team led by experts in their field.

We are pleased to say that currently our transport is running 99.4% of all its routes on time, and we are determined to build on this improvement.

We will be in touch with further details soon, and If you have any questions in the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Phone: 0121 303 4955
Email: travelassist@birmingham.gov.uk

Clean Air Zone travel update

Transport update as Birmingham introduces a Clean Air Zone on 1st June 2021.

BEW Hall Green June-July 2021 Flyer
Inquiry into city council’s home to school transport service – update here