Shropshire Council

Coronavirus emergency guidance for school transport and other council passenger transport

Introduction

On 22 February 2021 the Prime Minister announced a roadmap to the easing of the latest COVID-19 lockdown. On the 8 March 2021 all schools and colleges will re-open for all pupils and students. To continue to keep everyone as safe as possible, we much appreciate operators, parents and pupils following this guidance here to help make transport as COVID safe as possible.  By working together will we keep everyone safe as they can be. The offer of COVID-19 safe school transport is made by the local authority to parents/pupils, but if parents/pupils do not wish to accept the offer, they can make their own alternative arrangements for transport to and from school.

General COVID-19 guidance

Principles

  1. Safety of the public, pupils and staff will equally be paramount
  2. Government COVID-19 advice for passengers
  3. Government advice for operators

Illness/shielding

  1. Drivers, passenger assistants and pupils should not travel on transport if they are feeling unwell, or 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.
  2. 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)
  3. Guidance on shielding and people/pupils who are high risk (clinically extremely vulnerable).

NHS test and trace

  1. Drivers and passenger assistants should book a COVID-19 test if they display symptoms (as described above) and families should do likewise if their children display symptoms.
  2. They should also provide details of anyone they have been in close contact with if they were to test positive for coronavirus or if asked by NHS Test & Trace.
  3. A person should self-isolate if they have been in close contact with someone who develops COVID-19 symptoms or someone who tests positive for COVID-19

Shared school transport

  1. Where two different schools have previously shared the same transport, we're now providing additional separate transport from September 2020 in order to separate pupils from different schools.

Hygiene

  1. 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’)
  2. 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.

Self-isolation

  1. 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 or support bubble has symptoms they should self-isolate.
  2. Children, drivers and passenger assistants who have been in contact with someone who has developed symptoms whilst at school or on home-to-school transport do not need to go home to self-isolate unless i) they develop symptoms themselves (in which case, they should arrange a test), ii) the symptomatic person subsequently tests positive, or iii) if they have been requested to do so by NHS Test and Trace.

Loading capacities

  1. Whilst provided school transport will operate to full loading capacities from September 2020, public transport (local bus services and trains) will remain at less than 50% capacity. The government is urging parents to arrange for pupils not entitled to free transport who normally use public buses to get to school to walk or cycle instead, if they can, or to use alternative means of getting to school.  This will ease capacity pressures on public transport and avoid pupils travelling with the public.
  2. On certain public transport services in Shropshire which are used by many pupils and where there is a high risk of buses not being able to carry all the pupils/passengers wanting to travel, at the request of government we'll be providing additional buses/coaches to supplement the main public service bus.

Operators

  1. The government announced the return of all pupils to all schools wef 8 March 2021 and Shropshire’s school transport network is fully re-activated from that date.

Cleaning

  1. 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]
  2. 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

  1. Firstly, staff employed by operators should avoid mixing with each other where possible and operators should support individual workers who choose to use face coverings in situations where social distancing is not possible. Where travel risk assessments determine that PPE is required, this should be provided to staff free of charge. 

    Staff should have regular Covid tests. The Department for Transport (DfT) say that alongside the vaccination programme, testing forms a critical part of the roadmap to recovery. They are supporting the rollout of asymptomatic testing for transport workers which is being led by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).

    They’re encouraging transport operators to sign up using the DHSC online registration portal for free lateral flow testing kits for asymptomatic testing of staff.

    This will help to identify people who may unknowingly risk spreading the virus and are thereby preventing workplace outbreaks and making the country safer for everyone. If you have not yet signed up, the DfT are urging you to do so now.

    Schools returned on 8 March 2021, and in response to the DfT’s efforts outlined above, the Council is encouraging school transport workers to get tested with lateral flow kits at their operator's workplace test site, at home or their nearest community testing centre. 

    Shropshire’s community testing centres include those at:

    • Craven Arms
    • Shrewsbury
    • Wem
    • Bridgnorth
    • Oswestry
    • Markey Drayton

    Find out more from our Information for businesses page.

    Tests can also be booked at selected pharmacies. 

    Operators should keep a record of their employees tests and results, and where there are any positive cases, the employee and their household should isolate immediately and the result should be reported to NHS (web link below) and the Council. NHS will offer a PCR test to confirm any positive lateral flow tests.

Seating

  1. From September 2020 there will be no social distancing on dedicated contract (closed) school buses and taxis, which means that vehicles will operate at 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
  2. The default seating arrangement on school buses will mean that each pupil uses the same seat each day and that they are grouped in their year groups (‘bubbles’), with the eldest pupils seated at the rear of the bus and progressively younger year groups sitting towards the front of the bus, as described in the ‘bubble’ seating examples below. Where it is possible, individual pupils and ‘bubbles’ should be as distanced as possible from each other, preferably by an empty row of seats or more.  Once the seating arrangements are established, where possible they should be replicated daily.

    For primary school transport:

    For secondary school transport:

    NB ’Bubble’ numbers correspond to school year group numbers, with eldest pupils in bubble 13, progressing in age reduction order to the youngest pupils in bubble R. Some operators may attach colour coded tags to seating ‘bubbles’ for speed and ease of identification.

  3. Siblings from the same household can sit next to each other, even if they are in different ‘bubbles’.
  4. 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

Ventilation

  1. Operators should provide good vehicle ventilation when carrying passengers (such as opening windows where practical) to help reduce the chance of potential airborne infection

Infection control

  1. Drivers and passenger assistants 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.
  2. At the end of their shift, drivers and passenger assistants should minimise possible contamination before entering their own home where possible – key things to do include washing with soap and water, and isolating clothes and personal effects in a box prior to cleaning
  3. Where school ‘link’ or ‘feeder’ transport is provided, we may revise the arrangements and provide the transport directly to the end destination, to reduce contact and journey time.
  4. When boarding takes place at school or at a hub, drivers may stand off the bus two metres away from boarding pupils/passengers; drivers should not congregate
  5. For disability transport (whether by taxi or accessible bus) operators should take account of the ambulance trusts’ procedures for transporting someone without COVID-19symptoms where social distancing is not possible (i.e. particularly, please see ‘Table 4’ infection control) shown here.

Face coverings

  1. Pupils over 11 years must wear face coverings whilst travelling (but they should not be refused transport if not doing so). Wearing face coverings may not always be possible, particularly for SEND pupils or if exemptions apply. Where pupils who must wear face coverings do not, they should be reminded that they should do so, and operators should report any such instances to the council and the school. 
  2. Drivers/staff can wear face coverings/visors where social distancing is difficult. Full guidance on face coverings and exemptions can be viewed here.

Government guidance

  1. Government (DfT) advice for operators should be adhered to and can be found at the link at bullet point 3 above.

Taxis

  1. On Taxis and Private Hire vehicles, pupils over 11 years must wear face coverings (unless exempt) and should use sanitising hand gel both on entry and disembarkation.  Drivers are advised to wear face coverings.  Whilst ideally we would like to restrict pupil numbers on taxis to two pupils in the rear seat, with the middle rear seat and front seat unoccupied, this may not be possible in many cases.  In reality the infrastructure to provide this is unavailable and/or it is logistically difficult.
  2. Taxi operators should follow guidance issued by our Taxi Licensing Team
  3. Pupils/passengers should follow the advice of the driver. For example, you may be asked to sit in the back left-hand seat if travelling alone.

Parents/pupils

Illness, Symptoms, ‘Positive Cases’, ‘Contacts’

  1. Pupils should not travel if unwell or if they or a member of their household have COVID-19 symptoms.

    Public Health England say that if you live in the same household as someone with COVID-19 to stay at home and self-isolate, and not to go to school. If pupils test positive for COVID-19 they should follow Government guidance and isolate at home for 10 days. 

    As part of COVID-19 testing at schools, NHS Test and Trace say pupils and staff  will be tested if they come into contact with a positive case.  This will be ‘7 day contact testing’, and allow those who are in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 to return to school, if they agree to be tested for 7 days following last contact with a positive case and the tests are negative.

    For pupils provided with transport to school, transport for these 7 days will be via parental transport only and the provided transport will not be available during this 7 day period. This is to help protect people travelling together in the enclosed spaces of vehicles (i.e. drivers/PAs/pupils).  If parental transport for the 7 days is not available, parents will need to talk to their school about remote learning options.

  2. Parents may wish to routinely take the temperature of their children, and whilst a high temperature (e.g. above 37.2 degrees centigrade) is not a method for identifying coronavirus, it could identify if a child is ill, in which case the child should not attend school whatever the cause of any illness. If in doubt, parents can contact their school for advice.
  3. If any pupils become ill during the journey to the school, the school should be notified immediately – the school may then contact their parents to collect them from school.

Boarding

  1. Boarding buses should be done one at a time - disembarking buses should also be undertaken one at a time, from the most forward seats first, with pupils staying apart

Hand sanitiser

  1. Pupils should sanitise their hands when boarding buses/taxis – if available, they can use operator provided hand gel and/or they can carry their own (i.e. 60%+ alcohol hand gel); parents may wish to advise pupils to sanitise their hands regularly during the journey as well.

Face coverings

  1. Pupils over the age of 11 must wear a face covering (unless exempt) whilst travelling on provided transport, and not touch the front of their face covering during use or when removing it. (NB Pupils aged 3-11 years can wear a face covering as well, if parents so wish). Please see link to Government guidance on face coverings and exemptions at point 33 above.

Seating

  1. See points 22 – 25 above
  2. In particular on boarding, pupils should go straight to their usual seat, and sit down
  3. Where primary school pupils have difficulty fitting seat belts themselves, the driver should offer verbal guidance and support from a safe distance – seat belts should be pre-adjusted for pupil use
  4. Pupils travelling on coaches should stay seated for the whole journey, face forwards, not touch other pupils, not shout or sing and use a tissue to catch any coughs or sneezes

Infection control

  1. On arrival at school, pupils must wash/sanitise their hands immediately for 20 seconds and dispose of temporary face coverings in a covered bin or place reusable face coverings in a plastic bag they can take home with them, and then wash their hands again before heading to their classroom.
  2. We would encourage pupils to carry tissues with them on the bus/taxi, to use to cover their mouth/face if they sneeze, cough or wish to blow their nose – used tissues should be disposed of safely and not shared
  3. Where possible pupils should social distance on a school site or at a transport hub, where multiple vehicles may be present where loading and unloading is required, and school staff may supervise on-site unloading/loading
  4. As a general rule, not just when using transport, pupils and staff should maintain good hand hygiene, regularly washing hands with soap and water or alcohol hand sanitiser for 20 seconds. This is particularly important straight before and straight after journeys. As best as they can, everyone should also 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

Risk

  1. Where pupils/passengers present an unacceptable safety risk to other pupils/staff, their (school) transport provision may be withdrawn (e.g. for reasons including displaying illness, deliberate spitting, coughing and sneezing at others, not wearing a face covering whilst travelling, refusing to use alcohol hand gel on boarding, touching others, shouting, singing, not sitting in their allocated seat or ‘Bubble’, standing, kneeling on seats, ignoring verbal safety guidance).

Temporary Seats Payment Scheme

  1. Our Temporary Seats Payment Scheme which uses spare seats for non-entitled pupils has been suspended since the start of the Covid emergency. However, we have now reviewed this suspension and in light of the improving COVID-19emergency, both nationally and locally, the scheme will become available again at the start of the Summer Term on 19 April 2021.  We implemented a range of COVID-19safety measures that are now well established on all our school transport routes. We reserve the right to suspend the scheme again at any time should the COVID-19emergency require this.

Parental travel budgets

  1. Whilst our new arrangements for providing home to school transport follow government guidance, parents of pupils entitled to free school transport may decide to make temporary, alternative arrangements out of personal preference. Parental travel budgets or mileage allowances can be considered as an alternative transport offer, upon application. We'll determine whether or not it can provide a parental travel budget in each individual circumstance. Where parents wish to reactivate the original arrangements, please contact us.

Public buses

  1. Where non-entitled pupils travel on public transport (LBS) also used by the public, because passenger loading capacities on these public buses continue to be less than 50% from March 2021 to allow on-bus social distancing, parents are encouraged to find alternative ways of getting their children to school – if they live in the same town/community as the school, active travel (walking/cycling) should be the first choice. The second choice should be travel by car. Car sharing should be avoided. Only if none of these options are available to parents should they attempt to use public transport.

Parental cars

  1. For pupils not entitled to free school transport, parents will make appropriate arrangements to get their children to and from school. Many pupils walk or cycle to school themselves. Where parental cars have to be used, car sharing should be avoided so as to help reduce transmission of coronavirus. Also, a ‘Park & stride’ strategy is encouraged – this is a simple solution that allows pupils to walk for part of their journey and where parents safely park a little further away from school, typically within a 5-10 minute walking distance. Parents will decide whether or not to escort their children to and from school on the ‘stride’ element of the journey. ’Park & stride' helps both reduce school gate Covid transmission risks and eases traffic congestion.

School gates

  1. Parents and pupils should avoid congregating at the school gates and keep these areas free for unhindered access and egress of the school site. Any parents who do escort children to the school gates should exercise social distancing at all times. Also, face coverings can be worn. This reduces the risk of coronavirus and helps with road safety. For any specific arrangements please contact your child’s school.

Government guidance

  1. Government (DfT) advice for passengers should be adhered to and can be found using the link at point 2 above.

Schools

DfE guidance

  1. Guidance from the DfE to parents, carers, local authorities and schools are at the following links:

Bus and taxi routes

  1. Any changes requested by schools to established transport arrangements to accommodate COVID-19 measures at school will be considered using the following criteria:
  • Compliance – are revised arrangements compliant with government COVID-19 guidance?
  • Capability – is the transport operator capable of providing the revised transport?
  • Cleaning – has the transport operator time to clean vehicles between trips?
  • Consistency – are the transport changes consistent over time?
  • Cost – are there any cost implications?

Face coverings

  1. Schools should have a process for pupils to remove and safely disposing of face coverings when arriving at school. Please see link to government guidance on face coverings and exemptions at point 33 above.

Bus seating

  1. Seating arrangements on buses are important in making transport safer - we ask that schools support the pupil seating template outlined in the operator section above (specifically 23. above), namely that each pupil uses the same seat each day and that pupils be grouped in ‘bubbles’ according to their year groups, with the eldest pupils seated at the rear of the bus. Individual pupils and ‘bubbles’ should be distanced as far as practically possible from each other, with a seat row between ‘bubbles’ where loadings allow. Once the seating arrangements are established, they should be replicated each and every day. Should a travelling pupil become Covid-positive, schools should notify the bus/taxi operator and Council immediately, both for information and to allow testing/isolation of the Driver/Passenger Assistant, if required. In a school bus the isolation of other travelling pupils/driver should be based on a risk assessment and should include factors such as:
  • Vehicle size
  • Degree of face-to-face contact
  • Length of time in close proximity and
  • Whether or not a perspex screen is in place

Shropshire Council COVID-19 Health Protection Cell can assist with this risk assessment process and in addition to the factors already mentioned the risk assessment is guided by the following seating schematics:

School bus - positive aisle seat pupil case (red) guidance for consideration

  • Red- isolate (positive case)
  • Purple – isolate (0.8 – two metres from positive case ‘head to head’)
  • Blue – Isolate (1.6 – two metres from positive case ‘head to head’)
  • Yellow – Consider isolation (1.6 – two metres from positive case ‘head to head’, but two rows behind positive case)
  • Green – Don’t isolate (over two metres from positive case)

School bus - positive window seat pupil case (red) guidance for consideration

  • Red- isolate (positive case)
  • Purple – isolate (0.8 – two metres from positive case ‘head to head’)
  • Blue – isolate (1.6 – two metres from positive case ‘head to head’)
  • Yellow – consider isolation (1.6 – two metres from positive case ‘head to head’, but two rows behind positive case)
  • Green – don’t isolate (over two metres from positive case)

Note - schematics and measurements based on a typical large coach used for school transport.  Minibus, bus and other types of coach seat distances may vary, and isolation seats may need adjusting accordingly.

Public buses

  1. To avoid overloading the public transport network, which is still operating at limited capacity, government have asked that pupils who normally use public buses to get to and from school should walk or cycle instead, where possible. They say that public buses should be used as little as possible and schools’ support is important in helping achieve this. Also, please see paragraph 55. above.

Boarding buses

  1. Schools are also asked to assist in organising safe queuing and boarding for the return journey home

SEND Transport

PPE

  1. Drivers and passenger assistants will wear PPE appropriate to the risk assessment for their role, the pupils on board and the nature of the staff interaction with them.
  2. 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

  1. We will always endeavour to contact parents about any transport changes that may affect children as soon as we can – this could include changes to staff, pick up times or seating arrangements. Given the dynamic nature of the COVID-19 emergency and the impact on our network, this may not always be possible. At pick up points, where staff receive passengers from their parents/carers, social distancing guidance must be adhered to and alcohol hand sanitiser used by pupils and staff; staff should stay as far away as they can from parents/carers and spend as little time near them as possible; staff should avoid any physical contact with house doors, gates or parent/carer property or belongings.

Risk assessment

  1. 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.

Medication

  1. For pupils/passengers who may require Buccal Midazolam in the event of a prolonged seizure on the transport itself, transport will only be provided where a further risk assessment has been carried out, so that potential infection risk can be properly managed. Staff administering Buccal Midazolam will be trained to do so and wear appropriate PPE where the risk assessment determines this is required.

Seating

  1. If the passenger assistant needs to fasten a passenger’s seat belt/harness, this should be done with minimal physical contact, wearing appropriate PPE
  2. Where we can, pupils will be seated to reflect year groups, with the eldest year group ‘bubble’ sitting at the rear, progressing to the youngest at the front in age order. Whilst this principle accords with general government guidance, making it meaningful on a SEND bus will be problematic, given that the seating layouts have to accommodate wheelchairs, access needs for individual pupils and passenger assistants, specific medical needs and inter-pupil dynamics, amongst other things. None the less, we will attempt to provide the ‘bubble’ arrangement where we can.

Wheelchairs/handling

  1. If Drivers and passenger assistants 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.
  2. 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
  3. Any unnecessary moving and handling or close sustained contact with the pupil will be avoided
  4. The UK government has issued advice in respect of ‘COVID-19: infection prevention and control‘, and operators and staff should be aware of this.

Face coverings

  1. For children over the age of 11, the DfE say that where necessary, face coverings may also be appropriate, especially if children are likely to come into very close contact with others outside their year group or who they do not normally meet. So, 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. Please see link to Government guidance on face coverings and exemptions at point 33 above.

Temperature testing

  1. Our current position is that we will not undertake temperature screening on SEND or any other school transport but instead, parents can if they wish, regularly temperature test their children and not send them to school if they have a fever. For information, we investigated whether contactless temperature testing devices on bus or on embarkation may be of help in identifying pupils who may be ill with a fever and hence should not travel on school transport. The government’s MHRA say that temperature screening products are not designed to screen people for COVID-19 symptoms. This is because they do not perform to the level required to accurately support a medical diagnosis, hence our decision not to do this.

Local bus services (public buses) 

Government guidance

  1. Whilst the general principles above will apply, the government has provided specific guidance for the use of public transport and this should be adhered to.

Limited capacities

  1. Social distancing will still apply on public bus (and rail, tube, etc.) services from September 2020, meaning loading capacities will be less than 50%
  2. Government have asked local authorities to liaise with their schools and operators and arrange for additional buses (or coaches) to be provided for school children from September 2020 where loading capacity restrictions on public bus services mean that there won’t be enough on-bus spaces for all. Where this is most likely, we've arranged for extra temporary ‘closed’ school only buses/coaches (‘shadows’) to directly follow the main public bus in order to provide extra capacity. Where provided, entitled and non-entitled pupils should only travel on these temporary ‘shadow’ buses/coaches, with adult fare paying passengers continuing to use the main public bus.
  3. Where public bus operators take up the option of ‘closing’ bus services to ‘schools only’, the general public will not be able to travel, meaning that full seating capacities can be used (although there is still unlikely to be any provision for standing passengers)
  4. Bus operators may also deploy extra buses to supplement ‘school services’ where needs be, and they will seek to publicise any new arrangements

Face coverings

  1. Pupils/students travelling on public buses to school/college must wear face coverings whilst travelling. This is mandatory for all passengers, unless exempt. Please see link to Government guidance on face coverings and exemptions at point 33 above.

Journey planning

  1. Passengers should leave extra time for their journey and keep their distance from other passengers, cleaning hands frequently and using contactless payment
  2. A Government guidance leaflet is below:

Adult social care transport

  1. Adult social care transport will follow the general guidelines outlined above
  2. Transport for different care/day centres will not normally be shared
  3. On-bus/taxi social distancing will normally reflect that of the respective care centre and any ‘bubbles’ they employ, where possible. We may need to operate at full capacity if the infrastructure does not support continued social distancing
  4. Where appropriate, we may offer service users ‘direct payments’ via their social worker/social work team to help ease pressures on taxi and bus provision

Other passenger transport provision

  1. We also provide and support other passenger transport services, and the general guidance outlined here will apply to these other passenger transport services. For community transport in particular, we would suggest that the rules applying to public transport be adopted as a default, unless operating any exclusive ‘closed’ transport arrangements, where options for reduced on-bus social distancing could be considered. Specific advice can be provided by contacting us.

Summary

We greatly appreciate all the support and effort from school transport operators and our other partners in continuing to provide transport services in the coronavirus national emergency, and we are always here to support you.

We implore parents, pupils, students, passengers, schools, colleges and all others involved in Shropshire’s passenger transport network to take on responsibility for following these safety guidelines and support others in doing so. By working together, we can make Shropshire safe.

Finally, for any queries please contact us.

Shropshire Council
Updated 25 March 2021