PLANNING TRANSPORT FOR THE RETURN TO SCHOOL

I have received the information below from the Director of Transport Services at the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (formerly Metro) about school bus arrangements from September.

“As you will be aware the Government has issued guidance on the arrangements to be in place when schools resume in September. The Combined Authority co-ordinates school transport across the region in close consultation with the respective Councils and will play a key role in implementing the transport elements of these arrangements.

We will be applying Government guidance in an environment where there is uncertainty on funding and this gives limited scope to adapt. We will work closely with schools and with officers in the Councils to make arrangements to support a safe return to education.

I am sure your constituents will have many questions around the return to school. To help you answer some of these,  I thought it worthwhile to appraise you of some key points that we are working to;

  • The guidance states that that social distancing will not be required on dedicated school bus services – we will therefore plan to operate all usual school buses with the adjustments for starters/ leavers we would normally make at the start of the academic year
  • The guidance does not specifically require children to be transported in class or year bubbles and there would be significant challenges in doing this, Allocation of pupils to schools buses will therefore continue to be based on where they live.
  • We are working to usual school start/ finish times, whilst we would adapt to any changes required by the school, there may be practical difficulties in doing so and this may necessitate buses serving multiple schools
  • Many  pupils use regular bus services to get to school. Social distancing has limited the capacity of these bus services to less than 50% and the addition of pupils and students onto these services will lead to overcrowding of certain journeys,  We are therefore seeking to establish where this may be a problem and will commission additional buses where this is necessary. We will communicate these arrangements through schools and on our website
  • The guidance says additional school bus services should be provided where possible to reduce reliance on the public transport network and that children who live within two miles of school should walk or cycle where possible. This will require the additional capacity to be focused on those travelling further distances or where walking/ cycling conditions are not conducive to safety
  • Our planning will seek to minimise standing on buses by pupils
  • On secondary school services, all children will be required to wear a face covering unless exempted for medical or other reasons. Travel Assistance Cards to show to the driver are available for download at wymetro.com
  • Bus fares will continue to be charged
  • It may be necessary to commission coaches and other buses not usually used for school travel
  • It will be difficult to know how many buses are available for transporting pupils to swimming until we have a clear understanding of what is needed to get pupils to and from school. This may delay the introduction of transport to swimming pools.
  • Bus operators will be required to follow Government guidance on hygiene and cleanliness

At this point in any other year, we would be advising pupils and parents of transport arrangement in September before the schools break up for summer. This will not be possible this year. We have extended the deadline for applications for school bus passes until 31 July and will communicate arrangements directly with parents and schools for services that have a bus pass system.

We will also provide information on the Combined Authority’s website, www.wymetro.com/schools