Coronavirus: Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) home to school transport

SEND home to school transport from September 2020

(updated 29 July 2020)

The current coronavirus outbreak has, over the last few months, had a huge impact on all of us. The Transport teams' planning role has been particularly affected due to considerations of social distancing and more recently the concept of "bubbles" or groups of children sticking together in schools.

Government guidance received on the 10 July 2020 for both mainstream and SEND dedicated home to school transport journeys, clarified that social distancing need not apply from the start of the autumn term (see paragraph below)

"Dedicated school transport, including statutory provision

Pupils on dedicated school services do not mix with the general public on those journeys and tend to be consistent. This means that the advice for passengers on public transport to adopt a social distance of 2 metres from people outside their household or support bubble, or a "one metre plus" approach where this is not possible, will not apply exclusively from the autumn term on dedicated transport".

This means that we can start to plan services for the coming school year with the confidence that we are planning within central government guidelines, although there is still a considerable risk that there will not be enough capacity for every passenger. Of course, it does not mean that we shouldn't take additional care or take practical steps to reduce the risks of contamination and infection. With this in mind the following precautions will be put in place for transport service for the start of the autumn term:

  • County council drivers and passenger assistants will all be issued with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This includes gloves for individual passenger handling, moisture repellent face masks which will be worn by the passenger assistant during journeys (but not by the driver whilst driving) and sanitising hand gel. Government guidance advises passengers to use hand gel when getting on and off the vehicle, so whilst we will encourage the use of hand gel, we will not insist on it as we know it will not be suitable for all passengers. Passenger Assistants on Private Hire (Taxi) contracts will have sanitising wipes to ensure that frequently touched surfaces such as door handles are cleaned for every journey.
  • We have written to all of our taxi operators, explaining the level of cleanliness we expect from them. We will remind them all once again of this before the start of term and will rigorously enforce these hygiene arrangements.
  • The Travelcare buses of county council's in house fleet are having High Efficiency Particle filtration systems (HEPA) installed to purify the air. Travelcare buses will also receive a disinfectant wipe down of high touch surfaces after every journey and a thorough clean every day.
  • The transport service will be encouraging the use of face coverings whilst on transport. We fully understand that many of our SEND passengers will find the wearing of face coverings very difficult so they will not be mandatory and if they are used they only need to be a simple face covering (just like the government guidance for travelling on public transport). We also know that some children may find seeing supporting staff wearing them distressing but face coverings are an effective way of mitigating the risk of infection.
  • Providing a face covering will be the responsibility of the parent / carer.

The way home to school contracts are designed, means the same passengers are scheduled to travel on the same journey, with the same people daily. This essentially is a "bubble" and whilst it may not be quite the same bubble as in school we will work with schools to try to keep passengers together in their school bubbles as much as possible. The aim of the service is to keep disruption to a minimum and to keep existing (last term) runs in place where possible. However there are circumstances where alternative transport arrangements will need to be a consideration.

Transport personal budgets

Guidance on home to school transport following the COVID-19 pandemic has placed additional demands on transport provision.

Where a child has been assessed as entitled to transport, the county council may approach parents to determine whether they may be willing to transport their children to school themselves. In such circumstances a Transport Personal Budget (TPB) may be granted, instead of transport being provided by the Local Authority.  Similarly, parents may approach the council to request the provision of a TPB.  Such grants are entirely at the discretion of the Local Authority and only provided where it is the most cost effective option for us to meet our statutory duties.

The TPB is a payment designed to help parents make any arrangements needed, and can be used in any way to facilitate their child’s access to school. It is paid over 11 months directly into a parent’s bank account. The first three bands are based on a child’s proximity to school and therefore bears no relationship to the actual costs associated with a child accessing school. Where a child receives a TPB partway through the school year, or where a child attends school on a part-time timetable, the total payment will be offered on a pro rata basis to account for the reduced timescale that the parent will be responsible for transport arrangements. Where a child is deemed eligible to receive a TPB, payments are set out as follows (full year equivalent), Parking, subsistence and other costs will not be met:

  • Band 1 – Up to 5 miles - £2,000
  • Band 2 – Over 5 miles to 10 miles - £3,000
  • Band 3 – Over 10 to 30 miles - £5,000

Pupils showing COVID-19 Symptoms

Please do not present pupils for transport if they are showing any of the notified COVID-19 symptoms and follow government guidance for Test and Trace procedures. Our drivers and passenger assistants may ask you at the doorstep if the pupil or any family members have symptoms or are isolating. The purpose of this precaution is to offer yet another layer of protection for travelling passengers.

We urge you all to stay safe and enjoy the summer break and we look forward to welcoming everyone back in September. We hope that the precautionary measures being put in place will give you confidence that we are taking all care to safely return your children to school after the holidays.