Coronavirus: 'Safe travel' guidance includes little new information for schools

The government’s promised further guidance on “safe travel” contains little new information for schools.

Department for Education guidance on reopening schools, released yesterday, said they should “consider” how staff and pupils arrived at school, and “reduce any unnecessary travel on coaches, buses or public transport where possible”.

It promised further guidance on the matter, which has been published by the Department for Transport today.

However it contains little school-specific details. There is just one mention of school in the document, where it states: “Schools may have additional guidance in place for children on transport which we recommend you follow.”

This is under a heading of “children on public transport”, which states:

Where travel is necessary, consider whether children could walk or cycle, accompanied by a responsible adult or carer, where appropriate.

Social distancing applies to children as well as adults. Children should keep their distance from others who are not in their household, where possible. Public Health England recommends keeping a 2 metre distance from others. If this isn’t possible children should avoid physical contact, face away from others, and keep the time spent near others as short as possible.

If you are the responsible adult or carer travelling with children, please help them follow this guidance, wear face coverings, minimise the surfaces they touch and maintain their distance from others, where possible.

Children under 2 years old are not recommended to wear face coverings.

More generally, the advice states that people should “avoid using public transport where possible” and instead “try to walk, cycle, or drive”.

Those using public transport are urged to travel at off-peak times, “if you can”. This is obviously problematic for those travelling to schools, most of which have similar operating hours.

Guidance published for parents last night states that “it is possible” some schools will “make changes to their start and finish times or introduce processes for drop-off and collection times to keep children and families safe”.

That same guidance states that schools, trusts and councils should also “work together and with relevant transport providers to put in place arrangements which fit the local circumstances, including the measures being put in place to reduce contact”.

The safety guidance published last night by the department did include some advice for transport arrangements.

Schools were advised to encourage parents and children to work to cycle to work where possible. Councils were also urged, where school transport is used, to cordon off seats and eliminate face-to-face seating to “help passengers spread out”, or substitute smaller vehicles with larger ones, or run two vehicles rather than one.