Public transport arrangements for return to education
There is a national concern that social distancing requirements on public transport may result in pressure and demands during the peak hours, as schools and colleges reopen.
We have been working closely with bus operators to identify where social distancing requirements may restrict people’s ability to travel. A number of additional buses and coaches are going to be provided by the Council at school/college start and finish times to increase capacity.
All passengers using the duplicate services must buy their tickets ahead of using the service or have their school/college pass with them. Child/student weekly passes can be bought in advance using the NEW Arriva app. Buying an advance ticket also helps reduce contact and helps manage spread of the virus.
These additional buses and coaches are only on certain journeys and routes and will follow the established public transport routes. This information is also available as a downloadable document, Services and journeys where there may be capacity issues [pdf document]
Getting to and from school during Covid-19
- Where possible, your child should avoid using public transport to get to school or college.
- If you live close enough to your child's school or college, please encourage them to walk or cycle, where it is safe to do so
- If you are going to drop your child off at school or college in a car, please consider parking away from the school gates to help keep the area around the school safe for pupils.
- If your child needs to use public transport:
- please encourage them to keep their personal belongings to a minimum
- they will need to practice social distancing while waiting for the bus and when on board
- they should wash their hands or use hand sanitiser before and after the journey
- children aged 11 and over must wear a face covering (unless they are exempt - see Gov.uk: Exemptions - people who do not have to wear a face covering [external link])
- children under the age of 11 can choose to wear a face covering (Public Health England do not recommended face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons see guidance [external link])
- We are working with bus services that are on key routes for schools and colleges to provide either an additional dedicated school bus on that route or a larger bus to allow pupils to be separate from the general public. We may also re-classify one morning and one afternoon bus as a pupils' bus, not available to the general public. However, this will not always be possible on every route.
- Dedicated transport to schools or other places of education means services which are not available for public use.
We are working closely with the companies that provide our home to school transport services to make travelling to and from school as safe as possible. These are the steps we are taking:
- Extra cleaning of vehicles before and after every trip will take place.
- Drivers and passenger assistants will wear face coverings (unless they are exempt) and follow the rules around frequent handwashing and catching coughs and sneezes.
- Only pupils from the same school will travel together.
- Social distancing will be practiced where possible, though it is not mandatory on dedicated school transport.
- Wear a face covering, unless they are exempt - see Gov.uk: Exemptions - people who do not have to wear a face covering [external link].
- Social distance from other pupils while waiting for the school bus.
- Wash their hands or use hand sanitiser before and after their journey.
- Get on and off the bus one at a time with no pushing or gathering in a group.
- Follow the instructions of the driver or assistant.
- Remain in the seats
Put on their own seatbelt, unless there is a reason they can't, such as they are too young or have additional needs. In this situation where there is a PA on the vehicle, they can assist.
For children with specific needs we will work with your child's school/setting to implement a risk assessment where necessary. We know that passengers with special needs often prefer to sit in the same seat for each journey and, where possible, this will be supported if it does not risk the safety of the driver or passengers.
There may be occasions when the driver or passenger assistant will have close contact with your child, such as securing a wheelchair or seatbelt. When this happens’, they will try to work from the side, avoiding face-to-face contact.
- The driver or passenger assistant will be responsible for getting the wheelchair onto the transport.
- The driver will secure the wheelchair inside the vehicle.
- It is the driver's legal responsibility to ensure the chair is properly secured in the vehicle.
If your child appears unwell with symptoms on the way to, or whilst at school or college, the school/college will contact you to arrange for you, or a member of your household to collect them. You must not send your child to school if they or anyone in your household has symptoms.
The school transport team administers applications for children resident in the borough of Darlington, aged 5-16 who are eligible for free travel.
Travel and transport policies
- Home to school travel and transport policy [pdf document]
- SEND travel policy [pdf document]
- Post 16 Policy Statement [pdf document]
- Pupil behaviour on school transport policy [pdf document]
Some frequently asked questions
Is my child entitled to free home to school transport?
Free transport will only be provided to the nearest suitable school (this is a school which offers a full-time programme of education) over 2 miles from the parental address, if there is not a school closer with availability.
Should a child's permanent home address change, the eligibility for transport will be considered by us after satisfactory evidence is provided.
Free home to school transport is available for Darlington pupils of compulsory school age if the family are in receipt of free school meals or full working tax credits to:
- 1 of their 3 nearest appropriate and/or suitable Community or Foundation schools, should a pupil obtain a place at that school and if that school is more than 2 miles and less than 6 from the parent/carers home using the shortest walking route judged to be safe*
- 1 of their 3 nearest appropriate Voluntary Aided (church) school for pupils whose parent/carers adhere to that particular denomination and who obtain a place at such a school and where that school is more than 2 miles but less than 15 from the parent/carers home using the shortest walking route judged to be safe*
Transport is also provided to the nearest appropriate school if it is over the statutory walking distance of 3 miles.
The nearest suitable school is the nearest available school which offers an efficient full-time programme of education.
We use a GIS (Geographical Information System) to measure all distances from the home address to the main school gate.
*In urban Darlington the authority has judged a safe walking route to be one that is lit at regular intervals and paved/tarmacked.
Post-compulsory school age
We will not provide assistance to students continuing on into post-16 education. We would advise students to contact their school or college to see if any assistance is available.
How do I apply for free transport?
What will happen if my child's address changes? Will they still be eligible for free transport?
Where parent/carers move house, we may be prepared to assist with travel expenses to enable pupils who live in Darlington to continue at their existing school in Year 11. These arrangements will not be extended for pupils who continue into post16 education (after the age of 16).
We reserve the right to amend the transport policy.
When will my child receive a bus pass to travel to secondary school?
If applying for a pass from the start of a new academic year the bus pass will be sent by post to your home address during the last week of the summer holiday. If applying during term time the bus pass will be sent by post to your home address once eligibility assessment has been carries out (10 working days).
Do I need to apply each year?
Yes. Renewal forms will be sent from us automatically until your child is due to leave school.
What do I do if the bus pass is lost or stolen?
You should inform us immediately and we will arrange to issue a new bus pass. You will be required to pay a fee for the new bus pass this will be a maximum of £10 per pass and you may need to provide new photographs if we do not have any on file.
How does parental preference affect entitlement to free home to school transport?
If you express a preference for a school that is more than 2 miles (primary) and 3 miles (secondary) from the parental home using the shortest available walking route (judged to be safe), and are successful in obtaining a place, you would not be entitled to free transport for your child if there is a nearer qualifying school.
Is help with transport available if my child has a medical condition?
If your child has a medical condition we may be able to provide assistance providing they are attending the appropriate school. To apply for transport on medical grounds you would need to fill in an application form available from us and provide evidence of your child's condition such as a letter from a specialist involved in your child's care. We will then assess your application and appropriate transport arrangements (if any) will be put into place for your child.