Preparations underway ahead of schools return
Plans to support school and college students as they start to return to the classroom next week have been developed.
With schools in the borough due to resume lessons from Wednesday (Sept 2), Darlington Borough Council has worked with partners including Tees Valley Combined Authority, Arriva and headteachers to address some of the issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
School transport, crossing patrols, social distancing and promotion of messages to encourage a safe return for pupils of all ages have been considered in recent weeks.
The council has worked with schools and other partners to look at what issues might arise and what measures can introduced to help. Government and public health guidance, which includes strict social distancing requirements on public transport, has been taken into account in the planning process.
Parents and pupils are encouraged, where possible, to use active travel to reach school or college, such as walking, cycling or scooting.
Where a car is used, we encourage parents/carers to park a few streets away from school entrances and adhere to social distancing guidance. We are urging parents to respect the areas around schools and the needs of residents who live in these streets.
Where pupils use dedicated home to school transport measures have been put in place to ensure they can travel safely, in line with guidance from the Department for Education. Parents should be contacted directly by schools or home to school service providers to outline the measures being taken.
Existing arrangements for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities remain in place and the council has written to families to confirm these.
A key consideration has been travel to school or college by public transport, with nearly half of all journeys in the morning peak hour for education purposes. However, social distancing measures currently in place mean that capacity on services is severely constrained.
A number of measures have been put in place to ensure children can travel to and from school safely, and disruption for all passengers is kept to a minimum. Where possible, non-education passengers are asked to avoid peak school travel times – before 9am and between 3.30pm and 5.30pm.
The council has worked closely with transport operators to identify specific services and times where there may be capacity issues meaning commuters, students and the general public may struggle to get on the bus. We are working with providers to source a number of additional buses and coaches that will follow the normal service to increase capacity. Please note the additional services below are subject to final confirmation from transport providers. Information will be kept up to date at https://www.darlington.gov.uk/education-and-learning/school-years/school-travel-and-transport/ We will also provide updates on social media.
Please note: 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 Arriva app. The duplicate services will be coaches rather than service buses and as such they cannot accept cash or card payments or dispense tickets. Buying an advance ticket also helps reduce contact and helps manage the spread of the virus.
Councillor Jon Clarke, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “The return to school will not be without its challenges this year but we are committed to supporting schools, pupils and parents in keeping everyone as safe as possible.
Councillor Andy Keir, cabinet member for local services, said: “School transport – whether by public service or dedicated home to school transport – has been carefully considered to ensure that no-one is negatively impacted by the increased demand for services.
“Walking and cycling to school and college when possible will not only free space on public transport and keep the roads clear, but also encourage a healthier and greener journey for children, parents and our communities.
“We will be monitoring the situation across the borough as schools return and continuing to work closely all partners as required.”