Provisions in place for school transport to provide flexible timetables

School transport providers in Suffolk are expected to provide flexibility in return for being underw

School transport providers in Suffolk are expected to provide flexibility in return for being underwritten by the county council during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: RACHEL EDGE - Credit: RACHEL EDGE

School transport providers in Suffolk will be required to provide flexibility once pupils start returning to the classroom, according to education bosses.

Suffolk County Council confirmed it had honoured the contract payments to the bus companies during the coronavirus lockdown to ensure they were kept in business.

The cost equates to around £132,000 per day. That means a two-month lockdown could cost around £7.9million, while a three-month lockdown was north of £11m.

MORE: Bookmark the EADT Coronavirus topic page for the latest updatesBut crucially, a deal has been struck that means those companies must provide flexibility.

It is understood that if schools have to change the hours of their day or stagger year groups between the morning or afternoon, those providers will still be required to offer transport.

Adrian Orr, assistant director for education and learning at Suffolk County Council, said: “We have done a lot of work with the transport providers, and in effect underwrote their work for a period of three months on the expectation that we needed them to stay in business post-lockdown, but in return we want some flexibility. We will need to continue that.”

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The council confirmed that as it was essentially continuing the contract as normal, there was not an additional expense and was funded out of the existing school transport budget.

MORE: Teachers and parents raise fears over school lockdown returnA council spokeswoman added that the flexibility was also around the children of key workers and vulnerable pupils who in many cases were having to be transported to different school premises for those schools still open and teaching those pupils.

The only cost to be recouped is the lost income from spare seats, which would have come through for this term.

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It is not yet clear how social distancing for school buses will work, as it is anticipated that buses will need to operate vastly reduced numbers of passengers.

As well as social distancing on buses, schools will also be required to make more space between pupils, with class sizes of around 15 pupils having been mooted – around half the size they are currently for many schools.

MORE: Roadmap outlined for return of schools from coronavirus lockdownIt is not yet clear what provisions are to be made for families who do not feel comfortable sending their children back yet.

To stay up to date with the latest coronavirus updates in Suffolk, follow the Suffolk Coronavirus Facebook page here or sign up to the EADT newsletter here.

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