Thousands of students will be supported with new dedicated school and college transport to get them to school or college in the autumn term, the Education Secretary @GavinWilliamson said today (8 Aug).

Delivering on the national priority for all children and young people to return to full-time education in September, local transport authorities will receive more than £40 million funding for the autumn term.

This funding will help them create extra capacity and allow hundreds of thousands more students to use alternatives to public transport, while social distancing measures remain in place. We will review further arrangements in the future should it be necessary.

Students and staff who have the option to walk, cycle or use a scooter are encouraged to do so, benefitting from £2 billion of government investment to increase active travel. This will be supported by a new campaign due to be launched shortly to reduce demand on public transport at peak times and minimise overcrowding.

Gavin Williamson 100x100Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: 

“Ahead of delivering on the national priority of all children and young people returning to full-time education in September, I am asking every staff member and student to plan now how they will get to school or college. If it is possible to walk or cycle, please do.

“While our public transport system has almost returned to full service, I know thousands of people will choose to get active and find alternative modes of transport, because with distancing measures still in place it is important that we all play our part to ensure everyone is able to get to school safely, and on time. 

“For those that have no other option than public transport, this investment for local authorities will mean more students will be able to travel on dedicated home to school and college transport, creating even more capacity where it is needed most.”

Local transport authorities will be allocated the funding to reflect the number of children and young people in the local area and how far they have to travel. This includes students travelling to education or training, as well as anyone supervising or escorting students to education provision. 

Students returning to further education in September will also benefit from this investment. Local authorities should work with providers and set out their travel arrangements for 16-19 year olds, taking into account that students in further education often rely more on public transport and travel further to get there.

Local authorities continue to have a statutory duty to provide free home to school transport for all eligible children of compulsory school age, including children who attend their nearest suitable and whose special educational needs and disabilities mean they are unable to walk there. This will continue alongside the offer of other modes of transport for more students.  

The Department for Transport has also today announced further funding for the bus and light rail sectors to help increase services ahead of expected increase in public transport use in September.

Grant Shapps 100x100Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

“Today’s funding will allow local authorities to procure dedicated extra capacity in our transport system to help students get back to their colleges and schools in time for the education restart in September.

“But we need everyone to do their bit and help even further by cycling or walking where they can, whether they’re a student going back to school or a parent commuting into work. 

"We’re making sure people have the support they need to do that, with £2 billion of investment backing our ambitious new Cycling and Walking plan unveiled by the Prime Minister last week.” 

Cllr David Renard, the Local Government Association’s transport spokesman, said:  

“It is good further funding has been announced for bus services and light rail, which have a critical role to play in the national recovery from COVID-19 and beyond, through supporting local economies, tackling poor air quality and congestion and reaching the country’s net zero carbon targets by 2050.

“However, these need long-term funding to support future provision.

“The most effective way forward would be for the Government to give councils oversight of local bus services, so they can ensure effective targeting of any public funding.

“We are pleased funding has been announced to support home-to-school transport and it will be important for the Government to work closely with schools and councils to ensure that the costs of covering extra transport capacity are fully covered.”

Godfrey Ryan, CEO of Kura, said:

“Despite Government reassurance that pupils and staff will be safe once at school, there is still parental concern over the safety, reliability and availability of public transport for the school run, especially as workers are encouraged to return to the office. 

“Many children will simply not be able to walk, cycle or car share to and from school, meaning parents must either risk public transport or drive their kids to school themselves – both potentially disrupting their day and increasing traffic and emissions outside the school gates. 

“Our existing, proven Kura technology can enable this contact tracing on school journeys providing parental reassurance and, along with other preventative measures, ensure children can travel to school safely.”

Local authorities will be provided with new detailed guidance next week which has been developed with the sector and Public Health England, which sets out details they need to plan for transport arrangements in September. 

The support package announced today reaffirms that it is a national priority for all children and young people return to full-time education in September.

Kura launches contact tracing reporting for schools to boost parent confidence

As schools across the UK prepare to welcome pupils back to the classroom, a free contact tracing reporting service has been launched to support schools and parents. 

Leading home to school transport management provider Kura, which provides school travel for over 7,000 pupils a day, across more than 30 schools and 300 routes, is introducing the complimentary reporting benefit from the Autumn. The reporting is being offered as part of Kura’s wider software service, to provide parents and pupils with the reassurance they need to safely use school transport. 

If a confirmed or suspected case is reported, Kura’s contact-tracing report provides schools with the data they need to quickly identify those in contact with the student showing COVID-19 symptoms during the journey to and from school and alert parents swiftly.

The introduction of the service follows a surge in searches around track and trace measures being implemented in schools. For example, Google searches for “school track and trace” have jumped by 79% over the summer months of June and July, compared with the previous period. 

Increasing numbers of parents are also concerned about tracking their children during the school run. When asked about their child’s journey to and from school, one in five parents (21%) reported that they would be reassured if they were able to track their child’s journey each day. 

The research, which surveyed parents of school-age children attending state schools, independent schools and academies across the UK, was conducted as part of Kura’s Green School Run Guide – a new resource created to support parents and schools looking to create a safer, greener school run. 

Independent modelling and research published in August 2020, originally published in medical journal The Lancet Child And Adolescent Health, also found that reopening schools without scaled-up track and trace systems may lead to a damaging second wave of COVID-19. Recent news also highlighted feeling that current track and trace measures are inadequate, incentivising schools to explore providing their own solutions. 

Kura’s research revealed a number of other parental fears around daily school travel. Over a third of parents (34%) report feeling stressed about the school run, and 28% said that the school run often makes them late for work or important appointments – a critical consideration as the nation continues to return to work following lockdown. 

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