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Operator Guidance

Covid-19 Guidance for operators of school transport routes

Home to School Transport

COVID 19 Operator Guidance

This guidance sets out expectations and key requirements relating to home to school transport for transport operators, drivers and other staff in light of the COVID 19 pandemic.

The protocol draws on national guidance and is aligned with Public Health guidance in order that consistent practice can be applied across school transport provision in West Lothian, and by the contractors who provide home-to-school transport.

Please note that national guidance is subject to change and this guidance could be affected by such changes.  West Lothian Council will endeavour to update and issue revised versions of the guidance should this be necessary.

1.     General Principles

1.1  Transport staff must not operate school transport if they, or a member of their household, have symptoms of COVID-19. Transport staff must book a test if they display coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms.  The link to NHS Inform can be found here

1.2  Physical distancing between passengers who travel on dedicated school transport is not required, but it remains important to be cautious and exercise personal responsibility. Pupils should be supported to understand that, where possible, it is safer to keep a distance from other people. As a precautionary measure, we recommend that 1m distancing between drivers and children and young people on dedicated school transport should continue to be observed where possible.

1.3  Dedicated school transport includes contracted large vehicle transport such as buses and coach as well as small vehicle transport including minibuses, taxi and private vehicles.

1.4  Any transport staff operating dedicated school transport should conform with the requirements for public transport and require to maintain 1 metre distancing from pupils and other adults.  It is understood that 1 metre distancing is not always possible in small vehicle transport therefore operators should ensure that any required mitigating factors (i.e PPE, hand sanitiser, enhanced ventilation) are made available for transport staff.

1.5  Transport staff are also required to wear face coverings for the duration of each journey, unless recognised medical conditions prevent this.  In such circumstances operators will inform the Passenger Transport Unit prior to commencement of the contract.

1.6  Face coverings [updated effective from 9 August 2021] should be worn by children aged 12 years and over on dedicated school transport (unless exemptions apply). This means that the position on face coverings on dedicated school transport is consistent with the position on public transport however drivers will not exclude pupils from school transport on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering.

1.7  The consumption and sharing of food and drink is not permitted in school transport.


2.     Mitigating Factors

This guidance also reflects the scientific advice from the COVID-19 Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children regarding the requirements for the safe travel of children and young people to/from school.  It is essential that care is taken in every respect to avoid transmission of infection.  Operators should ensure the following mitigating factors are implemented for dedicated school transport:

2.1  Enhanced Vehicle Cleaning

Operators should ensure that frequently touched surfaces (i.e door handles - inside and out and window handles/buttons) are cleaned quickly after each journey wherever possible and that enhanced cleaning takes place at the end of each day.

Normal cleaning products are sufficient for the purpose, including disinfectant wipes where available as these are quick and effective to use and can be disposed of easily.  Drivers should ensure that sure wet floors and surfaces are dried before any boarding of passengers.

2.2  Transport Staff Hygiene

Transport Staff should wash hands frequently with soap and water doing this for at least 20 seconds each time as per (insert guidance link). Drivers and passenger assistants may wish to use alcohol hand rub or sanitiser at intervals throughout the journey, and should always do so after performing tasks such as helping a child into the vehicle or handling a child's belongings.

Transport staff should use tissues to catch coughs and sneezes. Used tissues should be disposed of in a bin with lid as soon as possible.  Please ensure that cleaning products/sanitiser are not left where passengers can reach them.

2.3  Enhanced Ventilation

Vehicles should be ventilated using opened windows, where possible, with care taken to avoid risk of children leaning out of windows.  Operators should ensure that mechanical ventilation uses fresh rather than recirculated air; or use air conditioning with attention paid to the appropriate frequency for changes of filters.

2.4  Physical Separation of Driver

Where possible, operators could consider fitting a screen to separate the driver from passengers.  Alternatively, in bus and coach vehicles, drivers should remain 1 metre distanced from seated pupils with seats/rows clearly marked as 'not in use' to provide the necessary distance where required.  Operators should inform PTS of any revised seating capacity within vehicles as a result of physical distancing requirements.

In small vehicle transport, pupils should be seated in the back seat where available.  Where capacity requires the use of the front seat for pupils or transport staff, operators should ensure that a risk assessment is undertaken and any mitigating factors are implemented prior to travelling

2.5  Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Guidance for non-healthcare settings from Health Protection Scotland provides up to date guidance and information on general principles of infection prevention and control and health protection measures can be found here .  PPE should be worn in line with health and safety requirements.   

Operators are responsible for any risk assessment relating to PPE for transport staff.  Where PPE is required, it must be of a sufficient PPE standard to protect the wearer and operators must ensure that it is available.  As a minimum, face coverings should be worn by all staff where a medical exemption does not apply.

Operators are responsible for training drivers and other staff on the necessary actions they must take to keep themselves and others safe, in line with this guidance. This should include the safe wearing of PPE, when and if it is required.

3.     Where a Passenger Displays Symptoms

If a child or young person appears unwell with symptoms on the journey to school on arrival at school, before any passengers alight, the driver should immediately inform a member of school staff about the concern.  The school will then take responsibility for handling the situation.

If a child or young person appears unwell with symptoms on the journey home from school the journey should continue as scheduled.  The driver must then directly report this to the operator who should immediately contact the Public Transport Unit.  Instructions will later be given on transport requirements for the following school day.

Alternative transport arrangements will be made for any child or young person who starts displaying coronavirus symptoms while at their school/setting.

4.     Test and Protect Requirements

Operators are responsible for ensuring compliance with the national Test and Protect guidance for employees and subcontracted staff including keeping sufficient records of allocated transport staff and completed journeys; these should be provided to the Public Transport Unit on request.

The same transport staff should be used for the operation of the contract unless exceptional operational circumstances make that impossible on a given occasion.  Any change to transport staff must be recorded.

Operators must ensure that only authorised pupils travel on contracted transport.  It is essential that there is no change to the pupil allocation of routes unless pre-authorised by the Public Transport Unit.


5.     Car Park Protocols

Each individual school will agree revised school transport car park protocols prior to the commencement of the school session.  Operators should ensure all transport staff allocated to school routes are familiar and adhere to any revised protocols.

6.     Pupils with Additional Support Needs

As is the case in all situations where home to school transport is provided for children with specific needs, the school will undertake a pupil risk assessment to determine specific transport needs for individual pupils.  This may lead to specific PPE requirements for the driver and/or passenger assistant. Operators will be required to work with schools and the Public Transport Unit to implement actions arising from the risk assessments.

6.1  Face coverings

As a general rule transport staff will also be required to wear face coverings whilst operating additional support needs transport.  However, this requires to be balanced with the wellbeing and needs of the child; it is appreciated that face coverings may limit communication and could cause distress to some children.  This will be determined though the risk assessment process.

6.2  Wheelchairs

When travelling in a power or manual self-propelled wheelchair, where able to do so, pupils will be encouraged to self-propel into the vehicle or drive their chair in. Where a manual attendant-pushed wheelchair or mobility buggy is used, the driver or passenger assistant will be responsible for getting the chair onto the transport and securing in accordance with the wheelchair and vehicle requirements.

This will require the driver to come into close proximity with the child, so drivers should aim to work from the sides and avoid close face-to-face proximity and observe a careful handwashing regime.  The legal responsibility of drivers to ensure the chair is properly secured in the vehicle remains unchanged.

6.3  Car Seats, Harnesses and Other Equipment

Where possible, car seats and other transport aids should be kept for individual users and not shared.  The same will apply for harnesses and other specialist equipment.  All transport equipment should be frequently cleaned.

6.4  Passenger Assistants

In carrying out their role, Passenger Assistants will often need to come into close proximity with pupils (i.e fastening seatbelts, hand holding), so they should aim to work from the sides and avoid close face-to-face proximity.

In some cases, it may be necessary to sit beside and have physical contact with pupils being escorted. Passenger assistants should, therefore, follow any additional advice given by the school over and above the basic advice in the transport staff personal hygiene section, above.

6.5  Meet and Greet Requirements

A meet and greet is still required for all pupils with additional support needs.  Operators should ensure that contact is made with parents in sufficient time prior to the start of the school session to agree an appropriate process to complete the meet and greet.

Operators could consider, where appropriate, alternative meet and greet arrangements such as video conferencing, garden visits and/or photographs of staff and vehicles and agree these with parents prior to travelling.

6.6  Pick-up/Drop-off Procedures

Transport Staff should agree in advance with parents the appropriate process for pick-up and drop-off of pupils which takes into consideration the needs of the pupils but also minimises the interactions between transport staff and households.

Parents should not assist children in and out of the vehicle where there is more than one pupil in the vehicle; this must be done by transport staff.

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