Dear Parents and carers,

I understand that there are considerable concerns and issues regarding the current provision and plans regarding school buses. We will always try to be helpful to students, parents and the school transport team in providing relevant information. However, given the current level of concern, I do need to be clear that home to school transport is the sole responsibility of the Local Authority (NCC School Transport Team) and that they are fully accountable for all aspects of provision and planning.  As a school we do not plan, schedule or operate our own bus services and all information that we provide is information passed on in good faith.

As you will be aware, as a school, we have put considerable effort into our own planning for full re-opening, and we have shared all information in good time for the start of term. I completely understand the frustration that this has not been the case in the provision of school transport and I know that the Local Authority already recognise this issue.

In terms of where things stand as of today – 12 noon on the 7th September 2020.

  • Over the weekend, School Transport published revised timetables for some routes which can be found HERE
  • NCC School transport assured us that they would make contact with affected students over the weekend as per my mention in the letter. I have been informed today that this was actioned by letters sent out on Friday to arrive in the post, rather than by email.
  • We received communications from parents late on Sunday evening, many who were concerned that they had not heard anything from School Transport regarding the changes.
  • Last night, we then took the decision to alert parents to the NCC School Transport website update, in order that the information was as widely known as possible. Again, this was designed to be helpful to parents in planning for today.

 

  • In terms of the rules of school transport (including the use of face coverings) this is the responsibility of NNC School Transport and again, we have tried to be helpful in passing on their guidance and planning principles. As a school, we do encourage and recommend the use of face coverings on dedicated school transport.
  • We understand from parents this morning, that some services did not run as per the new timetable and that NCC School Transport guidelines were not followed. The NCC School Transport Guidelines can be found below:

“School transport planning principles

In accordance with this guidance, the council has adopted the following principles when planning school transport for September and where possible transport will be provided such that:

  1. Year group bubbles and minimum distancing between bubbles of 1m to apply to all mass transport. This includes bus, coach and vehicles with capacity in excess of 16 passenger seats. This will mean that we will be able to utilise between 70-80% of the vehicle’s capacity.
  2. For all other vehicles which include taxis and minibuses up to 16 passenger seats, transport will be planned without bubbles and without social distancing. The students assigned to these routes will remain constant and we will not mix students from other schools on the same route.
  3. Where parents or guardians wish to continue to transport their children themselves then the alternative option of a mileage allowance will be available. This will be at the standard HMRC rate of 45 pence per mile for the first 10,000 miles.
  4. Face coverings will be encouraged for all students (scarf/face mask or similar) however this will not be compulsory and does not apply to those who are exempt.
  5. Allocated seating/area for each social bubble will be displayed on the vehicle.
  6. Active Travel is important for health, wellbeing and increasing independence, and students are encouraged to walk and cycle where this is feasible.”

 

  • As a school, we currently only have the same information that is available to parents. We do not have specific information to give to individual families or students whose departure from the Wollaston School site may be delayed because of the new bus timetables.
  • We had also been proactive in attempting to source information and details of school transport arrangement during the summer break. Unfortunately we were only made aware of the new plans on Friday of last week.
  • Bus Inspectors from the school transport team will be on site this afternoon to assist with boarding buses. There will be a number of students whose journeys will be delayed as per the new timetable. We will of course provide a place for these students to wait in school.
  • School Transport have promised that they will keep the situation under review and work to find solutions to the issues above in addition to any others which may arise.
  • In case of questions or complaints  please contact on 01604 364388 or Schooltransport@northamptonshire.gov.uk

I apologise on behalf of NCC and School Transport for the inevitable concern and inconvenience that this situation is causing parents and students.  We share this deep frustration, especially after having worked so hard for so long  on ensuring that students enjoyed a positive return to school in a well organised and safe environment. Although it is early days, we are pleased with how our in school provision is working and of course we will support school transport (as far as we are able) to ensure that their provision is similarly appropriate.

Mr J Birkett

Headteacher