SEND Transport COVID-19 Guidance

SEND Transport COVID-19 Guidance

Newcastle City Council SEND Travel Support Service
Covid-19 Guidance and Assessment of Risk – May 2021

Introduction

On the 12 May 2021 the specific national guidance for Transport to school and other places of education: Autumn term 2020 was updated by the government.

In line with this guidance, the City’s SEND Travel Support Service has consulted with the Newcastle’s Public Health team to identify any risks and how they can be mitigated in line with the current government guidance.  The identified risks are in relation to suitability to travel, social distancing, the use of PPE (personal protective equipment), face coverings, hand washing and vehicle hygiene.

This guidance will be kept under review and will be updated in line with any new national guidance that are published.

Personal Transport Budgets

During the Covid-19 pandemic many parents and carers of children and young people who would usually travel to their educational placements using the door-to-door service have decided to request a Personal Travel Budget (PTB) from the SEND Travel Support Service. This has allowed them to minimise the contacts that their children and young people are having, as well as giving them the flexibility of staggered start and finish times. The option of taking a PTB is open to all parent/carers of eligible children; the SEND Travel Support team would be happy to discuss this with anyone who is interested in pursuing this option. More information can be found by going to our Personal Travel Budget page.

If school transport is requested for the first time or for it to restart, please be aware it can take up to 10 working days to put in place as suitable staff and vehicles will need to be arranged.

We aim to make transport arrangements as soon as they are needed. However, during the pandemic, despite our best endeavours, there may be occasions when the SEND Travel Support Service is unable to arrange transport within the 10-day period. We will always keep families informed, and we will work with families to identify the best way for children and young people to access school using a Personal Travel Budget in the interim.

SEND travel support will make every effort to fulfil their statutory duty to provide home to school transport during this pandemic. However, if transport staff are required to self-isolate in line with the government’s guidelines, routes may need to be cancelled for the isolation period if suitably trained staff are not available to offer cover. We will inform families at the earliest opportunity and make every effort to find a solution by identifying the best way for families to use a personal travel budget during the isolation period.

If you would like to discuss any of the information contained in this document please contact the SEND travel support team at SENDTravelSupport@newcastle.gov.uk

Suitability to travel

SEND transport personnel or children/young people who are unwell (with Covid-19 related symptoms or any other illness) should not be accessing SEND travel support vehicles. If staff or young people have symptoms of Covid-19 which are:

• a high temperature
• new persistent cough
• a change to sense of smell or taste
• it is within 10 days of the day when the first member of their household showed any of these symptoms

they must not access SEND travel support but must follow the guidance on self-isolation.

If a young person appears to be visibly unwell, the driver and escort on the route will not be able to allow them to access the vehicle. It must also be noted that if on arrival at the educational placement or during the school day, the education staff decide that the child or young person is not well enough to be in school it will be the responsibility of the school to look after the pupil until such time as the parent/carer is able to collect them. The school risk assessment in relation to a child becoming symptomatic or ill during the school day would be implemented where necessary.

Social distancing on school transport

In the current government guidance for Transport to school and other places of education: Autumn term 2020

The following information is laid out clearly:

Where possible, keep 2 metres distance from others during your journey. If you can’t keep a suitable distance from others, you should:

• avoid physical contact
• try to face away from other people
• keep the time you spend near others as short as possible
• be aware of the surfaces you touch
• be careful not to touch your face
• cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing.
• Wear a face covering if you are over 11 years old and not exempt from doing so.

As with the school settings every step possible is being made to follow the current social distancing guidance that have been published by the government. However, as this is a bespoke unique service which caters for vulnerable children and young people, the Service’s ability in practice to observe the social distancing rules is governed by the needs of the children and young people who access it.

The SEND transport fleet is diverse and the number of vehicles is limited to what is available in the current market.

Where possible children and young people will be suitably distanced from each other unless they are from the same household, in line with current guidance.

Since the start of the 2020 autumn term, local authorities have not been required to uniformly apply the social distancing guidelines required for public transport on dedicated school or college transport.  This includes specific SEND transport vehicles.

Since the start of the 2020 autumn term, local authorities have not been required to uniformly apply the social distancing guidelines required for public transport on dedicated school or college transport.  This includes specific SEND transport vehicles.

The use of PPE and face coverings on SEND travel support vehicles

The guidance states that:

Face coverings are not classified as personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE is used in a limited number of settings to protect wearers against hazards and risks, such as surgical masks or respirators used in medical and industrial settings. A face covering is a covering of any type that covers your nose and mouth. Transport staff should wear a face covering when on the vehicle unless they are exempt from doing so.

Most staff on school transport will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work. If a pupil already has routine care needs that involve the use of PPE, the same PPE should continue to be used.

Additional PPE for COVID-19 is only required in a very limited number of scenarios, for example, when:
• a pupil becomes ill with COVID-19 symptoms, and only then if a 2 metre distance cannot be maintained
• performing aerosol generating procedures (AGPs)

When working with children and young people who cough, spit or vomit but do not have COVID-19 symptoms, any PPE that would be routinely worn should be worn.

The guidance on safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care provides more information about preventing and controlling infection. This includes:
• when and how PPE should be used
• what type of PPE to use
• how to source it

Personal hygiene and vehicle hygiene

It is recommended that all staff and children/young people wash their hands prior to boarding the SEND Travel Support vehicle, as well as when they disembark at either school or home.

Drivers and passenger assistants should use hand sanitiser at intervals throughout the journey. They should always do so after performing tasks such as helping a child into the vehicle or handling a child’s belongings.

When keeping vehicles as clean as possible, it is critical to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  Therefore: 

  • All vehicles used to provide support should have a cleaning regime.  Standard cleaning products can be used for regular cleaning; cleaning materials should be disposed of in the normal waste.
  • Bleach and peroxide-based cleaners are likely to damage vinyl or plastic.  Therefore, the use of a product that is specifically for vehicle cleaning (of which there are several) is recommended, following the manufacturer’s instructions closely.
  • When cleaning SEND travel support vehicles there are a few things to bear in mind:

 Using too much liquid can make interior fabrics damp, which will increase the likelihood that germs will collect and thrive
 Adhesives can also fail with excessive cleaning
 Make sure wet floors and surfaces are dried before any passengers board.

  • Cleaning of the vehicle by each driver should be completed at the start and end of each journey.  The areas of the vehicle to be cleaned include:

 the steering wheel, gear stick and handbrake
 window controls
 internal handles
 external handles
 seat belts (tongue/buckle/webbing)
 headrests
 touch points such as rails and the backs of seats.

  • If passengers in the vehicle do not have COVID-19 (or similar symptoms), a deep clean is not necessary after each use.
  • Where it is suspected that the vehicle may have been contaminated, for example due to being occupied by a person who has become COVID-19 symptomatic, the vehicle should be withdrawn from use for a thorough deep clean with disinfectant which kills the virus (containing 1,000 parts per million available chlorine - 1000 ppm av.cl.) as per government guidelines for non-healthcare settings.

If a driver or passenger from a shared vehicle is subsequently confirmed as having COVID-19, seek specialist advice from Public Health England (via Newcastle ’s Public Health department).  The vehicle will need a deep clean involving disinfectant spray and will need to be left unused for at least 72 hours.

Conclusion

The SEND Travel Support Service team, senior education managers and Newcastle Public Health specialists have worked together to prepare these guidelines. They are confident that, if everyone follows the guidance, the risks will significantly reduced so that children, young people and staff will be as safe as possible.

Last updated: 24 May 2021

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