'Concerning reports' of students not wearing face coverings on buses

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020 9:23am

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter @EddieBisk

There are a number of "concerning reports" that school students across Derbyshire are not wearing face coverings on buses, a council has said.

Derbyshire County Council has sent a message to all school leaders in the county to raise the concern.

It says that parents and bus operators have been in touch over the issue, with students at secondary school either not wearing face coverings, not sanitising their hands or not sitting in year group bubbles.

This is despite face coverings being a legal requirement on public transport.

The council has previously said that school bus drivers can refuse to take pupils not wearing face coverings.

This also comes after Kevin Gritton, head teacher at St Benedict Catholic Academy in Darley Abbey, issued a warning this week to say pupils who do not wear face coverings on buses will be banned from using them to get to lessons.

A number of parents of pupils said buses going to the school were often “”overcrowded, have children standing and with some pupils not wearing face masks”.

Today, the county council, which is responsible for school transport across the county, and subsidises private firms for part of the service, said: “The school transport team is receiving a number of concerning reports from operators and parents that an increasing number of students are not wearing a face covering during the journey to and from school.

“There are also reports of students not sitting together in year group bubbles and not sanitising hands.

“This is happening on both dedicated school buses and also commercial services where it is a legal requirement to wear a face covering.

“This situation is obviously difficult to monitor once students are off-site however in the interests of public safety, we would be very grateful if you could help reinforce the message through newsletters and correspondence.

“If a reminder can be sent out to all travelling students, it will reach the fare paying students as well as those entitled to a free bus pass.

“The council is also issuing a press statement as well as social media posts to reinforce the message and we are asking operators to monitor the situation closely.”

Guidance from the council on face coverings on school transport, issued in June, said: “If students do not abide by this instruction, the driver has the right to refuse travel.

“If a student fails to comply at certain points during the journey, or the driver has concerns about the conduct of a student, they must report this to the school and their employer as soon as possible so appropriate action can be taken.

“This guidance has been issued to help keep students and drivers safe during the journey.

“Other safety measures such as two-metre social distancing and ventilation should remain in place.

“Face coverings do not need to be medical grade personal protective equipment (PPE) masks and people can make their own using scarves or other textiles.

“Coverings must cover the mouth and nose while allowing the wearer to breathe comfortably.

“Pupils and drivers are recommended to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before putting their face covering on and after taking it off.”

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