School bus drivers can refuse pupils not wearing face coverings

Derbyshire school bus drivers will be able to refuse transport to pupils not wearing a face covering.

Last week the government announced that face coverings would be mandatory on all public transport from Monday, June 15.

Now Derbyshire County Council says all Year Six, Year 10 and Year 12 students using school transport will also have to wear a face covering for the entirety of the journey.

It says young children in Reception and Year One are “unlikely” to be able to wear face coverings and “discretion” should be used by school transport drivers.

Drivers are also expected to wear a face covering at all times during journeys.

Guidance from the council says: “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.”

The government’s announcement on mandatory face coverings while on public transport said “people may be more likely to be in enclosed spaces for longer periods of time where we know there is a greater risk of the spread of the virus and social distancing is likely to be difficult to follow consistently”.

It said: “This differs from enclosed spaces like shops, for example, where people can more easily go outside if social distancing is not possible and where shop owners can place limits on the number of customers allowed inside at any one time.”

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has set out that using face coverings in this setting can provide some small additional protection to fellow passengers and can help people to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus if they are suffering from coronavirus, but not showing symptoms.

The council reiterates that “wherever possible” students should avoid public transport and walk, cycle or catch a lift, acknowledging that “for some this will not be possible”.

Last month, the council issued a plea to parents whose children are entitled to free school transport to find other ways of getting them to school.

It admitted that not all students entitled to free school transport would be provided with it when schools reopen.

It said that “severe restrictions with social distancing along with vehicle and workforce issues with contractors, and the tight time-scales” have forced it to make changes to its usual services.

The authority said that it will not be providing Year 12 (sixth form) students with school transport, despite being entitled to it.

This week the council confirmed to the Local Democracy Reporting Service that four out of every 10 Derbyshire schools had not reopened to more pupils in target year groups this week as advised by central government.

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