Government gives councils £40m to ensure socially-distanced school run

8 August 2020, 16:42

Councils will be helped to provide socially-distanced transport
Councils will be helped to provide socially-distanced transport. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Local authorities will receive £40 million in funding to provide dedicated transport for schools and colleges that adheres to social distancing rules.

The initiative aims to help deliver the Government's goal of getting all children and young people back into full-time education by September, the Department for Education (DfE) said.

It is hoped the funding will allow hundreds of thousands of students to avoid public transport, making it easier for the system to enforce Covid-secure guidelines.

Those who can walk, cycle or use a scooter to get to school are also being strongly urged to do so, the DfE said, in line with the Government's £2 billion “active travel” plans.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson urged everyone to “play their part” in ensuring “everyone is able to get to school safely and on time”.

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He added: “For those that have no other option than public transport, this investment for local authorities will mean more students will be able to travel on dedicated home-to-school and college transport, creating even more capacity where it is needed most.”

The funding will be awarded to local authorities based on pupil numbers and length of travel, and also applies to 16 to 19-year-olds in education or training.

Meanwhile, schools minister Nick Gibb said pupils aged above 11 will be “expected” to wear masks, but said they will not be necessary in the classrooms.

He said other procedures such as whole year-group bubbles, which could be up to 240 pupils in size, increased hand hygiene and staggered lunch breaks would be in place to keep pupils distanced and in school buildings.

Mr Gibb added: “The advice we've had about wearing masks in school is if they're not competently handled you can actually increase the risk of spreading the virus by having the mask worn all day in the school environment.”