The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) has underlined its call for home-to-school transport payments made both by local authorities (LAs) and directly by educational establishments to continue in full during the current period of school closures.
Chief Executive Graham Vidler has written to Minister of State for School Standards Nick Gibb asking him to repeat the advice given to English LAs in March 2020 that payments should continue as though schools are open. The message should also capture schools that procure transport directly, says Mr Vidler.
Home-to-school transport in England, Scotland, Wales within message
While Mr Gibb is only able to issue guidance to LAs and schools in England, CPT says it is pushing the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales to take the same stance.
If payments do not continue, CPT claims that the industry’s ability to transport children “will be under significant strain” when schools reopen. Mr Vidler says that income from home-to-school transport is “critical” to coach operators during the current period, where revenue from other activities has been decimated.
He adds that if payments are not made, in some cases “it will be impossible to resume services when schools return, meaning that many families will be forced to find, at short notice, other ways to transport their children to school.”
In his letter to Mr Gibb, Mr Vidler adds that when LAs continue payments, that will allow them to quickly access emergency transport capacity using available vehicles and drivers when required. Previously that was used to service needs including transporting patients to care homes and delivering medication and food parcels.
CPT says it is aware of some LAs and schools that will continue to make full payments, but that there are likely to be some that seek not to. Guidance from central government is required to avoid that, it adds. CPT has also called for money allocated to LAs in England by the Department for Education to fund additional dedicated home-to-school capacity to be spent as planned.
Clear guidance is required from governments, says CPT
Head of Policy Alison Edwards adds that experience of previous periods of school closures demonstrated that “without clear guidance from central government, many LAs will seek to reduce pressure on their budgets by not making home-to-school transport payments.”
Ms Edwards adds that schools that do not maintain payments directly to operators “will face the same challenges of reduced capacity when then reopen as those whose… services are arranged via an LA.”
routeone is aware of one LA in England that on 5 January instructed contractors to continue to run all home-to-school transport as normal to convey vulnerable children or children of key workers, unless they had been advised that no passengers would require transport.
Operators were also told by the LA that it intends to pay operators for suspended transport, subject to similar conditions to those put in place during the period of school closures in early 2020. As revealed by research conducted by routeone at that time, there was a large degree of variation in how ongoing payments during that period were made by individual LAs.