Money made available by the Department for Education (DfE) to pay for additional dedicated home-to-school transport in England looks set to continue into the summer term, as expected.
That was revealed by Transport Minister Baroness Vere in a letter to bus operators and Directors of local transport authorities (LTAs) and children’s services in England dated 22 February. LTAs are currently being surveyed by DfE “in relation to costs for the current term and forecasts for next term,” she says.
After schools in England were closed to most pupils in early January, some operators reported that they were not being paid the already-allocated DfE money when the additional services were no longer required. Payments for other suspended home-to-school services – albeit in many cases not at 100% of the contract value – have largely continued since then.
In a letter of 13 January, Department for Transport Director, Local Transport Stephen Fidler told operators that the DfE money for the weeks until February half term “remains in place.”
At that time, DfE failed to respond to routeone enquiries asking for its position on whether operators would, or should, continue to be paid for the agreed additional services. That capacity has been in place since September 2020 to mitigate social distancing on buses that are open to the public.
From September 2020 to February half term, DfE has allocated over £98.5m for additional dedicated home-to-school capacity in England. Where that money has not been used by an LTA in the period it was granted for, it has been rolled over into the next.
In her letter, Baroness Vere also encouraged operators to offer asymptomatic testing to their staff where they can. When it is not possible, such as where a workforce is too small, she adds that staff should be tested at community testing centres.