We estimate that there are nearly one thousand schools in the United Kingdom providing home to school transport services within the independent education sector alone. Transport services run by schools are rigorously monitored to ensure adherence to strict compliance and operational procedures that ensure the complete safety and wellbeing of the students utilising such amenities.
There are several non-negotiables that must be in place in the process of guaranteeing compliant and safe services, as well as what we at Zeelo believe are THE best practices. With that in mind, we have put together a simple checklist to use when going through the process of selecting a transportation provider for your school or college:
1. Operator Compliance
Each transport operator is unique, and you may be required to follow a range of regulations specific to your operation. However, no matter what an operator does or how big it is, they must have some fundamental processes in place and monitor them on a regular basis:
- Operating Licence: If you operate a vehicle that is built and equipped to carry nine or more passengers (not counting the driver) for hiring or reward, you’ll need a Bus Operator’s Licence.
- Insurance: Vehicle insurance is required for any vehicle operating on UK roads. Most bus owners regard public liability insurance to be a must-have since it protects them from claims made by the general public. Employers’ Liability is required if you hire somebody, and if you use your bus to make money, you’ll need coverage as well.
- Procedural efficiency: Home to school transportation operators should, at the very least, ensure that their security, health and safety, cleanliness, and safeguarding activity is updated on a regular basis, and that they receive appropriate training to ensure that they are aware of any current issues that affect them, their respective responsibilities, and how they can respond to situations accordingly.
- Healthy financial standing: An operator must be in good financial standing according to the law. The availability of financing will be assessed at the application stage, the five-year renewal/continuation of the Operator’s Licence, or if an operator is called to Public Inquiry.
- Maintaining an acceptable Operator Compliance Risk (OCR) score: For each operator licence, OCRs are calculated; there will be no separate OCRs for each vehicle. When the DVSA discovers a new violation or a flaw, points are added to the OCRs.
2. Vehicle Maintenance Compliance
Ensuring pupils reach school safely is of paramount importance. Research has shown that the average travel time for a school run was 19 minutes between 2015 and 2019. If that journey is taken via a transport service, vehicles must have maintenance policies and schedules, MOT scores, and daily walk-around checks in place.
Sufficient maintenance of all vehicles is critical for road safety and the approval of Traffic Commissioners, who must be satisfied with both the maintenance arrangements and the availability of adequate funds to allow vehicles to be properly maintained before issuing an operator’s licence.
Onboard, you should expect CCTV and three-point seat belts as standard. The latter invention turned 60 in 2019 and is a critical safety device. In terms of hygiene, deep cleaning rotas have always been important – even more so in light of the global pandemic.
3. Training And Certification
Qualified, experienced drivers are key to providing safe journeys for children utilising a home-to-school transport service. Drivers must pass enhanced DBS checks and have adequate Safeguarding, First Aid and Fire Safety Training to meet a school’s stringent safety and security requirements. And for drivers transporting young pupils, specific and individual training is required. As a driver, you may see or hear things that others may not see and are well placed to spot any signs of possible abuse or safeguarding concerns.
Schools, and particularly parents, want to be suitably assured of the safety of those using the service and sufficient training, certification or accreditation can give them that peace of mind.
4. Route Navigation And Optimisation
When an operator is designing home to school transport routes it is important for them to consider the following questions:
- Are all pick-up and drop-off points suitable and safe? Operators need to ensure that suitable provision is given to the placement of such locations to ensure the safety of passengers using the service.
- Are these points appropriate to use at any time of day? Operators need to ensure that such locations are clear of any prior use or obstructions that might take place during the rest of the day.
- Can parents pick up their children easily? Operators should take note of how busy a road might be at peak times and situations/obstructions that might affect parents’ ability to collect their children.
- Are parents able to arrive via their transport mode of choice? Operators should also take care to ensure that the pick up location has the space needed to accommodate multiple parents arriving in cars to collect their children, for example.
5. Regulatory Adherence
The 1996 Education Act outlines the law surrounding school transport, and in 2014, the Government issued statutory guidance on home-to-school services, promoting sustainable travel. Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR) legislated accessibility requirements were introduced back in 2000 and such provisions covered vehicles with a capacity greater than 22 providing a local or scheduled service. Home-to-school transport services however, were not within the scope of these regulations.
Fast forward more than two decades, and the end of July 2021 looms large for coach operators. That date marked the end of the PSVAR exemption for home-to-school transport.
Has your operator become PSVSAR compliant in the time since and specifically ahead of September 2022, when students return to school after the summer?
Zeelo As A Suitable Option For Running A Home To School Transport Service
Here at Zeelo, we offer an innovative solution by way of a sustainable transport service that’s both flexible and cost-effective. Our Operations team is overseen by qualified transport managers, ensuring that our service provision, and by extension, that of our operator partners are 100% safe and compliant.
All drivers and internal team members involved in the provision of school transport services are subject to enhanced DBS checks and rigorously vetted. In fact, all of our partner operators are evaluated in person every six months. We also offer live vehicle tracking, meaning parents can rest safe in the knowledge that their children are in safe hands.
As part of our comprehensive onboarding programme we train drivers in-house on safeguarding, and tailor training in partnership with the specific needs of your school or college.
In terms of monitoring and maintenance? Our operator platform stores required compliance information and documents and every year, each service undergoes a full risk assessment, including evaluating each pick-up and drop point for its suitability.
As part of our fully managed home-to-school transport service, we provide ongoing route optimisation to build convenient timetables that fit your school’s schedule. What’s more, our eco-conscious service helps you meet and exceed sustainability goals, reducing traffic and air pollution around your school. Did you know that one Zeelo transport provision removes around 30 cars, saving 3,474 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emissions.