Deputy First Minister confirms social distancing not required on school transport

Gillian Martin, MSP raised the issue of social distancing on school transport with John Swinney MSP who confirmed that it is not required as things stand currently.

Gillian Martin, MSP, raised the issue of ensuring there school transport can operate safely when schools go back after the summer holiday with John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education.

Responding to Ms Martin during a virtual session of the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, Mr Swinney outlined that public health advice being followed by the Scottish Government indicates both that children and young people will not be required to observe physical distancing in schools, and that school transport should be seen as an extension of the school estate.

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The Deputy First Minister stated that guidance currently being developed will be issued on 30th July that will include advice for bus operators. who have been consulted throughout the process. Mr Swinney assured Ms Martin that the stakeholders contributing to the process to form the guidance includes parents, families and also bus operators.

Pupils are due to return to school in Aberdeenshire on 12th August, if the Scottish Government gives the green light on Thursday 30th July. Ms Martin previously successfully passed legislation in the Scottish Parliament to ensure buses contracted to carry school children are fitted with seatbelts. Now she is working once more to make sure the children of Aberdeenshire get to and from school safely.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP for Aberdeenshire East said

School transport is vital to communities in rural constituencies, such as my own. Parents need to know that the capacity exits – as it did before covid-19 – to get their kids to and from school safely.

I was reassured that families and bus operators have been involved in the process of developing guidance.

It was great that Mr Swinney was able to confirm that physical distancing for kids on school transport will not be necessary as things stand.

Getting kids back to school is vital for them. Parents have put in great effort to keep the education of their children ticking over, but schools provide things that are irreplaceable. Parents need to be sure that the journey of their kids to school is a safe one. I was pleased with the processes outlined by the Education Secretary backed up by expert public health advice to ensure that will be the case.

The Transcript of Gillian Martin MSP’s question and answer from John Swinney

Many pupils in my constituency rely on school buses to get to school. The Deputy First Minister has advised that social distancing is not going to be needed on school transport. Can he give us the rationale behind that decision first of all?”

And can he give an indication of any additional guidance and support available to parents pupils and to bus operators on any measures that they may have to take to make school journeys as safe as they can be?

John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary’s answer

The rationale behind the advice that has been provided to us by our expert group is that the prevalence of coronavirus is at a very, very low level amongst children and young people. The evidence which is available to our advisors – which is taking account of evidence within Scotland, the United Kingdom, Europe and further afield – indicates that young people are not particularly active in the transmission of coronavirus.

Therefore, the requirement for physical distancing within schools is not judged to be appropriate. What the advice then goes on to say is that we should consider school transport as essentially an extension of the school estate; and therefore no physical distancing should be required in that context.

In relation to the question of guidance, we will be publishing guidance on the 30th of July which will draw together advice on all questions in relation to the reopening of schools. And that will include issues in connection with school transport, to ensure that there is proper and clear advice for bus operators – with whom we have been in active discussion, and also with parents and families – to ensure that everybody has knowledge of the issues and can proceed on a safe basis.

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