Home to school transport update - July 2022

taxi to school

ESPCF met with the ESCC home to school transport department in June 2022 to check in on progress following our discussions around various aspects of the service, including:

  • Training for drivers and passenger assistants
  • ID badges
  • Importance of meet and greet visits for new arrangements
  • Communication with families

Some good news that has come out of our work with the transport hub is additions to the contracts for transport suppliers (ie taxi companies). We were surprised that things such as introduction/familiarisation visits for new arrangements, and disability training for drivers and passenger assistants (more info below), which can make huge differences for some families, weren't already included in the contracts.

There have also been improvements made to the timescales for new contracts, to try and avoid families not knowing over the summer what will be happening at the beginning of term in September.

These changes have been made as a result of parent carer voice. A big thank you to everyone who has shared their experiences and views with the forum to help make this happen, and to our great parent rep who has given up her time to represent this feedback in our meetings.

Of course we know that the proof of the pudding is in the eating! These changes are only as good as their implementation, so we will be keeping a close eye on whether families notice positive effects of these changes on the ground - we really hope so. Please keep talking to ESPCF about this and let us know how things go for your family as this will help steer where more work may need to be done.

Training for drivers and passenger assistants

The transport hub has trialled disability awareness sessions and put together an outline of the final content, which will include (but is not limited to):

  • Definitions and statistical information around disabilities
  • Potential barriers for passengers with disabilities
  • Communication and language

The transport team are currently in the process of identifying a training provider. They told us that the aim is for as many home to school transport (HTST) staff to be trained as possible, preferably in-person as two-way interaction is really important. However, online will be considered as a last resort if it means more staff will be able to access the training.

Significantly, the training will be a mandatory contractual requirement for all drivers and passenger assistants, with fixed penalties and points for non-attendance.

Suppliers must make the necessary arrangements to allow HTST staff to attend appropriate the training sessions organised by the local authority.

ID badges

ID badge

These have been trialled and will include:

  • Photo
  • Name
  • Company
  • DBS expiry date
  • Any additional training, e.g. for epilepsy, diabetes

It is hoped these will be ready for September.

Meet and greets / familiarisation visits

Another  positive addition to home to school transport contracts is the requirement that suppliers must undertake introductions/familiarisations with all families unless agreed with the family and local authority that a visit is not required. These visits will be reported back to the local authority which will keep a record in order to identify any families who want an introductory visit but do not get one.

The visit should be used to

  • gather information regarding the needs of the passenger(s)
  • discuss possible techniques to ensure as comfortable a journey as possible
  • check that contact details are accurate
  • pass on details about the transport, including collection and drop off times and the names of the transport personnel

The transport hub told us that the local authority would take action if any operators do not notify them of changes, e.g. to crew. A key message here was that it must be the transport team who make decisions and not the drivers.

Communication with families

comms graphic

ESPCF highlighted again the need for improved communication with, and information for, families.

We have said that a guide, coproduced with parent carers, to help families understand what to expect, when, and how to know if something is not happening – and what to do about it – would be extremely useful. This is something we are hoping to look at/pursue in the next school year.

Penalties for non-compliance

The transport hub told us that the supplier specification has been updated and reinforced so that there will be penalties for non-compliance in the following areas (in addition to the above):

  • Changes to routes
    Suppliers must advise the local authority immediately of any changes in the route (temporary or permanent), for example pick up timings, order of pick-ups, passengers leaving or driver/PA changes.
  • Safeguarding reporting
    Suppliers must ensure that transport personnel understand and fulfil all safeguarding responsibilities, including reporting any concerns they have regarding the wellbeing of the passenger(s) in accordance with East Sussex County Council’s safeguarding policies.
  • DBS Records 
    Suppliers must ensure all transport personnel providing the services have been recruited following the safer staffing guidelines including, but not limited to, completion of an application form, a recorded face-to-face interview and receipt of references. Prior to assigning a member of staff to a route, details of the driver and passenger assistant must be sent to the local authority using the DBS and ID badge web form.

Drink and drug testing

We were told that while this is not something which is within the transport hub’s remit, the transport hub works closely with the licensing authorities which are responsible for carrying out these checks, and that spot checks are frequent. Licensing officers look at licenses, badges, and make drink/drug observations and testing where appropriate. Families should report any concerns to the transport team who will report to the licensing authority.

Small or single taxi operators – contingency plans

This is included in the supplier specification. The transport hub said that it fully expects pre-approved back-ups to be in place and this will be included as part of the interview with operators. If this doesn’t happen, parents and carers should try to contact the operator in the first instance, and then the local authority. Staff are available from 8.30am. We are waiting for confirmation of the phone number and will share as soon as possible.

After school clubs

We asked about flexibility around pick up time so that SEND children/young people can have the same opportunities to attend school clubs outside normal hours. The transport team said that this was part of local authority policies which sits outside of the transport hub's remit.

If this is something that has affected your family, please get in touch as if there are collective concerns this may be something ESPCF can try to influence. The transport hub did say that schools can be creative and if they plan activities for all children in a taxi, then the local authority does have some discretion here.

New contracts for The Lindfield and Glyne Gap

Families with children at these schools should receive communication by the end of term about whether they will keep the same operator, or who it will be if new so that a meet and greet can be arranged. Please let ESPCF know if you haven’t heard yet.

When to apply for home to school transport

A reminder that parents and carers need to apply for transport when their child/young person is in year 6, year 11, and for those changing school or site, including primary to secondary at the same site.

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