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School bus capacity 'limited' for new term, Norfolk County Council warns parents

Families have been warned spare school bus seats will be “limited” from September due to Covid-19 social distancing restrictions.

Norfolk County Council sells spare school bus seats to families who want to send a child to a school that isn’t their nearest.

But it does not yet know how many it will be able to offer in the new school term, due to a lack of guidances from government on how safety measures must work.

Norfolk County Council headquarters (3027764)
Norfolk County Council headquarters (3027764)

Parents and carers of the 420 children who had spare seats last year have been sent letters telling them capacity may be “limited” from September.

It comes after Suffolk families hit out at their county council after some found out the news on social media – despite the council saying it had written to 225 families who were part of the scheme last year.

The Department for Education (DfE) has said social distancing will not apply on dedicated school and college transport – meaning pupils will not have to abide by the one metre plus rule.

But students may have to wear face coverings and schools and colleges may be asked to stagger start and finish times, and keep children within their ‘bubbles’.

The DfE has reportedly secured millions of pounds for extra buses, but the council said it had not received any details of extra funding.

John Fisher, the county council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said the authority was working to ensure government guidelines were followed and all children who are entitled to transport get it.

He added: “We understand the pressures faced by families and as always we need to prioritise transport for those who are eligible.

“We have written to parents who pay to send their child to a school outside of their catchment to let them know we will provide a seat wherever possible, but we expect spare seats will be more limited than usual because of restrictions imposed by the government as a result of the virus.

“Any extra funding from government towards the safety measures required due to the pandemic would be very welcome.”

But Liberal Democrat Dan Roper said: “I have long argued there is insufficient capacity in our school bus network.

"As a result families have previously missed out on school transport.

“If extra funding is available it is vital that there is a school bus place for every child who needs one.”

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