A return to (some form of) normality this September

The normal back to school jitters were added to this year as we all adapt to the ongoing threat of Covid-19. But as we’re now a few days in to welcoming our 7,000 students onto Kura Home to School transport the impact of the “new normal” has shown some interesting developments, mainly more positive than many previously thought in the run up:

Will it be possible to expect or enforce mask wearing amongst pupils?
We have seen some very positive signs: Children have taken to these new additions to the school day with ease and positivity, and the colourfully designed array of facemasks are testament to the good humour with which children are embracing these safety measures.
“Traffic chaos for pupils and commuters as they turn to cars rather than public transport.”
Contrary to recent news reports of localised jams we are still seeing a reduction in traffic compared to the “back-to-school” period last year with a reduced impact of traffic on Home to School running times. As confidence in public transport remains low this suggests home and flexible working remains the norm for many, especially in Greater London.
As the science evolves and government advice changes, flexibility and the need to react quickly to any change are more important qualities than ever for a transport provider.
Road closures and route adjustments
New one-way systems allowing for social distancing and safer cycling to protect the wider public have led to bus stop closures – so our teams have had to work with schools to find safe, convenient alternatives. In addition to the normal slew of roadworks, bridge and road closures these logistical challenges require quick adaptation and clear communication with parents, drivers and pupils. We have worked to provide additional express and shuttles services to provide options for parents and pupils.
Case Study: Hammersmith Bridge Closure and Replacement Services
The further closure of Hammersmith Bridge to foot traffic over the Summer has led to huge disruption in the West of London, both North and South of the river, leaving many parents in the area searching for a suitable option to get their children to school safely, comfortably and on time. By combining Kura express routes from distant, centralised “Hub” stops and shuttles from local stations we are helping more than 100 additional pupils and staff to complete the morning and afternoon school run every day.
Route maps and location links were created for distribution to passengers, and on-site marshals were provided to ease locating the new stops for parents, pupils and staff alike.
School class “bubbles” are not possible on school transport
The government announcement that schools should (where possible) ensure their pupils remain in class “bubbles” even on transport was received with mixed reaction in July, with many pointing out that “no credible solution” existed. We helped our customers to rethink their back-to-school plans that have been in motion for the past 4 months, resulting in amended seating plans to accommodate student bubbles, and ensuring these have been communicated to parents and pupils ahead of time for a smooth implementation of the new normal.

Other challenges

Drivers returning from furlough scheme
The government’s Job Retention (Furlough) Scheme has allowed many Operators to retain their staff during these unprecedented times, however, with little to no transport work available until the schools returned, there has been no incentive to bring drivers back early. This raises its own challenges in terms of driver training and briefing for the new term, especially for new drivers and updated routes. The Kura Implementation team therefore had to be flexible and adaptable in receiving new information and providing training in a short timeframe in order to ensure a safe, reliable service could recommence.
Low confidence in public transport
Parental confidence in public transport is low, with many looking for safe, reliable alternatives to tube, bus or tram services. This in turn has driven an increase in demand, often outstripping available seats on services. By gauging demand via online parent forms the Kura teams identified oversubscribed routes in advance and where possible sourced larger vehicles to meet the new demand.
As many parents have (re)turned to their cars for the school run we risk undoing the positive effects of years of work shifting to more sustainable modes of travel. By offering Contact Tracing as part of our software-only and Managed service packages Kura is maintaining parent, pupil and staff confidence in dedicated school transport.
Individual school plans and risk assessments
As ever, the safety procedures for reopening under the continued threat of Covid-19 differs for each school as they account for environmental, geographic and demographic factors. It’s vital that transport meets these standards, acting as an extension of the school site to avoid undoing the security and safety these measures provide. Kura has worked closely with our partner schools for the past few months – updating our services with improved cleaning procedures, socially-distanced boarding and alighting processes, conducting new risk assessments and reducing capacity where required to allow for safe distancing whilst in transit.

Download our free guide for a list of processes you can implement on existing services to minimise the risk of contracting or transmitting Covid-19 on the journey to and from school.

If delivering your new COVID-19 school transport plan is proving challenging, our vehicle network, route planning or innovative technology may be able to help so contact us for a no obligation review.