Section 4 - School Transport Contracts
4.1 - The Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme: school transport services
47. Many children travel to school on dedicated school buses or by taxi/private hire vehicle. In terms of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 ("the PVG Act"), drivers of dedicated school transport and any person engaged by the transport provider or the authority to accompany or supervise children travelling on such transport are eligible for PVG scheme membership, as they are carrying out 'Regulated work' with children. This involves supervision of, or being in sole charge of, children as part of the normal duties of the position. Where an authority provides its own dedicated school transport, it is therefore expected it will employ as drivers and escorts or supervisors only individuals who are members of the PVG Scheme.
48. Individuals who are members of the PVG Scheme may sometimes be asked to allow someone other than their employer to see their disclosure record. In general, to make such a request is not allowed. However, certain exceptions have been made including where organisations provide transport services to take children to school. The detailed provisions are set out in regulations.
49. If a local authority or a school is contracting for services involving the transport of children to and from schools, it can ask for sight of a driver's PVG disclosure. Only councils or schools have the power to make this request and only for school transport services they have commissioned. Requests can only be made to those employees of contractors who will be driving the bus, coach or taxi/private hire vehicle. The service can be either a dedicated school transport service, or a public service that includes a requirement to transport children to and from school.
50. The contractor can only show the disclosure record to the local education authority or school if the employee concerned has given their consent in writing to the contractor. The consent should be given freely and not under duress. The contractor must make clear to the employee that, if they give their consent, the local authority or school will have an opportunity to give their opinion on whether the employee is suitable to be used for the transport service contract.
51. A PVG disclosure record application must be countersigned. Countersigning can be done by the employing organisation or a third party (some councils and transport authorities do this for transport companies). Once the employer receives their copy of the PVG disclosure, they must make appropriate arrangements to allow the local authority or a school to see the disclosure record, bearing in mind the sensitive nature of the disclosure and the very tight legal restrictions the PVG Act places on who is allowed to see it, namely, those involved in decisions about the contract.
52. The local authority or a school is not allowed to make or keep a copy of the PVG disclosure. They must return it as soon as the relevant decision is made. In cases where the PVG disclosure is provided via an email, the local authority or a school must not hold or store that disclosure; it should be deleted permanently.
4.2 - Type and Standard of Vehicle
53. The type of vehicle used for school transport should be suitable for the purpose intended. It is open to authorities, for example, to exclude use of double decker buses where they consider that to be appropriate and to specify that minibuses must be used on certain routes, such as narrow and difficult roads. Authorities may also wish to consider the potential advantages of stipulating that buses used on some or all of the routes be fitted with CCTV.
54. The duty in the Seat Belts on School Transport (Scotland) Act 2017 to ensure that seat belts are fitted on dedicated school transport services includes vehicles that a school authority owns and directly provides for such a service, and vehicles which are indirectly provided via contractual arrangements with a third party transport operator. In order to fulfil the duty, a school authority must ensure that any vehicles used on its school transport services which were not fitted with seat belts have these fitted to the vehicles. Alternatively, school authorities have the option to use, or contract for the use of, vehicles which already have seat belts fitted.
55. The associated national guidance includes an example of best practice for seat belt specifications, which may be followed by school authorities when specifying their school transport contracts.
56. It is for local authorities to set appropriate contract conditions when letting contracts for school transport, which take full account of the circumstances of particular journeys, such as distance and the nature of the route. It is a legal requirement that vehicles be in a fit and roadworthy condition, regardless of their age. Authorities may wish to consider stipulating a maximum age of vehicles used for school transport in their contracts and seek assurances from operators that such vehicles be of the highest possible standard.
57. In addition, local authorities should also consider the impact of vehicles on air quality and Government's net zero commitments and ensure, where possible, that the most efficient vehicles are used.
4.3 - School Bus Signs and Hazard Warning Lights
58. In terms of the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989 as amended by the Road Vehicles Lighting (Amendment) Regulations 1994, designated buses and coaches that are used for journeys to and from school are required to display distinctive retro-reflective yellow school bus signs fitted to the front and rear of the bus. These signs must be plainly visible to road users ahead of, and behind, the bus. Vehicles displaying school bus signs are also permitted to use hazard warning lights when the vehicle is stationary and children are boarding or alighting.
59. The purpose of the school bus sign and hazard warning lights is to make other road users aware that, when the vehicle is stationary, children are likely to be getting on or off the bus and may be crossing the road. Other road users should, therefore, be very cautious when passing a school bus in those circumstances. There is no statutory requirement to remove the school bus signs when the vehicles are not being used to transport children, or to use hazard warning lights when the vehicle is stationary and children are boarding or alighting. However, local authorities may wish to stipulate in their contracts that the signs should only be displayed when children are being transported and that hazard warning lights should be used when children are getting on or off vehicles.
4.4 - Prohibiting Access by Certain Vehicles to School Transport Routes
60. Local authorities may consider it desirable to prohibit access by certain vehicles to some routes in the interests of school transport safety. For example, they may consider it desirable to prohibit large goods vehicles ("LGVs") on narrow country roads during times when school buses are likely to be running on these routes.
61. Local authorities can achieve this by exercising powers available to them under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, which allows authorities to make Traffic Regulation Orders preventing the use of local roads by vehicular traffic of a kind or in a manner which is unsuitable, having regard to the character of the road. Mandatory restrictions can cover small lengths of a road, or large area networks, and can be based on gross vehicle weight, axle weight, length, height, width, or any other readily understood characteristic of the vehicles.
62. One of the most cost-effective traffic management measures is the signposting of suitable alternative routes, where appropriate, to direct LGV traffic away from particular parts of a road network at certain times, such as when a road is likely to be used by school buses.
63. When considering schemes to control LGVs, the local authority should bear in mind the need to maintain a balance between the protection of the community against the effects of heavy lorry traffic, and the maintenance of an effective road freight distribution system essential to a healthy local economy.