The issue with bus transportation is that it typically has a far higher younger student-to-adult ratio than is seen in any other area of the educational system. There is a compelling moral and rational case to be made that, given the way services are run, drivers will be limited in controlling or overseeing passenger behaviour though will do everything humanly possible to ensure safety and security. As a result, there are usually no staff members on school buses so in order to protect pupils when they are on the bus, certain practical considerations must be observed.
In an age where we can track food and vehicles for personal use, it should be no less difficult for parents to be able to keep an eye on their children as they make the journey to and from school. Smart technology is just one way in which the safety of students can be assured, enabling staff at schools, bus operators and transportation providers to pinpoint vehicle movements in real-time and track when each individual student boards and disembarks from each vehicle.
There are several additional courses of action that can be explored to help ensure the safety and security of children while they are riding on a school bus. This blog will look at several ways that Zeelo addresses both school’s and parents’ security and safeguarding concerns for a home to school transportation.
Zeelo has a joint safeguarding statement as part of its Master Services Agreement with all Operators. Where all organisations are committed to adopting and implementing in full the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act (SVGA) 2006 Policy’ while operating transport services for schools and colleges.
Zeelo and the operator partners we work with have committed to providing safe, reliable and compliant transport, safeguarding your students and key stakeholders through strict adherence to all of the relevant legislation, operator and vehicular compliance requirements.
Our operating partners must provide us proof of the following: Operator licence, liability insurance, OCRS (A DVSA measure of operator risk), maintenance and working policies like Health and Safety and incident escalations. This information is regularly audited by Zeelo Operations Managers. All Operating Partners are pre-approved and expected to provide a satisfactory OCRS Score and partake in ongoing performance reviews with Zeelo Operation Managers, with bi-annual face-to-face visits to ensure a consistently safe and compliant service.
Regularly scheduled maintenance by dedicated in-house or external technicians must also be carried out to ensure that vehicles also fully adhere to vehicle safety and compliance standards, as outlined in the operator’s licence; a daily walk-around safety checks is carried out which covers over 100 safety related items prior to the vehicle being used. All defects and rectifications must be recorded in writing and stored for a minimum of 15 months. This also applies to any defects picked up throughout the day by the driver.
Vehicles must also be cleaned at the start and end of each day (and in between services where operationally possible) to ensure that it is ready for service. Operators will also be required to have and maintain two key pieces of equipment onboard all vehicles in use, ensuring that such items are easily accessible in the event of an emergency: Fire Extinguisher and First Aid Kit. All equipment is checked to be complete and in date as part of the daily vehicle inspection.
All vehicles will similarly undergo a safety inspection at a minimum of 6-weekly intervals (unless otherwise stated), which includes all items covered in the annual MOT test, with all results and rectifications also recorded and stored for a period of 15 months.
Training is a fundamental element of providing a high-quality transportation service. All of our staff undertake a full induction programme with sessions on all aspects of our business. In fact, all front-line and educational team members have Enhanced DBS check + barring (which we ensure is always within at least three years) and are trained in safeguarding to ensure that any safeguarding issues can be dealt with swiftly and efficiently.
All of our drivers will also have valid enhanced DBS + barring issued within three years and will encourage all of our operators to onboard drivers to the Live DBS Update Service to ensure they meet all operating standards. However, where this is not possible, our Operations Managers request regular DBS status updates during each face-to-face visit. Any driver that does not meet our standards or has had a complaint raised against them will be immediately withdrawn from service.
Open communication channels create transparency and promote trust, not only between parents and the school but also with the operator running the service. One of the ways we can best communicate with parents about the safety of our service is through our booking App.
All riders (and their parents/guardians) can make use of the Zeelo Passenger App. This App enables students (and their families) to book, purchase and manage their rides. Rides can be booked for the whole term providing reassurance that regular transport is in place.
A printed QR code can be used to board the service if a student does not have access to a smartphone to schedule transportation through the Zeelo website. (For simplicity of usage, this can then be attached to a lanyard). The parent, school, or college will be notified that the passenger is on board when the driver uses the driver app to scan the QR code and confirm the rider has boarded the service.
Before the start of the service, the list will be pre-loaded into the driver app, allowing passengers to board by simply saying their name. By doing so, we can continue to track the passengers where the need for a manual list is still required.
Zeelo also uses an alert system that notifies the driver when the pre-booked guests have not boarded as an additional layer of protection and safety. As a result, the driver won’t be able to confirm that the service is on the way until they have checked and verified that all passengers are on board. The app can also be used to communicate any delays to both the school and parents.
Away from the App, parents can also be contacted via email to inform them of any changes to the service or concerning any other issues that may arise. Our 24/7 customer support team is also available to assist with any concerns or feedback the school or parent may have.
The Zeelo Live Operations and Customer Support Teams are available around the clock; monitoring all journeys and responding to any operator or customer inquiries in a timely and efficient manner. Riders can either call us directly or use our Live Chat system to contact us with any concerns or information requests, and we aim to respond to calls or messages within two minutes on average.
While we and our operator partners will be doing everything possible to ensure the safety of our younger riders, it is also important that parents talk to their child about being respectful and obedient to the school bus driver in following any rules and procedures during the duration of their journey as proper behaviour is vital to ensuring continued safety on the bus.
All of our journeys are backed by Live Tracking, which is accessible to all registered student riders and their parents. This monitoring is used by our Live Operations team to follow all journeys in real-time and notify all passengers, parents, and/or guardians of any delays to the service; like traffic or late departures.
Aside from monitoring the service itself in terms of ensuring the vehicles are on time, it is also possible to analyse ridership levels on the routes to instantly see where the trends are. We are able to use this data to improve and make efficiencies to all services in conjunction with the school if that is something that may be considered. Parents are also encouraged to use our request-a-stop feature to request a new collection point that might be closer to their homes. Our Operations Team monitors such requests on a half-termly basis in order to maximise route efficiency and provide a better experience for junior riders.
As part of our fully managed home-to-school transport service, we also provide ongoing route optimisation to build convenient timetables that fit your school’s schedule. What’s more, our eco-conscious service helps meet and exceed sustainability goals, reducing traffic and air pollution around the school. According to 2019 government data, it is four times more probable for children in London to attend school in a location that exceeds the WHO guideline on acceptable pollution levels. Additionally, London-area local authorities account for 28 of the top 30 local authorities for school air pollution.
Children who grow up in a location with low air quality may have delayed growth and worsening of chronic conditions. Additionally, schoolchildren in London have been found to have a 5% decrease in lung capacity and a lower lung volume.
Did you know that one Zeelo transport provision removes around 30 cars, saving 3,474 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emissions? Can you imagine a world with cleaner air and fewer cars around our schools? Because that is what we all want.