Pupils attempting to use school transport without a face covering could be refused travel as part of a tightening up of measures to avoid the spread of coronavirus.

Devon County Council has asked students over the age of 11 to wear a face covering when travelling on dedicated school transport unless they are exempt, but the council said many are not following that advice.

The council is making the wearing of a face covering a condition of travel from Monday, November 2, and is writing to parents of all students who use school transport to inform them masks must be worn with immediate effect.

If a student is found not wearing a face covering by the school or transport operator on two occasions, and there is no record of them being exempt from using one, they will be refused travel for a period of time.

Councillor James McInnes, Devon County Council cabinet member with responsibility for education, said: “Although we had previously been asking students aged 11 and over to remember to wear a face covering on school transport, a number of parents have contacted us expressing concerns over the number of children who haven’t been doing so.

“We’re working closely with schools and transport operators to reinforce the importance of face coverings, and by making it a condition of travelling on school transport we hope to ensure that children have as safe a journey as possible to and from school.”

Face coverings are mandatory on public transport as part of the Government’s measures to combat Covid-19, but the Department for Education’s (DfE) guidelines state that social distancing does not apply on school transport as it is not open to the general public.

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council cabinet member with responsibility for transport, said: “We have been in discussion with the DfE and we’ve decided that students over the age of 11 must wear face coverings at all times on dedicated school transport vehicles.

“We hope parents will impress upon their children the importance of wearing face coverings for their own safety, as well as the safety of their fellow students.”

Those travelling on SEN transport will not be included in the new policy, as the majority of children are in categories which exclude them from wearing face coverings.

However, passengers with SEN who can wear a face covering are encouraged to do so.

All secondary schools and colleges are being issued with Devon County Council exemption cards which they will give to exempt students upon parental request.