Secondary school pupils will have to wear face coverings when travelling on school transport from September.

Devon County Council (DCC) is asking pupils aged 11 and over to wear a facemask unless they are exempt, in addition to new guidance published by the Department for Education.

Social distancing guidelines, which applies to passengers on public transport, will not apply on dedicated school transport which is not open to the general public.

This is because the Government believes the overall risk to students and young people from coronavirus is low, they do not mix with the general public on those journeys, and the home to school transport carries the same group of students and young people on a regular basis.

Children will be asked to sit in their year groups on large vehicles wherever possible, with schools invited to draw up their own seating arrangements if they wish.

Students, drivers and passenger assistants will be advised that they must not board school transport if they or a member of their household has symptoms of coronavirus.

If they develop symptoms while at school they must not travel home on school transport

Councillor James McInnes, DCC’s cabinet member with responsibility for education, said: “The priority is to make school transport as safe as possible in order to enable students to attend school while minimising the risk of transmission of Covid-19.

“We are working to the government guidance on the transport arrangements but we appreciate that some parents may prefer for their child to walk or cycle to school instead of using school transport. That will be down to parental choice.”

With many young people travelling to and from school on public transport, where social distancing measures remain in place, the council will be providing around 70 ‘duplicate vehicles’ across the county at peak times dedicated to school and college students.

In North Devon, the duplicate buses will serve Atlantic Academy, Great Torrington School, Ilfracombe Academy, Park School, Pilton Community College and South Molton Community College, as well as Petroc.

Councillor Roger Croad, DCC cabinet member with responsibility for transport said: “We are working with our transport providers and schools and colleges to provide additional capacity where it’s required on the network, and we’re confident that we have a clear picture as to where this will be.

“We’re also working with operators to ensure that they adhere to the latest guidelines regarding vehicle cleaning arrangements.”

Full details of additional bus services can be found on the Travel Devon webpages.