FAMILIES in Wales are being urged to consider the different transport options available for pupils who are going back to school from next week.

Pupils and students intending to travel to and from schools or colleges on scheduled public transport services are also being encouraged to think of others and act responsibly when travelling.

Meanwhile, other public transport users are being urged to try to avoid non-essential journeys around the start and end of the school day, to ensure sufficient capacity for young travellers.

Pupils in Wales will start going back to school next Tuesday, September 2, with a two-week period for schools to finalise plans. The full return of pupils will come on Monday September 14.

During the summer, the Welsh Government has been supporting the development of ‘back to school’ transport plans with councils, which are responsible for assessing the needs of learners and providing home-to-school transport for eligible pupils.

Operational guidance for schools and further education colleges has been amended to require councils to undertake risk assessments of their estates to determine if face coverings should be recommended for their staff and young people in communal locations, which include dedicated school and college transport.

Any young person aged over 11 travelling on a scheduled public transport is already expected to wear a face covering in line with regulations.

With public transport providers facing huge revenue losses since the lockdown began, the Welsh Government has provided funding to help keep companies afloat.

Earlier this month, £10 million was committed to help the bus industry get more passengers to school, college and work, building on prior funding packages for both bus and rail.

Councils have boosted existing scheduled services with additional buses to carry pupils and students where necessary and appropriate.

Earlier this week, Sustrans Cymru led a call for parents to leave their cars at home when accompanying their children to school and encourage them to travel in greener, healthier ways.

In June, the Welsh Government unveiled £15.4m funding for ‘Covid-proof’ travel to make a difference in the short-term, £2m of which was specifically designated for schemes around schools.

“There is no one size fits all approach to school transport and families will have a variety of circumstances to consider," said deputy transport minister Lee Waters.

“In many areas of Wales it may be most appropriate to walk or cycle to school. This has benefits for air quality and public health, and embeds active travel into our culture in the long-term.

“Where this is not currently possible, pupils will also make use of school transport and other forms of transport.

"We have made significant investment in public transport to help keep companies running, but there can be no escaping the inevitable disruption coronavirus has caused.

“We’ve worked closely with local authorities, the Confederation of Passenger Transport and bus operators to ensure as much transport as possible is running.

“We head into the new term in unfamiliar circumstances and it’s therefore vital for families to consider the best options available to them.”