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School operations

School Bus Program

Administration of the School Bus Program

Delivery of the School Bus Program involves government and non-government schools, bus operators, the Department’s STU and regional offices and the Regional Bus Team of PTV.

The below shows the roles and responsibilities of each group at a high level.

DET STU

  • policy
  • planning service needs
  • funding program
  • reviewing compliance
  • emergency management
  • Transport Special Cases Consideration Panel

Schools

  • communication (with students and families)
  • eligibility determination
  • fare collection
  • planning service needs
  • emergency management
  • Transport Special Cases Consideration Panel

PTV

  • policy
  • planning service needs
  • contracting, delivering, and managing service provision
  • funding program
  • reviewing compliance
  • emergency management
  • Transport Special Cases Consideration Panel

Bus Operators

  • planning service needs
  • contracting, delivering, and managing service provision
  • emergency management

DET regional offices

  • planning service needs
  • emergency management
  • Transport Special Cases Consideration Panel

It is important to note that all groups in the provision and management of the SBP have responsibility and obligations under the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) and Bus Safety Act 2009 (Vic).

It is each party’s responsibility to know and act on their obligations regarding duty of care and taking steps to eliminate risks to health and safety arising from the provision of school bus services.

Emergency management

Each school in developing their emergency management plan, should ensure the school emergency management plan includes emergency procedures in the event of a breakdown, accident, bushfire and other emergency situations. All school emergency management plans must be consistent with the plans of bus operators providing services in a local network.

Emergency procedures for student transport must be established in consultation with bus operators and client schools. If required, the Department’s Regional offices, PTV, Country Fire Authority (CFA), Victoria Police, VicRoads and other emergency services may also be involved in establishing emergency procedures.

In addition, the Department’s Security Emergency Management Division (SEMD), the STU and PTV have developed specific emergency management procedures to be used for the School Bus Program. It is important that all groups involved in the administration of the School Bus Program familiarise themselves with these procedures and follow them in the event of an emergency. The School Bus Program Emergency Management Operational Guidelines are available in the Resources tab.

Responsibilities of coordinating schools

Travel approval

All schools accessing the SBP are responsible for distributing eligibility information and application forms to their students and parents/carers. All application forms and eligibility guides are available in the Resources tab.

Coordinating principals, or their delegate (bus coordinator), are responsible for coordinating and assessing all applications to travel on school bus services in their network. This includes students attending government and non-government schools. Coordinating principals determine whether students are eligible to travel at no cost or upon payment of a fare.

Both coordinating and client school principals must collect applications to travel from students at their school. Applications must be in the form prescribed by the Department and available in the Resources tab. It is the responsibility of the client school principal to forward all applications to the coordinating principal by the end of Term 3 in the year prior to attendance. Late applications may be accepted at the discretion of the coordinating principal. Students requiring bus transport less than 5 days a week must specify their travel arrangements in their application.

Parents/carers must be advised in writing of the outcome of their application at the earliest possible convenience. Notification of unsuccessful applications should be prioritised to provide maximum time to review the choice of school or to make alternative arrangements.

Bus fares

Coordinating schools must collect from client schools all fares from fare paying travellers and provide payments to STU.

Anticipated loadings

The coordinating principal must submit their annual anticipated loading data for their bus network to PTV by 30 November each year. This report details the number of students expected to travel on each service in the coming year. It is essential that this information is maintained and up-to-date.

Schools that fail to provide their anticipated loading data may be subject to a Department Policy Compliance Review in the coming year.

Loading issues, including changes in bus patronage, must be reported to PTV by the coordinating principal as they arise. In reporting any loading issues, coordinating principals are encouraged to work with STU and PTV to implement temporary arrangements and long term solutions, which may include the arrangements set out in Provision of Bus Services.

PTV will work with the STU and the bus operator where services may be affected.

Data collection and procedures

Coordinating principals must collate and maintain the following up-to-date information on behalf of the STU and PTV and distribute to all bus operators:

  • route and passenger details
    • a roll or database of approved passengers based on approved applications to travel (including any ad-hoc passengers)
    • students’ residential addresses
    • authorised bus stops
    • emergency contact information for each passenger
    • medical information for each passenger — as required
    • name of the bus captain or bus captains
  • route maps
    • a map of the approved route or routes showing a list of the authorised bus stops for each service and the overnight bus garage location
  • timetable
    • a bus timetable with scheduled departure and arrival times for the school or schools and all authorized bus stops on the route
  • emergency procedures
    • the procedures to be adopted in the event of a breakdown, accident, bushfire, or other emergency
  • standards of behavior
    • Expectations of passengers and bus captains

Risk management and incident reporting

A duty of care is owed to students accessing PTV provided bus services. All staff must continually assess, mitigate, treat and monitor risks that may be associated with bus travel such as:

  • the actual or potential for challenging behaviours during transit
  • the actual or potential for conflict between students
  • the ability of students to board and alight from the bus
  • the actual or potential hazards surrounding the location of the bus stop

Coordinating schools must treat any risk raised by the bus operator or any other party seriously. Where a risk is identified, principals must apply the Department’s Risk Management Framework and document their actions and follow up.
The framework will assist with the process of identification, assessment, monitoring and treatment to eliminate risks to health and safety.

The bus operator must be invited to participate in the risk management process and may be a source of expert advice.

If there is an incident or near miss involving a bus service, schools must immediately refer to their emergency management plan on whether the incident is notifiable and what steps the school should take.

Student behaviour on school buses

The coordinating principal is responsible for the communication of acceptable standards of behaviour on school buses to students and families and has the authority to take disciplinary measures for misbehaviour, including temporary or permanent suspension from bus travel.

Coordinating principals are also responsible for investigating complaints and may issue a Notice of concern — behaviour to a student or parent/carer if they are sufficiently concerned about a student’s behaviour.

Coordinating principals must ensure adequate and up-to-date documentation, such as reports of misbehaviour on a school bus service which may inform disciplinary decisions, are maintained.

Coordinating principals must provide any subsequent and formal advice of a student suspension from bus travel to the:

  • STU
  • bus operator and the driver of the bus service
  • school or registered training organisation the student attends

The school (coordinating or client) is then to provide the advice to the student and his or her parents/carers

During a period of suspension, a student’s transport is the responsibility of their parent/carer.

Supervision

A member of staff must be on duty to supervise students during the arrival and departure of school buses at school and at bus interchanges beyond the school.

At bus service feeder interchanges (buses meet en route) beyond the school, buses should be scheduled so that they arrive and depart the interchange at the same time. Buses should remain stationary at all times while students are transferring between services.

Parents/carers are responsible for transporting their children to and from designated bus stops and for their safety at the bus stop while waiting for the bus.

Unauthorised student passengers

Bus drivers are obligated to accept any unauthorised student passengers who present at a bus stop. Bus drivers must report the unauthorised passenger to the coordinating principal once the bus arrives at school.

If the unauthorised passenger is from the coordinating school, the coordinating principal must contact the unauthorised passenger’s parents/carers and inform them that their child will not be permitted on the afternoon bus service and they have responsibility for organising their child’s transport home.

Alternatively, if the unauthorised passenger is from a client school, the coordinating principal must contact the client school principal and advise the unauthorised passenger will not be permitted on the afternoon service. The client school principal must inform the unauthorised passenger’s parents/carers that their child is not permitted on the afternoon service and they have responsibility for organising their child’s transport home.

If the unauthorised passenger presents at the bus, bus operators are not obligated to carry unauthorised passengers from the school in the afternoon and are only required to liaise with coordinating schools.

Continued unauthorised student passengers are to be reported by the bus operator to the coordinating principal, PTV and STU for investigation and prompt resolution.

Communication with client schools

The coordinating principal must provide the following information to the principal of each client school:

  • bus rolls
  • route maps
  • timetables
  • relevant procedures
  • conditions of travel (included in the application to travel)
  • emergency contact details for the school’s students who travel on a school bus.

The coordinating principal must inform client schools of contract variations, temporary service variations, early closure times (e.g. end of term) and pupil free days where bus services will be affected. Where planned, notification of planned changes should occur prior to the start of next school term.

Communication with parents/carers

All schools are responsible for communicating the travel options that exist in the area to parents at enrolment to their school. Schools must familiarise themselves with the SBP in order to respond to general enquiries made by parents about the program.

Principals of coordinating and client schools must keep parents/carers informed about school bus service arrangements, school bus safety education and the obligations of parents/carers.

Coordinating principals must provide advice to parents/carers of when bus services will not be running. Where planned, notification of planned changes should occur prior to the start of next school term.

When a student is new to a school bus service, parents/carers must be provided with the following documents:

  • a bus timetable with scheduled departure times for all stops on the route
  • procedures to be adopted in the event of a breakdown, accident, bushfire, or any other emergency

Parents/carers must be notified of any misbehaviour and advised that the travel arrangements for a student suspended or permanently removed from a school bus service are their responsibility.

Principals must emphasise that it is the responsibility of parents/carers to list their child’s medical conditions on the application to travel. The parents/carers will agree on a suitable medical management plan with the coordinating principal. Where appropriate, the coordinating principal should provide the bus operator with details of the medical condition and how to appropriately respond should it be required.

Parents/carers must be informed that bus drivers are not medically trained and are not expected to perform any medical intervention.

Client schools must take steps to ensure they have up to date contact details for parents/carers and communicate those details to the coordinating school to be used in the event of emergency.

Communication with PTV and DET

The coordinating principal may raise operational issues directly with PTV however the STU must be advised of any major issue that may affect students or the provision of a bus service.

Requests for new services, service variations, safety-related issues and continuity of service matters must be forwarded to the STU for consideration and endorsement prior to submission to PTV. Refer to Provision of Bus Services below.

Reporting bus operator and driver conduct

The coordinating principal must report the following to PTV:

  • failure of a bus operator to provide a service on a particular day or days
  • regular lack of punctuality according to the timetable (taking into consideration that punctuality is dependent upon the timely dismissal of students in the afternoons)
  • concerns about the suitability of a driver
  • an offence allegedly committed by a bus operator or a driver and any subsequent police or court action
  • an unauthorised substitution of a vehicle
  • an accident directly, indirectly or incidentally related to the operation of a SBP vehicle
  • a bus operator who does not keep the interior of the vehicle or vehicles clean
  • use of an unsuitable or unsafe vehicle, or a vehicle that repeatedly suffers mechanical difficulties
  • the death of a bus operator.
Temporary service variations

The coordinating principal must report any temporary service variations, including any variation to kilometres travelled or vehicle used, to the STU, PTV and each school whose students travel on the affected service.

Temporary service variations often relate to route or vehicle alterations in unforeseen circumstances. A temporary service variation to a route may be needed in response to flooding, bridge closure, road maintenance, or bushfire. A revised route should be determined in consultation with the bus operator, PTV and VicRoads/local council. A temporary service variation to a vehicle may be needed when a vehicle is undergoing maintenance or has a breakdown, or is being used in alternative charter arrangements.

Maintaining a bus service

Coordinating principals must report to the STU and PTV any instances where students on a lightly loaded service can be transferred and safely accommodated on alternative services, or where there are or will be less than eight eligible students using a service.

Communication with bus operators

The following information must be provided in writing to the bus operator by the coordinating principal:

  • a full and current bus roll of students approved to travel on a service
  • the name of any students suspended from using the school bus service and the length of the suspension
  • any approved changes to bus routes and/or timetables
  • the names of ineligible students and members of the public approved to travel on the service
  • any alterations to the bus roll
  • changes in bus captains
  • any seat allocations
  • changes to school timetables (including early closure times and pupil free days) within a reasonable time period
  • emergency procedures and contact details.

The bus operator is responsible for providing this information to drivers.

Authorising bus operator payments

Bus operators must submit a quarterly contractor payment claim form to the coordinating principal. The coordinating principal must check all details including student numbers, days operated, vehicle and driver details. If these details are correct, the coordinating principal can endorse the claim for payment. Endorsement must be provided within 2 days of receipt of the invoice. The bus operator is then responsible for forwarding the endorsed payment claim form to PTV for payment.

Should the payment claim form be rejected due to errors or admissions, coordinating principals should escalate the matter to STU. The STU will work with PTV to have the claim form reviewed and or resubmitted with the correct information.

Responsibilities of client schools

Travel approval

All schools accessing the SBP are responsible for distributing eligibility information and application forms to their students. All application forms and eligibility guides are available on the Resource tab.

Client school principals must collect applications to travel from students at their school. Applications are then to be forwarded to the coordinating principal for assessment.

Applications must be sent to the coordinating principal by the end of Term 3 in the year prior to attendance. Applications must be in the form prescribed by the Department and available in the Resources tab. Late applications may be accepted at the discretion of the coordinating principal. Students requiring bus transport less than five days a week must specify their travel arrangements in their application.

Parents/carers must be advised in writing of the outcome of their application at the earliest possible convenience. Notification of unsuccessful applications should be prioritised to provide maximum time to review the choice of school or to make alternative arrangements.

Bus fares

Client schools must collect fares from students at their schools who are fare paying travellers and provide payments to the coordinating school together with the fare remittance form.

Anticipated loadings

Client school principals must submit their annual anticipated loading data to their coordinating school in time for them to submit the information to PTV by 30 November each year. This information details the number of students expected to travel on each service in the coming year.

This information is used by PTV as a planning tool to ensure appropriate and efficient school bus provision throughout Victoria.

It is essential that this information is maintained and up-to-date. The client school principal must report loading issues, including changes in bus patronage, to the coordinating school as they arise or through the anticipated loadings data.

Supervision

A member of staff must be on duty to supervise students during the arrival and departure of school buses at school and at interchanges beyond the school. At feeder interchanges beyond the school, buses should be scheduled so that they arrive and depart the interchange at the same time. Buses should remain stationary at all times while students are transferring between services.

Parents/carers are responsible for transporting their children to and from designated bus stops and for their safety at the bus stop while waiting for the bus.

Unauthorised student passengers

Bus drivers are obligated to accept any unauthorised student passengers who present at a bus stop. Bus drivers must report the unauthorised passenger to the coordinating principal once the bus arrives at school.

If the unauthorised passenger is from a client school, the coordinating principal will contact the client school principal and inform them that the unauthorised passenger is not permitted on the afternoon bus service. The client school principal must inform the unauthorised passenger’s parents/carers that their child is not permitted on the afternoon service and that they have responsibility for organising their child’s transport home.

If the unauthorised passenger presents at the bus, bus operators are not obligated to liaise with client schools or carry unauthorised passengers from the school in the afternoon.

Continued unauthorised student passengers are to be reported by the bus operator to the coordinating principal, PTV and STU for investigation and prompt resolution.

Communication with parents/carers

Schools are responsible for communicating the travel options that exist in the area to parents at enrolment. Schools must familiarise themselves with the policy in order to respond to general enquiries made by parents about the program.

Responsibilities of bus operators

Under the Bus Safety Act 2009 (Vic) (the Act), operators of buses or vehicles with more than 12 seats (including that of the driver) must be accredited by Transport Safety Victoria (TSV) (see the Vehicles (including Buses) — Owned or Hired by a School Policy. Operators must display the number plates showing the appropriate accredited service category and their accreditation number.

The Act requires bus operators to take steps to eliminate the risks to health and safety arising from the provision of bus services. Obligations under the Act have been incorporated into the contracts between the bus operators and PTV (contract holders for the School Bus Program services).

Operators are required to:

  • ensure that drivers are licensed in line with the Act and VicRoads requirements
  • have a zero alcohol and drug policy for bus drivers while engaged in delivery of a service
  • advise schools if any risk arises during the delivery of a service or at a bus stop.

The Bus Safety Regulations 2010 (Vic) also provide additional specific obligations for notification of incidents and near misses.

Bus operators are required to provide services in line with applicable legislation, their contract with PTV and this guidance.

Under the provisions of the Public Administration Act 2004 (Vic), a government school teacher is not permitted to hold, or have an interest in, a school bus contract without written permission of the Department.

Reporting

Through the completion and submission of the Form 7: Notice of Concern — Behaviour (also available in Resources) bus operators and drivers are required to report to the coordinating principal all instances of student misbehavior and any action taken/to be taken in response to the misbehaviour including recommendations for changes to seating allocations.

Coordinating principals are to work with bus operators and or drivers to address matters raised through the notice of concern form. This may include meeting with bus operators and drivers to discuss the matters raised.

Coordinating principals (where required) will manage all contact with client schools, families and students. Bus Operators and drivers are not to manage notice of concern behaviour matters directly with families.

Coordinating principals are not required to inform bus operators or drivers of the outcome of a notice of concern unless the outcome may result in alterations to the students bus travel.  

Bus operator and drivers are also required to report verbally or in writing to the coordinating principal any of the following matters:

  • loading issues — overloading or reduced loading
  • detours or delays due to exceptional circumstances — where possible, unplanned delays should be reported immediately by telephone
  • any issues that may affect ongoing operation
  • any accident that has a direct, indirect or incidental relationship to a school bus service
  • unauthorised passengers.

Payment of contracts

Bus operators must prepare a quarterly contractor payment claim form and submit it to the coordinating principal for checking and endorsement. Coordinating principals should return the claim promptly to the bus operator. Operators must submit the claim to PTV, which uses the information to review loadings, vehicles in use, and to determine an operator’s monthly payment.

Bus operations

The following expectations apply to all services:

  • operators must transport all passengers who have been approved by the coordinating principal
  • operators must operate the contracted vehicle over the approved route in accordance with the timetable set down by the coordinating principal
  • neither operators nor drivers have any authority to determine eligibility to travel or to refuse to pick up any approved passenger
  • operators are not permitted to carry goods or other passengers while the bus is servicing the approved timetable, except with prior written approval from the coordinating principal
  • a bus should not arrive at or leave the school earlier or later than the time stated in the timetable unless directed by the coordinating principal
  • a bus route may not be varied, except in an emergency, without the approval of PTV
  • all buses should avoid travelling in reverse gear where possible, particularly in pick-up and set-down areas
  • school bus lights and signage compliant with VicRoads requirements must be displayed while students are travelling on the bus. Flashing lights must be operating while the bus is stopped
  • any student that presents at a bus stop for a morning bus service and is unauthorised for travel must be accepted on the bus and reported to the coordinating principal once the bus arrives at school
  • bus operators are not obligated to carry unauthorised student passengers in the afternoon. Unauthorised student passengers should be reported to the schools on duty supervisor/teacher for removal from the bus service prior to the bus departing the school interchange.

Contract variations

Any variation (non-emergency) to a bus route must be approved by PTV prior to implementation as the variation could alter the contract rate of payment.

Coordinating schools cannot vary bus routes without gaining approval. To gain approval, coordinating schools are required to submit the Form 9: Application for Variation or Extension of an Existing Route.

Vehicles

To operate a school bus service, an operator must:

  • provide the specified vehicle in a satisfactory condition in accordance with the terms of the contract with PTV
  • have the vehicle inspected as prescribed by regulations and legislation and authorized vehicle safety inspector
  • when instructed by PTV or licensed vehicle tester, repair or replace the vehicle.

If a vehicle is deemed unsafe by a licensed vehicle tester, a written report from a licensed bus examiner recommending its replacement must be issued to PTV. The operator must then provide a suitable replacement vehicle approved by PTV.

Voluntary replacement

If an operator elects to voluntarily replace a bus, they must do so in accordance with the requirements in the school bus service contract.

Temporary replacement

The operator must provide a suitable replacement vehicle if the contract vehicle is being repaired. This vehicle must be approved by PTV. A school bus operator must not stop operating the vehicle specified in the contract without prior permission from PTV.

Drivers

Drivers must have a ‘Driver’s Accreditation’ issued by the Taxi Services Commission (TSC). Generally, a certificate is not issued to an applicant under the age of 21 years.

Under the provisions of the Public Administration Act 2004 (Vic), a government school teacher is not permitted to be employed as a school bus driver without written permission from the relevant Regional Director.

Drivers have a role in the safety and supervision of students while on board school buses. Bus drivers are not medically trained and are not expected to perform any medical intervention.

Drivers on the completion of the bus service should inspect the vehicle interior to ensure that all students have departed the vehicle. The vehicle inspection is a critical task and should be completed prior to departing the school after the am service and prior to garaging the vehicle after the last stop on the pm service.

Student behaviour on school buses

In the event students do not comply with the conditions of travel, bus drivers must follow the procedures below:

  • the driver will stop the bus
  • student name or names and full details of the breach will be recorded
  • the student or students will be transported to school or to their normal drop-off
  • the matter  will be reported to the coordinating principal through the Form 7: Notice of Concern — Behaviour
  • the coordinating principal will, in review of the notice of concern, take necessary action as required.
Ejecting a student from a bus service

Bus drivers may eject passengers they reasonably believe are:

  • a threat to the safety of passengers in the vehicle
  • behaving in a violent, noisy or offensive manner
  • intoxicated to the point of being offensive.

Ejecting a student must be considered a measure of last resort.

Bus drivers must give consideration to stopping the vehicle in a safe location and evacuating other students from potential harm. Drivers will need to justify that the circumstances warranted the action taken.

Students ejected from vehicles must not be left unattended. 

Before ejecting a student, the bus driver must speak with the coordinating principal and/or the principal of the client school the student attends. Should the bus driver not be able to contact the school or schools, bus drivers must seek support from emergency services (call 000), and the contracted bus operator (if the driver is not the bus operator).

In deciding whether to eject a student passenger, drivers should take into consideration the potential danger presented by the road conditions, the age and ability of the student passenger, and the distance to be travelled.

It is the responsibility of the principal of the school the student passenger attends to inform the parents/carers of their child’s ejection from the bus and where their child can be picked up. The principal may choose to pick-up the student from where they have been ejected and return them back to school or home.

Vandalism

In all cases of vandalism by students, bus drivers should report the matter through the notice of concern — behaviour.

Coordinating principals (where required) will manage all contact with client schools, families and students. Bus Operators and drivers are not to manage notice of concern-behaviour matters directly.

The students or their parent/carers will be required to meet the cost of repairs.

Responsibilities of students

Behaviour on school buses

Those travelling on school buses must comply with the conditions of travel included in the application to travel.

Students must:

  • be on time to their bus stop each morning and at the bus loading area each afternoon. Students must be at the bus stop prior to the scheduled departure time
  • board, alight and travel on buses in a quiet, orderly manner
  • sit in an allocated seat if instructed
  • after getting off the bus, staying clear of the bus so that it can safely resume its journey. Students are not to walk in front of a bus that may move forward from the bus stopping location.

Responsibilities of the STU

The STU is responsible for:

  • developing and communicating the School Bus Program policy and procedures
  • providing advice and support to regional offices on transport-related matters
  • providing advice and support to schools on transport-related matters
  • considering applications for special consideration or appeal from schools for exemption outside the standard policy
  • administering the Transport Special Case Consideration panel
  • conducting School Bus Program policy and procedures compliance reviews at coordinating and client schools
  • supporting the Department’s central and regional offices to comply with the Department’s Emergency Management Procedures
  • working with PTV on the administration of the School Bus Program.

Responsibilities of DET regional offices

Regional offices are responsible for:

  • providing advice and support to schools on transport-related matters in accordance with the Department's transport policy
  • endorsement of school applications for the Transport Special Case Consideration Panel
  • assisting schools with applications for a new service or an alteration to existing service
  • providing advice on transport-related matters to parents/carers
  • escalating transport-related issues that cannot be resolved at a local level to the STU
  • providing local knowledge to the STU
  • directing and supporting schools during an emergency. This includes supporting school bus services as per the Student Transport Emergency Management Procedures document.

Responsibilities of PTV

PTV is responsible for:

  • planning service needs
  • contracting and managing service provision
  • funding the bus service contracts used to deliver the School Bus Program
  • reviewing school and operator compliance within the School Bus Program Policy
  • working with the STU on the management and administration of the School Bus Program
  • secondary role in managing school bus services during an emergency, as per the Student Transport Emergency Management Procedures document.
Guidance chapter on the roles and responsibilities involved to administer the School Bus Program

Reviewed 27 May 2020

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