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education.vic.gov.au

School Bus Program

Policy last updated

15 June 2020

Scope

  • Schools

Contact

Student Transport Unit


Date:
February 2020

Policy

Policy

The purpose of this policy is to outline the specific roles and responsibilities for schools involved in the provision and management of the School Bus Program (SBP).

Summary

  • Parents/carers have primary responsibility for transporting their children to and from school.
  • The School Bus Program assists families in rural and regional Victoria by transporting students to school.
  • The program services both government and non-government schools.
  • School principals must ensure School Bus Program services provided to students at their school are managed in accordance with this policy and the guidance.
  • Public Transport Victoria administers the School Bus Program in accordance with this policy and the guidance, through contractual arrangements with bus operators.

Details

Schools must ensure SBP services are managed in accordance with the requirements in the Guidance tab.

SBP services are coordinated by a coordinating school, with the principal of that school being the coordinating principal. The coordinating principal is responsible for the SBP services within a particular area or network. All other schools in that area are referred to as client schools. Both coordinating schools and client schools have responsibilities under this policy and the guidance.

These requirements include the following:

Co-ordinating principals must:

  1. appoint a member of their school staff to be the bus co-ordinator, unless coordinating the bus services themselves
  2. distribute to families, and client schools, information about SBP services running in the area they are coordinating
  3. collect application forms from client schools and assess eligibility, including whether an applicant who is otherwise ineligible falls within a special category that permits them to use a SBP service
  4. apply priority of placement where capacity on a SBP service is limited
  5. maintain, and provide to bus operators, relevant information about SBP services including the bus roll (i.e. the list of passengers travelling on each SBP service), emergency information, seat allocations, route maps, timetables and standards of behaviour
  6. ensure students are aware of the conditions of travel (set out in the application forms) and respond to incidents of inappropriate behaviour on buses
  7. appoint bus captains, who assist bus drivers with supervision
  8. notify Public Transport Victoria (PTV) students are regularly required to stand up in 80km speed zones
  9. report to PTV operational issues with a bus service including driver conduct issues
  10. report to PTV, Student Transport Unit (STU) and client schools any variations to services
  11. escalate to STU circumstances which, in the coordinating principal’s view, may establish grounds for additional services, retention of services proposed to be removed, or modifications to services
  12. check a bus operator’s quarterly claim for payment and either:
    1. endorse the accuracy of the claim and return it to the bus operator (who submits it to PTV), or
    2. address any inaccuracies with the bus operator
  13. notify client schools, operators and families in advance of when bus services will not be running

Client schools must:

  1. distribute to families information, upon enrolment or other inquiry, about SBP services running in the area
  2. collect application forms from students at their school and wanting to access a SBP service
  3. forward completed application forms to the coordinating school by the end of Term 3 in the year prior to the year in which the student is seeking to access the SBP service. If new families enrol at the school after this time, client schools must forward the completed applications to the coordinating school as early as possible and apply priority of placement
  4. collect fares from students at their school who are fare paying travellers
  5. ensure supervision of students getting on and off buses at their school

Definitions

Bus operator
For the purposes of the School Bus Program, a bus operator is a company or sole trader who is contracted by Public Transport Victoria (PTV) to operate a school bus service along a specified route. Bus operators must be accredited with Transport Safety Victoria (TSV) and meet safety obligations under the Bus Safety Act 2009.

Client school
A client school is a school whose students use school buses provided under the School Bus Program but the school does not manage the bus service (this is the responsibility of the coordinating school).

Client school principal
The principal of a client school.

Coordinating principal
The principal of a coordinating school. The responsibilities of a coordinating principal are often delegated to a school bus coordinator.

Coordinating school
A school which is responsible for the management of the local bus network in the School Bus Program.

DET or the Department
The Department of Education and Training.

DOT
The Department of Transport.

PTV
Public Transport Victoria.

School bus network
A school bus network is made up of all the services coordinated by a particular school. The network has one coordinating school and, where applicable, numerous client schools.

Student Transport and Allowances Branch
The Student Transport and Allowances Branch is made up of two units:

  • the Conveyance Allowance Unit (CAU), and 
  • Student Transport Unit (STU)

STU
The Student Transport Unit within the Department.

Relevant legislation

Contact

Student Transport Unit


Guidance

Guidance

This guidance contains the following chapters:

  • Introduction
  • Conditions of travel
  • Criteria Determining Eligibility for the School Bus Program
  • Ineligible Students Accessing the School Bus Program
  • Administration of the School Bus Program
  • Provision of Bus Services
  • Glossary
  • Special Category Travelers — Case Studies
  • Privacy Information

Introduction

Introduction

While parents/carers have primary responsibility for transporting their children to and from school, the School Bus Program (SBP) assists families in rural and regional Victoria by transporting students to school.

The program services both government and non-government schools.

Students wishing to access a seat on a bus must complete an application form and parents/carers must agree to the conditions of travel (which are set out in the relevant application form) including, if applicable, the payment of a fare. Applicants must submit the application form specific to their circumstances. Please refer to Resources to access the relevant application form.

Criteria of eligibility determine whether a student travels at no cost or travels upon the payment of a fare.

The Student Transport Unit (STU) of the Department of Education and Training (the Department) sets the policy and provides general transport advice to the Department’s regional offices and schools.

Public Transport Victoria (PTV) administers the SBP as directed by this guidance and holds the contracts with bus operators.

The SBP is guided by the relevant parts of the Education and Training Reform Regulations 2017 (Vic) and the Bus Safety Act 2009 (Vic). This guidance detail the specific obligations and duty of care for all parties involved in the provision and management of school bus services.


Conditions of travel

Conditions of travel

Any person using a school bus service provided as part of the SBP must comply with the conditions of travel. The conditions of travel are specified in the application forms for the service. Please refer to Resources to access the relevant application form.


Criteria Determining Eligibility for the School Bus Program

Criteria Determining Eligibility for the School Bus Program

This section explains the criteria used to determine if a student is eligible to access the School Bus Program (SBP). To access a school bus service, a student must:

  • meet all of the eligibility criteria detailed below — criteria 1 (or be granted an exemption to criterion 1), 2 and 3 (eligible student)
  • fall into a special category permitting travel, despite otherwise being ineligible (special category traveler), or
  • be permitted to travel upon paying a fare (fare paying traveler)

Eligible students and special category travelers access SBP services at no cost.

Public transport

Students are expected to use public transport where a service is available within 1.6km (measured by shortest practicable route) of their home or closer to their home than the nearest school bus service. This applies to both students applying to access the SBP at no cost and to fare paying passengers.

Where school and public transport services overlap, students must be allocated to public transport services prior to school bus services, as long as this ensures a safe and economically responsible outcome.

In making travel allocations the Department and PTV consider:

  • bus loadings and student safety
  • student eligibility for transport assistance
  • cost implications
  • individual cases on their merits

Student priority of access to services

With some services the demand for seats can exceed the carrying capacity of the bus. In these situations the following priority of access applies:

  • first priority — eligible students (including those previously approved to travel) second priority — eligible government school students
  • third priority — eligible non-government school students
  • fourth priority — students who are eligible because they fall within an exemptions to an eligibility criterion or are considered a special category traveler (both government and non-government school students)
  • fifth priority — fare paying travelers who are government and non-government students
  • sixth priority — fare paying travelers (non-students)
    (see fare paying section for order of priority)

The coordinating principal should give preference to students with special needs or those travelling both morning and afternoon five days a week. If after applying these criteria there is more seating available, preference should be given to those who have the greatest distance to travel and to the youngest students.

Change of address

If a student changes residential address, a new application must be made to the coordinating school and re-assessed against all criteria.

Criterion 1 — Nearest appropriate school

Criterion 2 — Reside 4.8km or more from the school

To be eligible for the SBP, students must reside 4.8km or more from the school/campus they attend. This distance is measured by the shortest practicable route, driveable by car, from the student’s residential driveway to the school administration gate.

Criterion 3 — Be of school age and reside in Victoria

Students must reside in Victoria and be eligible to attend school. School is compulsory for all Victorian children aged between 6 and 17 years but children commonly attend school between 5 and 18 years old. In some circumstances, students may be as young as 4 or aged up to 20 and eligible to attend school. See Enrolment for information on age eligibility.

Access to more than one bus service

Students may only access one bus service unless the coordinating principal approves the student’s travel because the student:

  • resides at more than one address, or
  • is attending a training program not at the school

Where connecting bus services or bus interchanges exist, a student may be required to access more than one service to get to their school.

Students who reside at more than one address

Coordinating principals may approve students who reside at more than one address to access more than one service.

If a student is eligible for a school bus service from one of their residential addresses, they may be permitted to access more than one bus service at no cost.

A student not meeting the eligibility criteria may still be able to access a service as an ineligible traveller, either as:

  • a fare paying traveler, or
  • a special category traveler

if they fall within either of these categories as described below.

Priority of access to each service must be allocated according to the student’s eligibility status from each address. As students travelling under these arrangements will not be accessing either service full time, coordinating principals need to consider the priority of access to services advice where spare capacity is limited.

An eligible student accessing more than one service only contributes to a case for the addition, modification or retention of the service from their primary address. In situations where there is an equal time spent at each address, the parents/carers must specify a primary address. Each student then only counts as one eligible student over the whole network.

Offsite training

A student may request permission to access more than one service to attend a registered training organisation or other Department-recognised training program that requires them to commute to an alternative location.

Coordinating principals may approve students attending offsite training to access 2 bus services.


Ineligible Students Accessing the School Bus Program

Ineligible Students Accessing the School Bus Program

Special category travellers

The coordinating principal may approve applications from students who would otherwise be considered ineligible to access a school bus service, if they fall within 1 of the special categories below. Special category travelers are able to travel at no cost. The exemptions are limited and specific and detailed below.

The coordinating principal determines which special category travelers have priority of access. The coordinating principal should give preference to students with special needs or those traveling both morning and afternoon 5 days a week. If after applying these criteria there is more seating available, preference should be given to those who have the greatest distance to travel and to the youngest students.

Special category travelers cannot form part of a case for additions, retentions or modifications of services.

Students reside less than 4.8km from the nearest school

A government or non-government school student attending the nearest appropriate school for which admission is available and who resides less than 4.8km from that school may be able to travel at no cost on the school bus as a special category traveler. The coordinating principal may approve an application to travel as a special category traveler subject to all of the following conditions:

  • the student lives at least 1.6km from a public transport service that could provide convenient access to and from their school at appropriate times
  • seating is available on the service after all eligible students have been accommodated
  • the student and the student’s parent/carer accept the conditions of travel and the authority of the coordinating principal
  • the student intends to use the bus service daily
  • PTV incurs no additional cost
  • a parent/carer provides a written undertaking to the coordinating principal that other transport arrangements will be made if seating becomes insufficient due to an increase in the number of students with a higher priority of access or a smaller vehicle is engaged for the service

Post-secondary students and apprentices

The following categories of post-secondary students and apprentices may be permitted to travel as a special category traveler, at no cost, on a school bus service:

  • students undertaking further education or training courses, such as university, TAFE or adult and community education
  • apprentices who are required to attend school
  • students enrolled in an accredited course of study or an approved course for the unemployed, who live 4.8km or more from the education and training provider

The coordinating principal may approve an application to travel as a special category traveller subject to all of the following conditions being met:

  • the student lives at least 1.6km from a public transport service that could provide convenient access to and from their school at appropriate times
  • seating is available on the service after all eligible students have been accommodated
  • the student/apprentice (and parent/carer if under 18 years of age) accepts the conditions of travel and the authority of the coordinating principal
  • PTV incurs no additional cost
  • the student/apprentice (or parent/carer if under 18 years of age) provides a written undertaking to the coordinating principal that other transport arrangements will be made if seating becomes insufficient due to an increase in the number of students with a higher priority of access or a smaller vehicle is engaged for the service

Before approving an application to travel from a post-secondary student or apprentice, the coordinating principal must undertake a suitable reference check.

A verbal reference check (from the student’s nominee) will normally be acceptable for:

  • students or apprentices aged under 18 years of age
  • students aged 18 or over who are progressing from school directly to further education or training
  • recent arrivals to Australia
  • those aged over 18 years of age who have not had a break in their education or training of 2 or more years of whom the coordinating principal considers not to be a risk to other students on the bus

Those who have had a break of 2 or more years from attending school full time are considered members of the general public and must satisfy the conditions applicable to members of the general public set out below in the guidance on fare paying travelers.

The coordinating principal must keep a written record of any reference check.

When an application is approved the student’s/apprentice’s name will be added to the bus roll. Prior to boarding the vehicle, the student/apprentice may be required to provide identification to the bus driver. If a bus seat is not currently available, the student will be placed on a waiting list, which is to be monitored by the coordinating principal.

Post-secondary students and apprentices must reapply to access school bus services each term.

Pre-school students

Pre-school students who have turned 4 years of age may be permitted to travel as a special category traveler, at no cost, on a school bus service. The coordinating principal may approve an application to travel subject to all of the following conditions being met:

  • seating is available on the service after all eligible students have been accommodated
  • the student’s parent/carer accepts the conditions of travel and the authority of the coordinating principal
  • PTV incurs no additional cost
  • a parent/carer provides a written undertaking to the coordinating principal that other transport arrangements will be made if seating becomes insufficient due to an increase in the number of students with a higher priority of access to travel or a smaller vehicle is engaged for the service
  • a parent/carer of the applicant provides written confirmation to the coordinating principal that the child is independently able to travel on a bus
  • the pre-school teacher provides written confirmation to the coordinating principal that the child is independently able to travel on a bus and that an adult arranged by the pre-school teacher will escort the child between the bus stop and the pre-school in the morning and afternoon. Bus drivers are not permitted to escort students from the bus to the pre-school

Once a pre-school student transitions to school they must submit a new application to travel.

Interstate students

Each Australian state is responsible for the school transport of students residing in that state.

Interstate students attending Victorian schools

Students who reside interstate but attend Victorian schools may be permitted to travel as a special category traveler, at no cost, on a Victorian school bus service. The coordinating principal may approve an application to travel subject to all of the following conditions:

  • the student is attending their nearest appropriate school
  • the student lives at least 1.6km from a public transport service that could provide convenient access to and from their school at appropriate times
  • seating is available on the service after all eligible students have been accommodated
  • the student and the student’s parent/carer accept the conditions of travel and the authority of the coordinating principal
  • a parent/carer provides a written undertaking to the coordinating principal that other transport arrangements will be made if seating becomes insufficient due to an increase in the number of students with a higher priority of access or a smaller vehicle is engaged for the service
  • parents/carer understand that interstate students form no case for the extension, retention or variation to existing services
  • PTV incurs no additional cost
Victorian students attending interstate schools

Students who reside in Victoria but attend schools that are interstate may access a Victorian school bus service travelling to interstate schools at no cost provided they are attending their nearest appropriate school (irrespective of it being interstate) and meet all other eligibility criteria. Victorian students who do not meet the eligibility criteria but wish to access a Victorian school bus travelling to an interstate school are required to pay a fare.

Interstate students attending interstate schools

Students who reside interstate may access Victorian school bus services that are travelling to interstate schools at no cost. Access is at the discretion of the coordinating principal.

Ad-hoc student passengers

A student travelling on an ad-hoc basis may be permitted to access the school bus at no cost. The coordinating principal may approve an application to travel subject to all of the following conditions:

  • student(s) will not disadvantage other passengers or result in an unacceptable bus loading
  • the carriage of ad-hoc students does not result in the necessity for bus travelers to stand while the bus is travelling in a speed zone of more than 80kp/h
  • the student accepts the conditions of travel and the authority of the coordinating principal
  • PTV incurs no additional cost

The coordinating principal is responsible for ensuring the daily bus rolls reflect any ad-hoc travelers. Ad-hoc travel is at the coordinating principal’s discretion to approve or decline.

Siblings of eligible bus users

A student who wishes to attend a school other than their nearest may be granted permission by the coordinating principal to travel on a school bus, as a special category traveler, where a sibling is enrolled at the school they wish to attend. Sibling requests are considered on a case-by-case basis. The coordinating principal may approve an application for permission to access the bus subject to all of the following conditions:

  • the sibling is still attending the school at the time of application
  • the sibling is eligible to access the school bus and does not access a school bus service as a special category traveller or fare paying traveller
  • the younger sibling resides 4.8km or more from any nearer school
  • seating is available on the service after all eligible students have been accommodated
  • the student lives at least 1.6km from a public transport service that could provide convenient access to and from their school at appropriate times

Teachers

Teachers may be permitted to travel on a school bus service as a special category traveler. The coordinating principal may approve an application to travel subject to all of the following conditions:

  • seating is available on the service after all eligible students have been accommodated
  • the teacher agrees to meet and help implement the conditions of travel
  • the teacher assists the driver and bus captains in supervising students on the bus
  • PTV incurs no additional cost
  • the teacher provides a written undertaking to the coordinating principal that other transport arrangements will be made if seating becomes insufficient due to an increase in the number of students with a higher priority of access or a smaller vehicle is engaged for the service

Special categories applicable to government school students only

Students residing 4.8km or more from a bus route

Students residing 4.8km or more from a bus route to their nearest government school may be permitted to travel at no cost on a service with a bus stop closer to their residence travelling to an alternative school. The alternative service may take the student to the next nearest school or further if no service to the next nearest school is available. The nearer bus service must be within 4.8km of the student’s residence. The coordinating principal may approve an application to travel subject to all of the following conditions:

  • seating is available on the service after all eligible students have been accommodated
  • the student lives at least 1.6km from a public transport service that could provide convenient access to and from their school at appropriate times
  • the student and the student’s parent/carer accept the conditions of travel and the authority of the coordinating principal
  • PTV incurs no additional cost

If a service to the nearest school is expanded and becomes the closer service than the one used under this special category, students travelling as special category travelers may continue to access the service until they have completed their time at the alternative school. New applications are subject to standard eligibility criteria.

No service provision to nearest school

Students residing in an area with no bus service running to their nearest school may be permitted to access a bus service running to an alternative school at no cost. The alternative service may take the student to the next nearest school or further if no service to the next nearest school is available. The coordinating principal may approve an application to travel subject to all of the following conditions:

  • the student must reside 4.8km or more from their nearest school
  • seating is available on the service after all eligible students been accommodated
  • the student lives at least 1.6km from a public transport service that could provide convenient access to and from their school at appropriate times
  • the student and the student’s parent/carer accept the conditions of travel and the authority of the coordinating principal
  • PTV incurs no additional cost

If the nearest school gains a service, students not attending their nearest school are eligible to continue to access the service to the next nearest school until they have completed their time at the school. New applications are subject to standard eligibility criteria.

Students travelling beyond their next nearest school (to which there is a bus service running) can do so upon payment of a fare. Refer to the section — Ineligible passengers required to pay a fare.

Unsupervised government primary schools

Some bus services may pass a government primary school before staff are in attendance. As no supervision is available at the time students would be dropped off, coordinating principals may approve an application to travel at no cost to an alternative school. The alternative service may take the student to the next nearest primary school or further if no supervision at the next nearest school is available. The coordinating principal may approve an application subject to all of the following conditions:

  • seating is available on the service after all eligible students have been accommodated
  • the student lives at least 1.6km from a public transport service that could provide convenient access to and from their school at appropriate times
  • the student and the student’s parent/carer accept the conditions of travel and the authority of the coordinating principal
  • PTV incurs no additional cost
  • the unsupervised primary school has provided written confirmation to the coordinating school that they are not willing or able to provide supervision before a particular time.

If the nearest government primary school implements supervision arrangements, current students not attending their nearest school are eligible to continue to do so until they have completed their primary school education. New applications are subject to standard eligibility criteria.

Sibling entitlement of students approved as a special category traveler

Approval of a student as a special category traveler only applies to the child in a family for whom the approval was sought. Requests for approval as a special category traveler are assessed by the coordinating principal on a case-by-case basis. Siblings of students approved as a special category traveler are not automatically approved as a special category traveler. Each family member wishing to access a school bus service must submit a separate application to the coordinating school.

See the section headed Special Category Travelers — Case Studies for examples and diagrams of situations in which a student may be approved as a special category traveller.

Ineligible passengers required to pay a fare

Students (and other individuals) who do not meet the eligibility criteria and/or do not qualify as a special category traveler may be able to access a school bus service upon payment of a fare. Fare paying travelers must pay the appropriate term fare in advance of travel to their school’s bus coordinator or delegate.

Client schools must forward collected fares to their coordinating school together with the ‘Fare Remittance Advice Form’ (see Resources) containing details of fares paid on behalf of students at the client school.

Coordinating schools must then forward the collected fares, with a completed ‘Fare Remittance Advice Form’ (see Resources), to the STU at student.transport@edumail.vic.gov.au​ on behalf of the school bus network.

The bus fares for 2020 are:

  • $120 per term or
  • $480 per year

The general public may also access the bus upon payment of a fare.

The order of priority to access the bus service (reversed for removal from the bus service if capacity is required for students with a higher priority of access) is as numbered below.

A fare paying passenger retains access to the bus service provided spare capacity is available, the appropriate fare is paid in advance and they continue to reside at the address listed in their application. Permission to travel and payment is on term by term basis.

Fare paying passengers cannot form part of a case for additions, retentions or modifications of services.

Students attending their next nearest government school

A government school student who is eligible for transport assistance to their nearest government school (resides 4.8km or more from that school) may be able to access a bus service to their next nearest government school upon payment of a fare. The coordinating principal may approve an application to travel subject to all of the following conditions:

  • the flat rate term fare is paid prior to commencing travel
  • seating is available on the service after all students with a higher priority of access to services have been accommodated
  • the student and the student’s parent/carer accept the conditions of travel and the authority of the coordinating principal
  • PTV incurs no additional cost
  • a parent/carer provides a written undertaking to the coordinating principal that other transport arrangements will be made if seating becomes insufficient due to an increase in the number of students with a higher priority of access or a smaller vehicle is engaged for the service

Students may be able to access a school bus service to their next nearest government school, at no cost, where there is no available bus service to the student’s nearest government school. Refer to the section above — 'No service provision to nearest school'.

Students attending their next nearest non-government school

A non-government student may be able to access a bus service to next nearest appropriate school upon payment of a fare. The coordinating principal may approve travel subject to all of the following conditions:

  • the flat rate term fare is paid prior to commencing travel
  • seating is available on the service after all students with a higher priority of access to services have been accommodated
  • the student and the student’s parent/carer accept the conditions of travel and the authority of the coordinating principal
  • PTV incurs no additional cost
  • a parent/carer provides a written undertaking to the coordinating principal that other transport arrangements will be made if seating becomes insufficient due to an increase in the number of students with a higher priority of access or a smaller vehicle is engaged for the service

Students who live less than 4.8km from the nearest school and attend an alternate school

A student ineligible to access a service at no cost to their nearest school (resides less than 4.8km from that school) may be able to access a bus service to an alternative school upon payment of a fare. The coordinating principal may approve an application to travel subject to all of the following conditions:

  • the flat rate term fare is paid prior to commencing travel
  • seating is available on the service after all students with a higher priority of access to services have been accommodated
  • the student and the student’s parent/carer accept the conditions of travel and the authority of the coordinating principal
  • PTV incurs no additional cost
  • a parent/carer provides a written undertaking to the coordinating principal that other transport arrangements will be made if seating becomes insufficient due to an increase in the number of students with a higher priority of access or a smaller vehicle is engaged for the service

General public

The general public may be permitted to travel on a school bus service upon payment of a fare. An application to travel must be forwarded to the coordinating principal who may approve it subject to the following conditions:

  • the person lives at least 1.6km from suitable public transport
  • seating is available on the service after all students with a higher priority of access to services have been accommodated
  • the applicant (and the parent/carer if under 18 years of age) accepts the conditions of travel and the authority of the coordinating principal
  • the fare as determined by PTV is paid in advance of travel
  • PTV incurs no additional cost
  • the applicant (or parent/carer if under 18 years of age) provides a written undertaking to the coordinating principal that other transport arrangements will be made if seating becomes insufficient due to an increase in the number of students with a higher priority of access to travel or a smaller vehicle is engaged for the service

No ad-hoc or occasional travel is to be provided to members of the general public.

To protect the safety of all travelling students, a non-school passenger is required to provide to the coordinating principal with a Working with Children check.

The coordinating principal has discretion to withdraw approval for a member of the public to travel on a school bus service where the coordinating principal considers that necessary to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students traveling on the service.

Insufficient seating capacity

If there is no longer sufficient bus seating capacity to accommodate fare paying passengers, the coordinating principal must advise:

  • the principals of all schools with students who are fare paying travelers using the bus service, and
  • any members of the public who are fare paying travelers using the bus service

The client school principal must advise a student’s parent/carer in writing prior to the completion of the current year. In these circumstances, the student can continue using the service for the remainder of the year.

The bus operator will make the final determination on the safe carrying capacity of the bus and must immediately inform the coordinating principal of capacity issues so that the coordinating principal can take appropriate action.

Other exceptional circumstances or appeals or special cases

Making an application

Parents/carers wishing to apply for special consideration or appeal a transport decision must make an application through their school using the following form:

Government schools who receive a written application from a parent/carer must:

  • first, have the application endorsed by their regional office (i.e. by the Area Executive Director or Regional Director), and
  • secondly, submit the application and regional endorsement to the STU at student.transport@edumail.vic.gov.au.

Non-government schools’ applications do not require regional endorsement and can be submitted directly by emailing student.transport@edumail.vic.gov.au

To appeal or seek special case consideration, applications must be made by the dates set out below under ‘Application closure dates and panel sitting dates’.

When are special case applications considered

Special case applications will be considered by the STU in the following circumstances:

  • a student has commenced the final year of the school they attend and changes residential address
  • a student is the subject of a specific court order stipulating the student must continue their education at a particular location (copy of court order is required with the application)
  • a student has moved school for reasons of:
    • genuine concern for personal safety or for the safety of other students (documentation from the original school of enrolment and the student welfare coordinator will be required to support the special consideration; information will be also accepted from external welfare agencies)
    • consistent with the staged approach recommended in the Student Engagement Policy and guidance, the school has developed flexible learning options for the student, which may include transfer of a student to another school setting (this does not include intercampus movements). This recommendation must be supported by the relevant regional director and the 2 principals of the schools involved in the student transfer.

STU endeavours to complete its consideration of the application within the term in which it is made.

Transport special case consideration panel

In all other circumstances, or if the STU determines that an application is particularly complex in nature, the STU will refer the application to an independent panel known as the Transport Special Cases Consideration Panel (the panel).

The panel is convened by the Department’s chief finance officer. Representation on the panel includes members from the Student Transport and Allowances Branch, practising principals, a representative from the Department’s Wellbeing Health and Engagement Divisions, and a representative from PTV.

The panel meets each month during Term 1 and at least once per term thereafter. Prior to a panel hearing, the STU may seek further advice from the lodging government school’s regional director. The student’s application must include applicable supporting documentation such as recommendations from the school’s student support group, and any individual education plan, behaviour support plans or other student support plans.

Incomplete applications will not be processed; the STU will contact the lodging school and request further information prior to submission of the case to the panel.

Transport assistance is not available to a student until such time as the panel meets and considers their application.

All recommendations of the Panel are forwarded to the Department’s Deputy Secretary, Financial Policy and Infrastructure Services, for approval.

The STU informs schools of the panel’s decision approximately three weeks after the panel meets.

Schools must inform families of the panel’s decision.

Application closure dates and panel sitting dates

In 2021, applications for appeals and special consideration, and the corresponding panel sitting dates, are as follows.

Term in which application considered Application closing date Panel sitting date
Term 1 2021 31 December 2020 19 January 2021
Term 1 2021 22 January 2021 16 February 2021
Term 1 2021 19 February 2021 16 March 2021
Term 2 2021 23 April 2021 18 May 2021
Term 3 2021 16 June 2021 13 July 2021
Term 3 2021 20 August 2021 14 September 2021
Term 4 2021 22 October 2021 16 November 2021

Conditions of special case approval

The following applies to special case approval:

  • Special case approval is limited to the student and transport service involved in the application.
  • Special case approval will cease if the student moves residential address, changes school or transport mode, unless the student meets eligibility requirements following the change.
  • Special case approval is not automatic. Each case will be considered on merit with reference to the transport infrastructure in the area.

Administration of the 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.

Provision of Bus Services

Provision of Bus Services

Students may be permitted to stand on a school bus once all existing seating has been allocated and only when:

  • no student will be required to stand for more than 10km
  • the vehicle has a seating capacity of at least 25 adults
  • the vehicle legal weight limit is not exceeded

PTV must be notified by the coordinating principal where students regularly must stand in a speed zone above 80km/h.

A student is only permitted to travel between the approved bus stop nearest to their home and school. Requests to access alternative bus stops on the same route can be considered by the coordinating principal.

If school bus loadings are unacceptably high, it may be necessary to reassess the availability of the bus service to those other than eligible students. The coordinating principal may implement temporary arrangements until all available options have been considered.

Temporary arrangements may include:

  • extending other services to accommodate students
  • adding interchange vehicles between services
  • providing extra seating
  • running an existing service for a second trip

Long term solutions may be identified by a review of the network. PTV conducts periodic reviews of school bus networks to ensure efficiency and compliance with this policy. PTV reviews can lead to modifications and additions to services in the bus network. When required by PTV, upon PTV contacting coordinating schools to commence a school bus network review, schools should make contact with STU for assistance during the PTV review process.  

Common permanent solutions to overloading issues may include:

  • a larger bus
  • running an existing service for a second trip
  • introducing a new bus service
  • permanently changing the route

Modification of services

Schools in bus networks can apply for variations to bus services via an application to the STU at student.transport@edumail.vic.gov.au. The STU will seek advice, if appropriate, from DET regional offices and other schools that might be affected before forwarding recommendations for modifications of services to PTV.

Proposals for modifications will be considered jointly by PTV and the STU. Application forms for modifications to school bus services can be found in the Resources tab.

Ineligible students cannot form part of a case for additions, retentions or modifications of services.

New services

A proposal for a new school bus service will be considered if:

  • at least 15 eligible students live on or near the proposed route
  • at least 11 of the 15 eligible students are enrolled in a government school
  • the students do not have access to an existing school bus service or a public transport service that could meet their school transport requirements
  • there is anticipated future demand from government school students

The introduction of a new school bus service can be proposed by a coordinating principal by submitting a Form 8: Application for a New School Bus Service or Feeder Service — see Resources tab.

If a new service is approved, PTV is responsible for the final design of the route and contracting a bus operator to provide the service. Eligible non-government school students who live on or near the newly established route can be considered when determining the appropriate vehicle capacity for the service; however it will primarily be designed around eligible government school student demand.

New feeder services

A feeder service is used to deliver students to a major school bus service and may be provided in isolated areas where students cannot be serviced by existing routes. Isolated areas are defined as locations that are geographically, professionally and personally isolating with limited logistic support, limited access to peers, in extreme climatic or cross-cultural environments. Feeder services usually transport relatively small groups of students who would otherwise be severely disadvantaged.

A proposal for a new feeder school bus service will be considered if:

  • at least 8 (6 in isolated areas) eligible government school students would use the service
  • the students do not have access to a current school bus service or a public transport service that could meet their school transport requirements
  • there is anticipated future demand from government school students

The introduction of a new feeder service can be proposed by a coordinating principal by submitting a Form 8: Application for a New School Bus Service or Feeder Service — see Resources tab.

Extensions and variations to existing services

A proposal to extend an existing service will be considered if:

  • at least 3 eligible government school students who all live at least 2.4km from a service to their nearest eligible school will benefit from the extension
  • there is anticipated future demand from government school students
  • it will not significantly increase the ‘dead running’ time

Issues that will be considered are the length of the current route and its proposed extension; the effect on current users and the possibility of the extended route encroaching upon a route that services another school. School bus services are not normally re-routed where a majority of government school students would be disadvantaged by the route alteration.

An extension to an existing service can be proposed by a coordinating principal by submitting a Form 9: Application for Variation or Extension of an Existing Route — see Resources tab.

Reductions to existing services

In some instances, the number of students living on a route or a spur extension may decrease. If students live on the line of the bus route, the rules of maintaining a bus service (below) apply — 8 eligible government and non-government school students must remain for the bus to continue. If the number of students living on a spur extension decrease, the same policy as extending an existing route applies to maintain the spur extension (see above) — there must be 3 eligible government school students who live at least 2.4km from the nearest alternative service.

Maintaining a bus service

Over time students on a bus service may decrease. A bus service will continue to be offered for as long as the number of eligible government and non-government school students who cannot be accommodated on another bus service remains at eight or more. If the number of students falls below eight the bus service will be removed.

Exceptions to the total number of students required to maintain a service will be rare but may occur in isolated areas. Cases are considered on their merits by the STU and PTV.

Altered seating capacity

It may be necessary for an existing vehicle to be replaced due to changed patronage levels. A coordinating principal can submit a report to PTV detailing the reasons for the replacement vehicle. The report should include the bus roll (student names, addresses and year levels).

Dead running

A student is not permitted to access a bus during dead running time. If a student lives close to a bus service’s ‘dead running’ route, the coordinating principal can put forward a case to PTV for the route to be varied or extended to allow for student access. These are assessed on a case by case basis.

Bus Routes

Bus stops

Bus stops must be at least 800 metres apart and established in safe locations where all activities at the stop are conspicuous and visible to road users. There should be sufficient space for parents/carers to wait for or with their children without impeding the safe arrival or departure of the bus and where students can board and alight safely. As far as is practicable, buses should be able to stop clear of passing traffic.

Suitable bus stops can be suggested by the coordinating principal in consultation with the bus operator and PTV. Where required, a site assessment will be sought from the relevant road authority (VicRoads or the local council).

Round routes

Round routes are bus routes that operate in a loop and finish where the service started. Vehicles on round routes must follow the same direction in the morning and the afternoon. The direction may be reversed at monthly intervals if it is considered appropriate by the coordinating principal in consultation with client schools (where necessary).

Road suitability

PTV and bus operators are responsible for ensuring roads used by school buses are suitable for use in all weather conditions. Any long-term interim, alternative route must be certified by VicRoads or the local council as suitable for school bus traffic in all weather conditions. PTV will provide final approval to alternative route design.

A road or bridge in need of repair should be reported to VicRoads or the local council for urgent attention. If doubt exists as to whether a road has become unsuitable for school bus traffic, the advice of the local council or VicRoads must be obtained by the coordinating school or bus operator as soon as possible and provided to PTV.

A bus service should not be withdrawn from a section of a route except:

  • in cases of emergency
  • when the appropriate road authority (VicRoads or local Council) is unable to certify that the route is suitable for school bus traffic in all weather conditions

Pupil-free days

School bus services may not operate when a coordinating government school has a pupil-free day. In circumstances where at least 50% of government school students who access the bus network still require transport, the coordinating school can agree to operate the bus network. If the coordinating school is closed in this situation, an agreement needs to be made with a client school to act in the coordinating role for that day. PTV and the STU must be notified of this agreement to ensure all parties are aware that bus services will continue to be provided. If a coordinating school determines that school buses will not operate, schools with students requiring transport may wish to contact PTV directly to explore alternatives for transport.

Coordinating schools must provide advice within a reasonable time period (prior to the start of the school term the period when bus services will not be running) to client schools, bus operators and families as to when the bus services will not be running.

The monthly Contractor Payment Claim must be checked by the coordinating principal to ensure that such days are not included.

Orientation days

Students may be permitted to travel on a school bus to attend a school orientation day if there is space after all students with a higher priority of access have been accommodated. There must be no additional cost incurred by PTV.

Approval must be granted prior to travel to an orientation day. The relevant application to travel form must be completed and submitted to the coordinating principal.

Excursions and delays

It is expected that students absent from school on excursions or sports activities will be returned to school prior to the scheduled bus departure times. Should unforeseen circumstances delay a number of students in returning from an excursion, the coordinating principal must decide if the bus service will operate as scheduled.

Factors that will influence the decision are:

  • the number of students from other schools requiring the service
  • the number of students delayed on the excursion
  • the likely length of the delay.

The principals of client schools using the service should be advised if the delay is likely to be significant. Buses should not be unduly delayed for the convenience of a few. Where excursions are planned to return after the scheduled departure time of buses, it is the school’s responsibility to ensure provision of additional bus services or appropriate notification to parents that buses will not operate, is made for those students who rely upon the school bus service.

PTV will not incur any additional expense for the carriage of students unable to use their normal homeward bus service due to returning late from an excursion.


Glossary

Glossary

This glossary is intended to assist the users of this document in understanding the terms that have been used throughout this document.

Ad-hoc travel
A student that requires occasional travel may be considered as ad-hoc. Ad-hoc travel can be used for, not limited to; sports training, part time work, social travel to fellow students residence etc.

Ad-hoc travel is at the coordinating principal’s discretion to approve or decline.

Bus operator
For the purposes of the School Bus Program, a bus operator is a company or sole trader who is contracted by PTV to operate a school bus service along a specified route. Bus operators must be accredited with Transport Safety Victoria (TSV) and meet safety obligations under the Bus Safety Act 2009.

Client school
A client school is a school whose students use school buses provided under the School Bus Program but the school does not manage the bus service (this is the responsibility of the coordinating school).

Client school principal
The principal of a client school.

Contract vehicle
The contract vehicle is the vehicle specified in the contract between the bus operator and PTV for a particular bus route.

Coordinating principal
The principal of a coordinating school. The responsibilities of a coordinating principal are often delegated to a school bus coordinator.

Coordinating school
A school which is responsible for the management of the local bus network in the School Bus Program.

Dead running
The distance that PTV pays the operator for the vehicle to travel between the overnight garage and the first authorised pick-up point each morning, and the reverse in the afternoon.

DET or the Department
The Department of Education and Training

Designated Neighbourhood School (DNS)
Designated neighbourhood schools can be identified at Find My School.

Eligible student
A student who meets the eligibility criteria and is able to travel at no cost (meets criteria 1 to 3 set out in this document) or otherwise falls within an exemption to the eligibility criteria.

Special category traveler
A student who is ineligible but fulfils one of the exempt categories and is therefore eligible to travel at no cost.

Fare paying traveler
A student who is ineligible and does not fulfil one of the exempt categories to travel at no cost. The student travels upon payment of a fare.

Ineligible traveler
A student who is not eligible and is either a special category traveler or a fare paying traveler.

Isolated area
Isolated areas are defined as locations that are geographically, professionally and personally isolating with limited logistic support, limited access to peers, in extreme climatic or cross-cultural environments.

Loadings
The number of students accessing a bus service. 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.

Multi-service traveler
A student who is permitted to travel on multiple bus services.

PTV
Public Transport Victoria.

School bus network
A school bus network is made up of all the services coordinated by a particular school.

The network has 1 coordinating school and, where applicable, numerous client schools.

Shortest practicable route
The shortest practicable route between the student’s residence to the main entrance of the school/campus they attend is measured using all-weather public roads drivable by car.

Spur extension
A spur extension is a section of a bus route where the bus moves off the line of the route
and returns back the way it came to continue on the line of the route.

Student Transport and Family Allowances Branch
The Student Transport and Family Allowances Branch is made up of two units; the Conveyance Allowance Unit (CAU) and the Student Transport Unit (STU).

STU
The Student Transport Unit within the Department.


Special Category Travelers — Case Studies

Special Category Travelers — Case Studies

Below are illustrated examples to assist in the understanding of several situations where students may be eligible for an exemption.

In these illustrations, School A is the nearest school and School B is the further school.

Case 1 — Government students residing 4.8km or more from a bus route to nearest government school

Students residing 4.8km or more from a bus route to their nearest government school may be permitted to travel at no cost on a service with a bus stop closer to their residence travelling to an alternative school. The alternative service may take the student to the next nearest school or further if no service to the next nearest school is available. The closer bus service may be within 4.8km of the student’s residence.

Case 1a — The bus route to the next nearest school is less than 4.8km from a student’s residence but closer than a route to the nearest government school.

Image showing a home that is closer to School A than it is to School B. The home is 6km from the bus route to school A but only 2km from the bus route to school B

 Case 2 — No service to nearest government school

Students residing in an area with no bus service running to their nearest school may be permitted to access a bus service running to their next nearest school at no cost.

Note: this case study does not apply for non-government schools.

Image showing no bus route to school A which is 10km from a home and a bus route to school B which is 20km from the home

Case 3 — Unsupervised government primary school

Some bus services may pass a government primary school before staff are in attendance. As there is no supervision available at the school at the time students would be dropped-off students may be permitted to travel to their next nearest government primary school.

 A bus route goes from a home to school A and B. Both schools are supervised from 8.30am. The bus passes school A at 8 am and school B at 8.30am

Case 4 — New government or non-government school opens closer to student’s residence

Students enrolled at a school that ceases to be their nearest due to new school opening are still eligible to access a bus service to their current school at no cost.

A home is shown to be nearer to new school and new school bus route compared to school A

 Case 5 — Round bus route

In certain areas, bus routes may operate in a loop. In these circumstances a student may pass their next nearest school before the bus stops at their nearest school. In this situation the eligibility is still determined by the shortest practicable route, despite the route taken by the bus and a student must attend their nearest school to travel at no cost.

A bus route goes in a loop from a home to school B then on to school A

Privacy Information

Privacy Information

The release of any personal information concerning students, including their names or addresses, must be in accordance with the Health Records Act 2001 (Vic) and the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 (Vic) and the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic).

Parents/carers’ consent for the release of information to PTV must be obtained during the school’s enrolment processes and when completing the Application for Permission to Travel form.

This information is used for the planning and operating of transport services. Schools must only use personal information for the purpose detailed above or when required by law.


Resources

Resources

Eligibility Guide

There are a number of different criteria families are required to meet to be eligible for the school bus program. An eligibility guide is available below:

Applications and other forms

Apply for special transport consideration

Government schools should forward applications to their regional office for endorsement.

Applications from government and non-government schools must also be emailed to student.transport@edumail.vic.gov.au.

Administration documents

Archived policy and procedures

These are the previous versions of the School Bus Program policy and procedures document

Bus fares

Where any cheque is posted to STU, a hardcopy of this Form must also be included.

Contact details — Public Transport Victoria (PTV)

Public Transport Victoria (PTV) and is located at 750 Collins Street, Docklands 3008

Phone: 1800 800 007
Email: schoolbus@ptv.vic.gov.au

Journey planner advice on the public transport options available for students can be found on the PTV website:  www.ptv.vic.gov.au

Parent website

https://www.education.vic.gov.au/parents/going-to-school/Pages/travel-school.aspx


Reviewed 24 March 2020