THE Education Authority (EA) is asking parents to help get the message out about the importance of wearing face coverings on all school transport.
This comes after the EA delivered over 850,000 face masks to schools across Northern Ireland for pupils who avail of home to school transport.
This week the Department of Education issued new guidance for pupils and students travelling to school or college on Education Authority, Translink and privately contracted services.
The new guidance makes it mandatory for all post primary age pupils or students to wear a face covering on dedicated home to school transport and public transport.
For younger pupils the guidance remains to wear a face covering where they can.
Since school resumed in September the EA has promoted key NI Executive messages such as the use of other forms of transport to school where possible, the importance of good hand hygiene and encouraged wearing a face covering on all forms of school transport.
Dale Hanna, Education Authority Director of Operations and Estates, said: “The wearing of a face covering on all forms of school transport is now mandatory for post primary pupils and we will continue to promote the importance of their use on all forms of school transport for all ages.
“We ask that parents help us to spread this message so we can all play our part in helping to stop the spread of Covid-19. It may be mandatory for post primary school pupils to wear a face covering but where a primary school pupil can wear a covering they should do so as well.
“We have distributed over 850,000 face masks to schools for pupils using home to school transport.
“In addition we have installed over 700 hand sanitizer dispensers and driver screens in our EA school bus fleet, issued PPE to all drivers and escorts and have a regular cleaning regime on our vehicles.
“We will continue to do everything we can to keep pupils and staff safe and the promotion of these important public health messages will help do that.”
David Cowan, Translink Director of Commercial Operations, said: “We welcome this announcement making face coverings mandatory for all post primary school pupils travelling on both dedicated school services and normal public timetabled services at all times. Most people are wearing one travelling on public transport with over 85% compliance.
“This is a positive step to help simplify the guidance for all post primary pupils. We will work alongside the EA and schools to ensure everyone is aware of this change and encourage and engage pupils to cover up to protect themselves, their friends, family and the wider public to stay safe.
“Safety is Translink’s top priority. Wearing face coverings is just one of a range of effective and robust safety measures in place to protect our passengers and colleagues.
“These include screens around bus driver cabs, PPE for front line staff and regular deep cleaning of vehicles and facilities using long lasting anti-viral disinfectant products.
“We also provide hand sanitiser at main bus and train stations and encourage passengers to socially distance to stay safe”.
The new guidance takes into account those who are exempt from wearing face masks for medical and special educational needs reasons.