CHILDREN are being urged to walk to school while bus users are being asked not to make journeys at peak travel times to try and ensure a safe return to the classroom.

With schools in Darlington set to reopen on Wednesday, the council has been working with headteacher, the Tees Valley Combined Authority and bus company Arriva to ensure the safety of pupils.

Councillor Jon Clarke, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “The return to school will not be without its challenges this year but we are committed to supporting schools, pupils and parents in keeping everyone as safe as possible."

Pupils are being encouraged to walk, cycle or get to school by scooter where possible.

Where a car is used, parents and carers are asked to park a few streets away from school entrances and adhere to social distancing guidance.

Bus users are being asked to avoid peak school travel times – before 9am and between 3.30pm and 5pm – where possible, due to limited capacity caused by social distancing measures.

There will be a number of additional buses and coaches, which will follow the normal service, to increase capacity.

Where pupils use dedicated home to school transport measures have been put in place to ensure safe travel, in line with guidance from the Department for Education, while existing arrangements for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities remain in place.

Cllr Andy Keir, cabinet member for local services, said: “School transport – whether by public service or dedicated home to school transport – has been carefully considered to ensure that no-one is negatively impacted by the increased demand for services.

“Walking and cycling to school and college when possible will not only free space on public transport and keep the roads clear, but also encourage a healthier and greener journey for children, parents and our communities.

“We will be monitoring the situation across the borough as schools return and continuing to work closely all partners as required.”