Coronavirus: council service information and advice

Information about changes to council services as a result of coronavirus

Making the journey back to school  

As a new school year begins, it may take time to adapt to the new norm. Preparing your children for their return to school will help them to settle in quicker.

The government recommends that children walk and cycle to school. Where this is not possible, use public transport or drive. Travelling actively to school (walking, cycling or scooting) helps to improve and maintain childrens' physical health as well as their mental wellbeing. Children who travel actively arrive more relaxed, alert and ready to start the school day than if they travel by car.

If you've driven your children to school in the past, why not try walking, cycling or scooting? Leaving your car at home helps to reduce air pollution and the harmful effects on your children's health.

We've put together some useful information to help you decide which travel option is best for your family and will help us to develop cleaner air in Portsmouth.

Social distancing 

Schools have been working hard to prepare for the new school year and have plans in place to keep pupils safe. You can check with your school about the measures they are taking to maintain social distancing in and around the school.

These will include:

  • social distancing around the playground
  • staggered pick-up and drop-off times
  • one-way systems

On your journey to school, if you meet friends along the way, please remember to maintain a distance of at least one to two metres. Please give people who are using the pavement space to move.

Remember that bicycle racks and scooter storage can become busy at times. Keep your distance around these areas and allow children time to lock up or unlock.

If you're driving to school please be mindful of others and give space to people getting in and out of their cars.

Route planning 

If you're planning to walk, cycle or scoot to school, congratulations, you've taken your first steps towards creating long-lasting benefits for your children's health and wellbeing and have introduced positive travel habits for their future.

Before the new term starts, why not try out the route a few days before? The MyJourney route planner can help you decide on the best way to reach school.

Planning your route can help you:

  • Understand the time it takes to travel to school
  • Discover any potential obstacles along the way
  • Find out if your route passes any friends' homes so that children could safely walk together. Please remember to follow government guidance about social distancing.
  • Familiarise your children with their new route, particularly if your child is starting a new school in years Reception, Yr3 or Yr7
  • Limit your child's exposure to harmful air pollution and traffic by walking and cycling along quieter routes. Riding on quieter routes can help to build your child's cycling confidence.

Road safety 

Walking and cycling to school is beneficial for creating road awareness. Children who develop road awareness in primary school are in a much better position to travel independently and safely when they make the transition to secondary school.

To help your child understand any potential hazards around roads watch this Stop, look, listen, think! road safety video. You could even learn the song together and sing it as you walk to school.

Sustrans have lots of useful guidance for staying safe around roads including this video with walking safety tips for children. 

Cycling 

Riding a bicycle to school helps young people to develop road safety skills and learn how to manage risk gradually.

If you're getting the bicycle or scooter out for the first time in a while, you will need to make sure they're:

  • in good working order
  • with fully pumped tyres
  • with working brakes 

    Find out more about how to maintain your bikes with the M-check.
  • A great way for children to get hands-on experience in cycle maintenance is to look after their own bicycle, with adult supervision. This video from Sustrans offers practical advice to help children maintain their own cycle.
  • Children can grow at a surprising rate. If you're unsure if last year's bicycle still fits, watch British Cycling's tips to show you how to make adjustments to your child's bike or scooter.
  • Cycle helmets are not compulsory, but we recommend encouraging children to wear them. Cycle helmets should be comfortable to wear and offer good protection and ventilation. Watch this short helmet check video to help you ensure that your child's helmet is adjusted for optimal comfort and effectiveness.
  • Once it starts to get dark, your child will need a white front light and red rear light (constant or flashing). You will also need reflectors for their bike, which are a legal requirement. Find out more about cycling after dark.

Public transport 

Public transport operators are taking extra precautions to keep passengers and staff safe.
This includes:

  • enhanced cleaning
  • prioritising contactless payment
  • new ways of working.

If your children are travelling by public transport for the first time in a while this video from First Solent will help to explain what they can expect on their journey to school. Other transport operators will have similar processes in place.

Here is some further guidance to help your children understand their public transport journey:

  • Face coverings are now compulsory on public transport unless your child is under 11 years old. There are other exemptions which you can find here.
  • Make sure that your child carries hand sanitiser with them and uses it regularly. Remind them to wash their hands when they arrive at school.
  • Before your child returns to school, check to see if timetables have changed. This will help you understand if you need to allow extra travel time.
  • Journey times may take longer than usual as there are less seats available. This is to allow for social distancing. Many operators' schedules have almost returned to their full capacity. There may be occasions where buses are full and your child will have to wait for the next one.


If your child has a mobile phone, they can download the transport operator's app to:

  • pay their fare
  • plan their journey
  • check the availability of seats on the incoming bus.

Visit our transport page where you can find more guidance for travelling on public transport. You can also find links to updates from our regional operators.

Driving 

In busy cities like Portsmouth, Nitrogen Dioxide and Particulate Matter are the biggest offenders in causing air pollution.Nitrogen Dioxide is caused by burning fuels in older vehicle engines. Particulate Matter is caused by brake and tyre wear.
It's a common misconception that you're less exposed to air pollution when driving. In fact the opposite is the case. Air drawn by your fan into your car through your engine pulls in harmful pollutants from surrounding traffic, and traps it in your car. This makes you exposed to several times more pollution than pedestrians and cyclists.
If you have no alternative but to drive, the following advice will help you limit the amount of air pollution you and your children are exposed to:

  • Park a few roads away from the school and walk or scoot the rest of the way, to limit the amount of harmful pollutants entering the air around the school and playground
  • If you're stationary for a minute or so, switch your engine off. Find out more about vehicle idling and myth busting.
  • Ventilate your car by opening your windows to avoid a build-up of harmful pollutants inside the car