Children face being turned away from school buses if they do not wear face masks under new rules introduced by East Lothian Council.

The local authority has invested £1.7million on increasing the number of buses for pupils when they return to school next week.

However, it has introduced a face mask rule across all its home to school transport, including taxis, private school buses and public transport.

Parents have been told children should also carry hand sanitiser which they are expected to use before boarding any school transport and put on their mask every day.

The council, which provides transport for 2,450 children, said 1,200 of those pupils are provided with bus passes to use public buses on the routes with the rest using school buses contracted by the local authority and private hire taxis.

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The face mask rule will not apply to youngsters who are exempt under the exemption rules for public transport.

New guidelines state that pupils on school buses should all be travelling to the same school so shared trips are no longer allowed so some routes shared by primary and secondary children are no longer available, even if the children are from the same family.

The council said 26 new buses have been commissioned across contractor and public service routes to allow pupils to continue to travel safely to school at a cost of £1.7million.

And it said guidance is being shared with families telling them to provide their children with hand sanitiser, which must be used prior to boarding the bus and face coverings which will be mandatory on all home to school transport.

The council warned: “Failing to adhere to these guidelines could lead to a pupil being refused entry to the bus.”

Seating plans will also be introduced on buses and families will receive details of timetables when they receive their bus passes.

The council said the measures had been introduced in response to the current Covid-19 public health emergency and would be subject to review in line with any further Scottish Government guidelines.

Councillor Shamin Akhtar, cabinet member for education and children’s services, said: “I know this will be a relief for many parents who rely on our home to school transport services but who were also concerned about what this would look like in the current health emergency.

“Our officers have worked hard with transport partners to enable us to provide a service to families.

“We are in the process of sending out bus passes and timetables and would ask that all families pay particular attention to their responsibilities for keeping their own children, drivers and other passengers safe. This will be essential to the operation of the service.”