Raising school attendance: have you tried this?

Since Ofsted inspectors are making school leaders accountable for attendance, it is vital that schools are doing everything in their power to ensure that as many students as possible attend school each day.

Of course, this is much easier said than done, not least because there are numerous and various reasons for a student’s attendance dropping below what is required, but for some the reason is as simple as oversleeping and missing the school bus.

In these such cases, it could be worth sending a member of staff out with the school minibus to pick up any stragglers. This might be something that your school already does, but in our experience it is not a widespread method of raising school attendance.

If you would like to try this method of raising attendance but your current school minibus isn’t up to the job/ you need another school minibus to implement this service/ your school doesn’t currently own a minibus, simply get in touch with Benchmark Leasing.

Benchmark specialise in leasing minibuses to schools which, over time, has become a much more popular option than buying a minibus outright. This is because it is an arrangement which makes it possible for schools to afford a modern minibus with good capacity through a small monthly payment.

Furthermore, when you lease a minibus with us we take responsibility for its maintenance, thus absorbing the costs and keeping the vehicle fully operational at all times.

For more information visit http://minibusleasing.co.uk/. Alternatively, you can email minibus@benchmarkleasing.co.uk or call us on 01753 859944.

Why learning in unusual places can have a very strange and powerful effect on pupils and students. 

The traditional approach to learning and revising has been to suggest that pupils and students should find somewhere without distractions, somewhere quiet, warm and comfortable (although not so warm and comfortable they might fall asleep!), and then focus on their work. 

Thus in this peaceful location they can learn, study, and revise without interruptions. 

However, recent research has shown that this is not quite right. In fact there is a way of learning which appears to put distraction right at the forefront of its requirements. 

This comes about from a set of studies undertaken at Yale University which showed that when we study something in an unusual location we tend to remember it far better than if we study in a regularly used location, such as a room at home or in the library, or indeed the classroom. 

This very curious effect arises because when we are in an usual situation our brain becomes much more active, and thus although there might be distractions caused by the novelty of the environment, these are overcome by the additional activity the brain is automatically putting in to being aware of what is happening. 

In fact if one takes a group of pupils or students to a location they don’t know and either allows them to revise or teaches them a lesson that would otherwise be taught in the classroom, the level of learning is invariably significantly higher at the unusual location. 

There are two ways of utilising this approach: one is to encourage older students to cycle to different locations to revise in the build up to exams; the other is to take a group in a minibus. 

This has led to several schools leasing or sharing an extra minibus so that their students can learn in an unusual environment more often. There is more information about the leasing of minibuses at www.minibusleasing.co.uk/minibus-services.php

 

What is the most effective way of enhancing the learning speed of dyslexic and dyscalculic children?

A recent research program undertaken at Yale University has shown that when pupils and students are given the opportunity to learn in a new environment both the speed of learning and the level of retention accelerate rapidly.

This occurs even if the location that the pupils or students are learning in is not especially related to the subject that they are studying – it is simply the fact that they have gone somewhere new.

An informal study in England followed this up with a small number of dyslexic children who were given a spelling activity which involved working through flash cards at home with their parents.

By way of experiment, the parents were asked to take the child to an unfamiliar environment each day and spend 10 – 15 minutes working through the exercises on the cards.

All the parents in the study reported that they found an improvement in the child’s learning and retention.

This, of course, was not a scientific study in the sense that the Yale study was, but nevertheless the experiment gave a new impetus to the child’s work with his/her reading and spelling cards, and parents reported that after the informal experiment they were continuing to use this method of going somewhere different to practise spellings.

Such an experiment is difficult to replicate at school, although in some schools a small group of dyscalculic and dyslexic pupils or students are being taken out to a new location from time to time with a specific set of spellings or a maths table to learn.

Again, this is an informal experiment but teachers are reporting that, as the Yale study predicts, learning is accelerated and retained for longer than might otherwise be expected. What’s more, not only does learning increase at an unexpectedly high rate but so does the self-esteem of the pupils or students.

This has led to several schools leasing or sharing an extra minibus so that their SEN students can learn in a different environment more often. There is more information on using learning outside as a way of stimulating learning in this article and there is more about the leasing of minibuses at www.minibusleasing.co.uk/minibus-services.php.

School trips in your county

It is interesting that very few local authorities have produced what might be called a school trip guide for their area. Which is why we have constructed a list of English counties (found at the bottom of this email) and added a link to a site that lists a number of locations within that county, containing details of places to visit that will be of interest to schools.

We are not suggesting that each link is the only, or indeed the best, link to a set of locations in the county, so if you would like to suggest another site which could be of interest please do send it, with the name of the county it relates to, to sam@schools.co.uk.

Where we have no link it is because we simply haven’t found anything at all. If you can fill in the gaps, again please do write to Sam.

Avon

Bedfordshire

● Berkshire

Bristol

Buckinghamshire

Cambridgeshire

Cheshire

Cornwall

Cumbria

Derbyshire

Devon

Dorset

Durham

East Riding of Yorkshire, See also here

East Sussex

Essex

Gloucestershire

Hampshire

● Herefordshire

● Hertfordshire

Isle of Wight

Kent

Lancashire

Leicestershire

 

● Lincolnshire

London See also here.

Manchester

Merseyside

Norfolk

North Yorkshire See also here

Northamptonshire

● Northumberland

Nottinghamshire

Oxfordshire See also here

Rutland

Shropshire

Somerset

South Yorkshire See also here

Staffordshire

Suffolk

Surrey

Tyne and Wear

Warwickshire See also here

West Midlands

West Sussex

West Yorkshire

Wiltshire

Worcestershire

Better exam results from a connection with nature

It is commonly observed that in schools where learning outside the classroom takes place, attendance records improve and behavioural problems decline.

So it would seem to be a debatable point as to whether the current practice of keeping students within a set of rooms in groups of 30 or so pupils for five hours or so a day, five days a week, is a good idea. We do it, because that is how schooling has evolved, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Certainly being outside the classroom is liable to encourage the pupils and students to become healthier, and the resources beyond the classroom are far greater than those within.

But to provide your students with this alternative, you will likely need a suitable mode of transport, which is why the team here at Benchmark have for some time been working hard to create the most convenient minibus packages for schools.

To speak to someone about leasing a minibus, call 01753 859944 or email minibus@benchmarkleasing.co.uk. Alternatively, you can browse the minibuses that we lease (including Accessible Minibuses) on our website at: www.minibusleasing.co.uk/minibus-services.php.

What do Darwin’s Finches and the school minibus have in common?

About two million years ago a common ancestor of Darwin’s Finches arrived on the Galapagos Islands. There are now 15 species of finch located on the islands, all ranging in size, colour, and beak shape. Recently, however, another species has emerged, not through natural selection as before but through hybridisation – the mating of two different species to create a new one.

Similarly, the way in which schools acquire a school minibus has evolved, and more recently we have also witnessed hybridisation. We know this because over the last decade or so we have been issuing surveys to schools, asking them about which methods they use to acquire their minibus.

Approximately ten years ago, most schools owned a minibus outright (some of whom shared their minibus with a neighbouring school), but as time went on and budgets were squeezed we saw an increase in the leasing of school minibuses (the evolution). From then, there was a rise in the number of schools opting to share their leased minibus with a neighbouring school in the same cluster, trust or council (hybridisation), presumably because budgets were squeezed even further.

As you might be able to tell by this market research, the team here at Benchmark have for some time been working hard to create the most convenient minibus packages for schools – evolving (there’s that word again) the arrangement through feedback, primarily from teachers, site managers, administrators, and management.

To speak to someone about buying a minibus, leasing a minibus, or sharing a leased or bought minibus with a neighbouring school in the same cluster, trust, or council, call 01753 859944 or email minibus@benchmarkleasing.co.uk. Alternatively, you can browse the minibuses that we sell and lease (including Accessible Minibuses) on our website at: www.minibusleasing.co.uk/minibus-services.php.

Moving beyond the norm – teaching creativity, play, experimentation

Creativity is not a subject. Art, music, English, drama, dance – these are subjects, but in part they are teaching their own techniques and history as well as the creative application of the skills of the subject.

But learning outside the classroom gives an opportunity to explore creativity itself, because it takes the pupils and students into a new world, where novel responses are needed.

Every one of the art forms listed above has a strong tradition of working beyond enclosed spaces, from the artist painting outdoors, to the musician considering the sounds of the environment and how the sounds of his/her instrument changes outdoors. Drama and dance likewise take on new forms when removed from the normal environment.

So thus we have an opportunity to decouple the artistic form from the normal environment of learning and start to explore the notion of creative responses to what we see outside.

But this can go further. If the pupils or students are learning about a particular historical event or location (the battlefield, the castle…) and they can visit such a location, then rather than just observe and maybe touch, they can move on to begin to consider a creative response.

The more the pupils and students are engaged with the environment the more their inventiveness is liberated. Take them to an ancient stone circle, and they can not only contemplate the world of the ancients who built it, but also consider it from their own perspective.

Clearly, to be able to offer your pupils regular learning outside the classroom experiences, you will need a suitable and affordable mode of transport, which is why Benchmark focuses on leasing minibuses to schools.

It is an arrangement which very often makes it possible for schools to fund the minibus through a small payment each month. And in some cases, where trips are paid for by contributions from parents and the PTA, it is possible to allocate a part of those payments towards the cost of the minibus – reducing the funds being deducted from the school’s capital account.

What’s more, through leasing a minibus from us, we take responsibility for its maintenance, thus absorbing the costs and keeping the vehicle fully operational at all times.

If you are interested in finding out more about the benefits of leasing a minibus, please visit http://minibusleasing.co.uk/. Alternatively, you can call 01753 859944 or email minibus@benchmarkleasing.co.uk.

Most schools don’t have the funds to purchase a minibus… And that’s ok.

Purchasing a new minibus costs money, lots and lots of money. Money that most school just don’t have. Not now, not next week, not the week after…

And indeed, after taking into account the additional maintenance costs that come with the responsibility of the school owning a minibus, even considering the purchase is for most schools unimaginable.

Which is why we have introduced the leasing of minibuses to schools.

An arrangement which very often makes it possible for schools to fund the minibus through a small payment each month.

When you lease a minibus from us we take responsibility for its maintenance, thus absorbing the costs and keeping the vehicle fully operational at all times.

And in some cases, where trips are paid for by contributions from parents and the PTA, it is possible for schools to allocate a part of those payments towards the cost of the minibus – reducing the funds being deducted from the school’s capital account.

Not only will a new minibus help the school arrange beyond the classroom activities but it will also be a statement to prospective parents about the breadth and scope of the school’s vision.

Benchmark Leasing specialises in the supply and maintenance of school minibuses. If you are interested in the benefits of a minibus do call us on 01753 859944 or visit http://minibusleasing.co.uk/.

What is the most cost-effective way of upgrading the capacity of your school’s minibus?

Minibuses tend to have two problems. First they can’t be in two places at once, and second they don’t carry enough people.

Now of course the first of these two problems is one that affects all modes of transport, but the second is a problem that is particular to the minibus.

But fortunately, both of these problems can be overcome very readily – and the good news is that the solution doesn’t involve waiting for the TARDIS to become an affordable everyday mode of transport.

The answer of course is obvious – but it is an answer which is often ignored because it is instantly rejected on the grounds of it being too expensive. But that concern no longer applies.

Quite simply the solution is to have two minibuses – thus allowing the bus to be in two places at once or on other occasions to have double the capacity where a whole class needs to go to one location.

As for the cost, this is overcome by leasing the second bus (or indeed should you wish, leasing both).

Leasing can often work out cheaper than buying (especially if one takes into account the re-sale value of a school bus at the end of its working life), and incorporates a full maintenance programme – thus avoiding any increase in the work that needs to be undertaken by school staff.

Indeed since the leasing includes not just the costs of the service, but also MOT and overall maintenance of the vehicle are absorbed in the monthly fee, the savings can be significant.

What’s more, because a second bus removes the need to hire a coach on certain occasions, the saving can be even greater than at first imagined.

Leasing a second minibus with Benchmark makes it possible for schools to afford a modern minibus with greater capacity through a small monthly payment.

What is the most cost-effective way of upgrading the capacity of your school’s minibus? 

90% of schools own a minibus – of which your school may be one. But it is very often the case that a school minibus doesn’t get used as often as one might like because it simply isn’t big enough.

For if the number of students is greater than the capacity of the minibus, alternative modes of transport need to be arranged.

And this costs. Not least as a result of the additional costs arising from arranging alternative transport, but also because the minibus becomes cost inefficient. Particularly when we consider the capital spent on the initial purchase, the MOT, servicing, taxing, and insuring of the vehicle.

Yet purchasing a new minibus with greater capacity is not always an option for schools as budgets don’t often stretch this far. So what is the solution?

In leasing with Benchmark it is possible for schools to afford a modern minibus with greater capacity through a small monthly payment. And in some cases, where trips are paid for by contributions from parents and the PTA, it is possible to allocate a part of those payments towards the cost of the minibus – reducing the funds being deducted from the school’s capital account.

For more information visit http://minibusleasing.co.uk/. Alternatively, you can email minibus@benchmarkleasing.co.uk or call us on 01753 859944.