What are the ten most extraordinary things within ten miles of your school?

That isn’t a question that neatly fits into any syllabus that I know, but it is still an interesting question.

The answers could be anything – for when it was asked by a colleague of mine, she told her students that they could nominate whatever they wanted, but they each had to be ready to stand up and defend their choice in a reasoned way before the rest of the class.

Nominations that came back included the nearby reservoir (nominated by two different students, one for the local wildlife and one for its engineering), the local football ground (nominated by a supporter), the swimming pool, a run-down housing estate which had just started to receive a major overhaul, Tesco’s, the public library, the local 02 store, the recycling centre…

The list of nominations went on, and of course some places were nominated over and over again. But a handful of places were nominated by just one or two students, and it was upon these that the teacher focussed. It made for a good discussion of what we each find important.

And at the end of the in-class presentations and discussions the students thought that was it.

But it wasn’t, for the teacher then told the students that she would start to pick one place nominated by each of the 12 students in her group and ask the student who put the location forward to lead the visit. And at this point the students began to see what was going on. It was part of their training to be able to do interviews for jobs, take part in seminars, to present themselves seriously to a group. It was a lesson in entering the grown-up world.

Instead of being asked to stand up in class and speak, they were going to have to act as a guide on a site they had nominated.

The teacher contacted the location, explained the project and asked for permission to run the event, which was given in each case. Then the student had to liaise with the teacher over how he/she was going to run the visit, and the event was booked.

It was, the teacher told me, just about the best event she had ever run in terms of helping the students to present themselves to others and learn what organising meant. “These young people will go into work or to university knowing how to organise an event. Most of their contemporaries won’t have a clue.”

It was thus a great project, with a unique teaching point. But none of it would have been possible without one thing.

The minibus.

“If we had been using public transport, then the availability of the buses would have determined which visits we could do, and that would have meant some students would not have got to do their presentation at a place of real interest – just because of transport.” the teacher told me.

I have to say that I love this story, simply because I can see it at once as the most powerful of ways of getting students to organise their thoughts, to think about their ideas, to give of themselves to others – all of which are so vital in adult life.

And it includes a use of a minibus I had never come across before. Of course, the bus is just the facilitator, but even so, it was an essential part of the project. It just shows the value of having more than one minibus on site and encouraging as many members of staff as possible to drive.

There’s a PS to this story as well. The teacher who told me the tale gave me one other piece of information. She said that although her school had two minibuses the usage of them was fairly limited to what might be expected – sports matches, geography field trips, visits to the swimming pool…

This project made her colleagues sit up and look. The students talked about each trip so much that the whole school was awash with the project – even more so when photos of the visits and presentations were put up on the display boards. When the head heard what was going on, he insisted on some of the students doing an assembly based on their choice and their visit.

“The only downside,” she told me at the end, “was that bookings of the minibus started to go up. No one wanted to be left out. We’re all doing learning outside the classroom now.”

If you’d like to know more about our range of minibuses click here.

Alternatively you can call us on 01753 859 944.

A new minibus for your school costs less than you may think

Many schools are finding that the most effective way of ensuring that their students are involved in educational visits is by having their own school minibus.

However, when you think of a minibus for your school, your first thought may well be that they are so expensive to the point of being unaffordable.

This is a common perception, however many schools are now finding that a new school minibus is possible, but not by buying them, instead they lease them.

Leasing means that the cost of the minibus is spread over time with fixed monthly costs, and can be accounted for in the budget. The PTA can still contribute by raising money to pay for the monthly payments, etc, but there is no longer that long, long wait for the capital to be accumulated.

What’s more, through the leasing arrangement there’s a second benefit, for all the maintenance of the minibus can be taken on by the leasing company, thus keeping the vehicle fully operational at all times.

Additionally, where school 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.

In other cases the minibus can be funded through a small monthly deduction from the school’s allocated income.

Not only will a new minibus help the school to expand education beyond 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 and because of this we are able to offer very competitive prices.

If you are interested in the benefits of a minibus do call us on 01753 859944 or click here to see what we can offer.

It is the arrival of the new minibus that triggers the demand for its use

When a school has no minibus, or has one but needs a second, there will be a small group of people who will lead the call for a new vehicle.

Often the leadership of such a group will be taken by the sports department who will, quite reasonably, talk about the problems with arranging away sporting fixtures, trips to local swimming pools, and so on.

But inevitably, once a minibus is leased and brought on site, the number of teachers wanting to use the bus will rise greatly.

The point is that for many of us, thinking about what we don’t have is not a priority unless it affects us deeply. On the other had using what we now have access to, is a much easier concept to consider, and something that can get us excited.

In this way department after department that has never thought about a minibus before, will begin to want to use the newly acquired bus – and as a result, and given the near universal agreement about the enhanced power of education outside the classroom, the nature of schooling changes.

English teachers might well want to visit focal points for local writers and arrange trips to see dramatic performances. Those with a strong drive for expanding creative writing may well want to visit a site that will stimulate the students output. Others will want to reveal what it was that inspired writers who have passed this way before.

Maths has a strong affinity with astronomy and engineering, and considering the application of maths in our built environment by looking at the use of maths in constructions is always worthwhile.

Science likewise has many applications in buildings, along with the museums of science and those locations commemorating the way in which the application of science has changed our view of the world. It is indeed difficult to get a full grip on Darwin without a visit to a well planned zoo, just as it is to grasp the concept of the universe without a trip to a planetarium.

Religious Education will naturally take us to places of worship of different religions – which will probably be the only time in which most people get to visit a place of worship for a religion other than that with which they were brought up.

ICT can take students to control centres for anything from the internal environment of tower blocks to traffic signal operations HQs. Plus there are centres like Bletchley Park – and once again science museums.

History naturally has no shortage of locations to visit, nor do geography and geology.

Music involves going to concerts and going to locations that house instruments from other cultures, as well as locations that composers found inspirational, while a minibus for the art department allows us to take students to see paintings, photographs, constructions and installations, not just by nationally known figures but also by regional and local artists.

And so it goes on. Each department can think up places to visit, and once they start doing this, can find that such visits enhances the education that is delivered.

All it requires is the leasing of that extra minibus in the first place, and the demand will be there.

You can find out more about our minibus range on our website.

Alternatively please call us on 01753 859 944 for further information.

Eliminating the big problem with the school minibus

I think it’s fair to say that most of us would choose to drive a new school minibus, with no maintenance worries, rather than an old one.

I am pleased to say that both of those choices can be met through having a leased minibus that can come complete with a maintenance contract.

The great benefit of leasing is that the purchase of the bus doesn’t come in one lump from school funds. Rather the bus is paid for as it is used by the school.

Plus you can also opt for full maintenance of the minibus. Thus you have a professional undertake all the standard maintenance and servicing, effectively reducing the onus that is put on the person who is nominated in the school’s transport policy to look after the minibus.

So you get a double benefit. A new minibus which is less likely to have problems and you delegate the responsibility for maintenance to professionals.

Not only do the schools that use our service get a new minibus without having to use current capital to buy it, but they also get our certification that the bus has been checked by qualified engineers.

Given that the majority of school minibuses on the road are over five years old, this approach can be particularly valuable.

If you would like to know more take a look at our website – www.minibusleasing.co.uk/school-minibus.php

Alternatively email us at Minibus@benchmarkleasing.co.uk or call us on 01753 859 944.