We have been running regular surveys relating to school use of minibuses by schools for six years, and during this time we have perceived an increasing tendency for schools to change the way in which minibuses are funded and are used.
This year for the first time, as well as asking senior management for their thoughts on minibuses and their use, we asked heads of department and subject coordinators in secondary and primary schools to tell us whether they had access to a minibus and how it was funded.
The responses summarised here are those from that particular survey to subject coordinators and departmental heads.
What we found was that 20% of our respondents had access to a minibus that was reserved for their particular department or subject area.
This is, as expected, still far smaller than the number of respondents who booked out the school minibus (68%). 7% of respondents felt they had no need for a minibus while 3% had no access to a minibus but would welcome it, and 2% shared a minibus owned or leased by another school.
In terms of ownership 39% of respondents said that the school had purchased its most recent minibus outright, while 30% stated that the school’s most recently acquired minibus was leased.
The use of a minibus shared with another school has risen greatly and has now reached 14% of the schools represented by our respondents while another 21% said that they thought this could be an approach which could benefit their school.
As we found in the past, the number of school minibuses on the road which are over five years old is large and rising – 39% of respondents said that they had a minibus in their school in this age group.
But where the big change came from our past surveys was with the view of future arrangements for minibuses. 6% felt their school was thinking of a secondhand minibus, 11% were considering leasing, and 51% believed the school had no plans for expanding their minibus fleet.
Although sharing a minibus with another school is growing in popularity, our respondents working outside of senior management did not see this as an option, although it is being more widely considered by senior management themselves.
The primary use of the minibus was transporting pupils or students to sporting activities (34%) while the second most popular was taking students to places of interest (22%).
60% of respondents could see the benefit from having another minibus in the school, but despite the huge growth in the notion of learning outside the classroom 34% declared that there was no need to have another minibus in the school.
In this survey schools were split fairly evenly between those which already leased or were thinking of leasing a minibus (38%) and those which have not considered the idea (27%). Interestingly only 2% of schools said that they had looked at leasing but decided against it.
We invited our respondents to tell us about the way in which minibuses were used and the results were incredibly varied including using the minibuses to support staff in charity events such as the 3 Peaks challenge, as emergency & support vehicles for cycling events, to transport plants etc to the school’s ‘creation’ at the RHS garden Show at Malvern, and as a removal van to transport benches to the local church, sporting equipment for events and even pianos for carol singing!
Several schools spoke of allowing local groups to use the minibuses at weekends and during the school holidays, and one of enabling a group of disadvantaged children to go sailing. One school spoke of transporting recyclable resources from local factories and another to help parents get to school for parents’ evenings.
We also had a most interesting report from a school that hired the minibus from a local fleet hire company. However in this case the school was charging the students for use of the minibus for a trip, which of course would only be possible where the visit was not a part of the formal school curriculum in a state-funded school.
As might be expected. 63% of respondents felt that access to another minibus (either by buying it, leasing it, or sharing it) would be helpful to the school.
However 40% of such respondents stated that they were unable to raise the money. 2% of respondents indicated that the school would not take on a lease as a matter of policy, but 14% indicated that they had not previously thought about leasing a minibus.
In terms of gaining a business or commercial sponsor for the minibus, 37% of respondents thought that this could be a good idea – but it was not one that they had pursued – while 32% thought it would not be right for their school.
If you would like to read our short report on how schools are arranging the sponsorship of minibuses by local businesses and other organisations please email Sam@schools.co.uk