This year’s minibus survey of secondary schools showed once again that minibus use in schools is continuing to expand, with 38% of our respondents saying that they have two or three minibuses in the school which are for the exclusive use of the school. A further 15% of schools said that they had more than three minibuses being used by the school, while 30% of schools had one school minibus.
As a result the minibus is clearly now a mainstream part of a school’s facilities with 83% having their one of their own. A further 4% shared a minibus with another school leaving just 13% of schools with no minibus facility.
We then asked about the schools about the ownership of the minibuses.
45% stated that they owned the minibuses outright, with just 4% having bought the last minibus with a loan. However, there has been a further continuation of the rise seen in the last three years of minibuses that are being leased – 50% of respondents told us that the most recent minibus acquired was acquired on a lease.
The number of minibuses shared with another school has also risen, and now 11% of schools are involved in this sort of arrangement. A further 13% of respondents stated that they had not considered sharing a minibus but felt this could be of interest.
Thus, although the sharing model is still only used by or being contemplated by around a quarter of schools, the majority do not see this as the way forward. But it is interesting that 13% of respondents said they had not come across this model of ownership before.
In past surveys we have expressed concern about the age of the school minibus fleet, which is why we have sought to let schools know about the options of sharing and of leasing.
While these two options continue to grow, our research shows that 57% of schools with one or more minibuses have one such vehicle on the road that is over five years old. This is up from around 50% two years ago. This is understandable but worrying, given the propensity for older vehicles, which might be driven by a number of different people, to break down while being used for carrying pupils and students.
When we asked about the plans for the future, the trend towards leasing became clear once again. 35% of schools said that they were interested in getting another minibus with the leasing of the minibus now being the main option. The notion of buying a secondhand minibus appears to have almost vanished from the agenda, with only 2% of respondents mentioning this as an option.
The most common reason – in fact one should say the only reason – given for not getting another minibus when one was needed was finance, but half of those who stated this, also said that they had not considered leasing as a way around the problem.
This year we also asked about the use of the school minibuses with respondents being asked to indicate as many replies as were relevant.
The most common usages were:
- Transporting pupils/students to sporting activities (swimming, matches etc) – 93%
- Departmental visits to places of interest – 91%
- Transporting pupils/students to other education sites – 70%
- Transporting pupils/students to lessons or events relating to music or other arts – 68%.
One new innovation that we found this year mentioned by schools in our survey was that of schools loaning out the minibus to another organisation (for example, a local scout group) for their events during the summer. We also had reports of secondary schools loaning the minibus to small feeder primary schools for their day trips.
Other uses besides the mainstream uses mentioned above included transporting students and their instruments to musical events, as well as taking students and teachers to the airport for a school trip, and as a support vehicle, for example with the National Three Peaks Challenge in June 2016.
Next we asked about sponsorship of minibuses. This appears to be an area where many respondents (31%) felt this could be of significant in the future, but the number actually engaged in this remained low. Certainly there is an interest in this area as over 50% of the respondents to our survey asked for a copy of our report on sponsorship.
Overall we saw a continuing growth in interest in the use of minibuses as a way of developing educational options – something that we noted in our previous survey of the use of minibuses as part of Learning Outside the Classroom programmes. This was combined with other innovative use, and a growth in awareness of leasing as an alternative method of financing minibuses.
While the option of sharing a minibus between two schools (typically a secondary and a primary) remains modest, it too is growing, often meeting the need of the secondary school for an extra bus for part of the week, with the primary school having use of it on specific days.
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