The school bus needs careful maintenance for maximum safety and utility, says Gerald Haigh.
A new school year, and soon the minibus will once again be carrying precious loads in busy traffic. However hectic the beginning of term, the minibus deserves concentrated attention from governors and senior management.
The first concern, though, should be with the way the vehicle is managed. Get this right and the other things follow. Begin, then, by preparing the governors' minibus policy ready for discussion and approval at the first governors' meeting of the year. Make sure it includes statements on management (who is responsible to the governors; who makes operational decisions; who runs day-to-day administration), driver training and qualification, maintenance, regular checks and associated paperwork, staffing policy on short and long runs, pupil discipline and loans to outside groups.
Properly set up and publicised, the policy will settle arguments and lay down expectations about good practice. ("Sorry, but governors' policy is that if you have not passed the local authority test, then not even an august person such as yourself can take four children two miles to the swimming baths").
If you are starting from scratch with this, talk to one or two schools with long experience of running a minibus.
Then if the minibus has not had an exhaustive check during the holiday, do it now. (The Glan Ely checklist - see box - is a good starting point.) Even if it is not due for a garage or local authority service or inspection, it might be a good idea to put in an extra one now. If the bus has been out on loan during the summer, this is essential.