Transport’s impact on admission numbers
A 2015 survey of 1,005 parents of children aged five to eighteen about the factors affecting their choice of school found that Location or proximity is the second most important factor to parents, just behind “The school that best suits my child”.
The 2017 Ofsted Annual Parent Survey found that the most important factors in making a decision about a school were proximity to the parents’ home and the Ofsted rating.
Proximity drops slightly in importance for parents of children at secondary school – who will likely be able to travel alone – suggesting a strong correlation between the perceived travel burden to a parent and the choice of school.
How are schools taking advantage of this?
School transport needs to be flexible. Meeting the changing geography of each new year’s intake is a hard juggling act between continuing to serve existing students and accommodating the new but as competition between schools becomes ever fiercer schools are making use of their transport services to get ahead of the local competition.
Advertising existing and proposed routes at Open Days gives parents an indication of a school’s commitment to student wellbeing and parental convenience, whilst a service with tracking technology, familiar to most from the “Uber” taxi-world, is becoming a growing requirement for parents requiring the additional peace of mind to send their children to school un-chaperoned.
In an increasingly on-demand world parents want convenience – a nearby stop that suits both their and their child’s schedule; value for money – a modern vehicle and professional driver; and peace of mind – advanced safeguarding measures – especially during the current threat of the pandemic.
Schools that invest in their transport service and realise its full potential as a marketing beacon can gain an advantage over local alternatives, whilst ensuring that student safeguarding extends beyond the school gates.
Adapting to the Current Pandemic
Challenges for transport providers
The current pandemic clearly presents unique challenges to schools and transport providers alike. The coach and minibus market has lost a major source of income during the summer months with Leisure travel non-existent and the almost certain impossibility of Corporate Event and staff transport requirements.
In 2019 a survey of independent schools showed that recruiting dedicated drivers is schools biggest challenge to operating an efficient transport service.
This means it may become harder still as fewer operators will be available as demand begins to stabilize.
Kura’s network of more than 640 vetted, school-transport-ready operators have allowed our partner schools to quickly and easily add to their routes and capacity to meet demand.
Challenges for schools
Schools themselves have been planning throughout the Summer of 2020 for the September reopening, reacting to fast-changing government advice and largely being required to implement their own procedures and protocols to mitigate the threat.
For many, home to school transport was yet another administration-drain on the planning process with the potential, if not implemented with the same levels of care as the new onsite protocols, to compromise their efficacy.
Kura worked with our partner schools to ensure we could provide services with the right measures to support the onsite protocols, including social distanced services (requiring larger vehicles on some routes at short notice), cleaning and sanitization of vehicles, new boarding and alighting procedures to minimize risk of transmission between students and staff, adapting our technology to provide track and trace capabilities, and sourcing new vehicles and vetted drivers from our unrivalled UK network to provide additional services.
These additional services proved a key measure to back up the duty of care underpinning schools’ values – as parental trust in public transport was shaken during the pandemic two alternatives remained book onto dedicated school transport, or drive them in themselves if possible.
In the short-term trust in public transport remains low due to the perceived risks of mixing with others outside of the school or home bubble. This is likely to lead to continued high levels of demand for dedicated school transport services, particularly as workplaces begin to open up again.
With, at best, mixed results apparent from the government’s track and trace scheme many are looking to alternative methods of reassurance. Kura NFC and tracking technology can be installed in less than 2 weeks on existing transport services allowing for reporting on who was present on which service, and at what time, simplifying the tracing of passengers who may have been exposed to an infected individual.
Medium to long term, as the threat of Covid slowly diminishes, focus will return to the harm emissions due to traffic cause to the environment and students and parents alike. In fact, this could become a short-term focus if the current trends continue with parents choosing inefficient low occupancy cars for the school run over more sustainable methods – the cycling and walking boom is likely to take a hit as the winter weather and lack of daylight draw in.
The expansion of Ultra Low Emission Zones in urban centres will return as the government and local councils seek to ensure improved air quality in cities and beyond.
84% of respondents to the Independent School survey in 2019 see school transport as important now, rising to 88% when asked about its importance in three years’ time. The number of those respondents who think it is critically important now, 17%, almost doubles to 30% on the same outlook.
How Kura can help
Kura technology and services can be quickly employed to bolster or replace existing transport services, providing new routes, vehicles and drivers or providing self-serve technology to enable dedicated track and trace and journey tracking for school and parents – reducing administration and simplifying parent communication whilst promoting transparency.
Download our free Covid safety guide to see the measures we’ve put in place with our partner schools or get in touch to speak to us about how we’re helping more than 7,000 students get to and from school in a safer, greener, smarter way throughout Lockdown 2.0 and beyond.