Around 1,000 11-year-olds are getting lessons in how to make the most out of bus travel before they move to secondary school.
A record number of children from Year Six in Tyne and Wear are being given the passenger-friendly introduction to bus travel between 21 May and 6 July this year.
The ‘Suss the Bus’ lessons form part of Go Smarter to School, a Tyne and Wear-wide suite of green travel projects aimed at primary and secondary school children and their parents and carers paid for by a £5m grant from the Department for Transport as well as funding from councils across Tyne and Wear and Nexus.
The lessons at more than 30 schools are organised in schools by the five Tyne & Wear local authorities in conjunction with Nexus, and Go North East, which provides staff, buses and drivers free of charge.
Pupils, some of whom may never have travelled on a bus before, learn about routes, cheaper travel with the Under16 Pop card, and appropriate behaviour on a bus.
They also learn how much more environmentally friendly a bus is than a car - being up to twenty times more fuel-efficient – before making a taster journey to the secondary school most pupils will attend.
Community Relations Officers from Nexus talk to pupils about bus use, including how much more independent pupils can become, rather than relying on lifts from parents.
They will also answer questions that pupils or parents have, allay common worries and discuss who to talk to if a problem arises.
Feedback from parents and children shows they welcome the advice and experience from the lessons, at a time they may be nervous about going up to ‘big school’.
One of the schools taking part is St Mary’s RC Primary in Whickham, Gateshead, which was visited by the ‘Suss the Bus’ team this week.
Teacher Theresa Noble said: “It is a great benefit to our school aiding the children’s transition to secondary school effectively.”
James Third, a Community Relations Officer with Nexus, said: “Moving to secondary school is a big step, including travel on your own for the first time, and further from home.
“We cover the simple things like finding the right bus, reading the timetable and paying a fare for children who may never have been on a bus before.
“Encouraging young people to use the bus is part of Schools Go Smarter, a programme across Tyne and Wear to promote sustainable travel.”
Martin Harris, Commercial Director at Go North East, said: “This is an important initiative addressing a critical time in a young traveller’s experience of using public transport.
“As an operator we aim to make this as safe, stress free and enjoyable as possible for both children and their parents, and the initiative will greatly contribute to this aim”
The bus induction initiative has been going in Tyne and Wear since 2006, but will this year reach a record number of pupils through Schools Go Smarter, funded from the Government’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund.
Schools Go Smarter projects will run until March 2015 and will be delivered by the Tyne and Wear local authorities and Nexus as well as national charities Sustrans and Living Streets.
You can find out more about Schools Go Smarter at http://www.gosmarter.co.uk/
“Pupils from St Mary’s RC Primary School, Whickham, get the low-down on bus travel before their move to Secondary school.”