School leaders across the UK are gearing up to revolutionise their home-to-school transport provision by rolling out digital innovations which deliver student safeguarding and route optimisation as part of a wider vision for a safer, greener, smarter school run.

This is a central finding of a nationally representative survey of 250 school leaders, conducted by school transport technology specialist Kura. Some 38% of schools and 48% of Multi Academy Trusts reported that they plan to invest in upgrading technology across all areas, including school transport, within the next five years.

The school run contributes to as much as a quarter of rush hour traffic, due to the overuse of low occupancy cars instead of alternative transport options. This results in a significant amount of damaging exhaust emissions being released into the air close to schools which adversely impacts air quality. Estimates from Unicef suggest that up to two-thirds of the toxic air particulates children breathe is during school hours, which can impair both health and cognitive development over time.

According to Kura’s Green Guide one of the areas of concern resulting in extra car use is worries around pupil safeguarding, as 43% of parents stated that they would find it reassuring to know exactly when their child arrived and left school. Despite this only 31.2% of schools currently use technology to safeguard pupils on the school run, with a further 32.4% still reliant on paper registers for this critical process. 

Additionally, just 22.8% of schools have adopted technology to manage school transport over the last decade despite technology being embraced in other areas of school management. Encouragingly, however, this is set to change with 57.6% of schools stating their intention to invest in technological advancement to improve the administration side of the school run.

As just one 49-seater school coach can be expected to replace an average 31 cars on the roads, this will begin to ease the amount of congestion and toxic fumes from around the school gates. Therefore, the schools that plan to invest in technology will place themselves ahead of the curve along with nearly a third of schools (31.2%) that have already invested in measures to improve their carbon footprint.

Looking further into the future, Electric Vehicles (EVs) are predicted to bring the next major step-change in school transport, as expressed by nearly half (45.2%) of respondents. However, indications suggest that the technology must become both more affordable and accessible to be a viable option for all.

One in five (21.6%) of schools currently have no plans to invest in cleaner, greener vehicles such as electric buses due to cost concerns, and a further 12.4% cannot invest due to a lack of access to charging facilities.

Godfrey Ryan, CEO of Kura, said:

“Lockdown had stalled a lot of the progression towards encouraging greener alternatives to school transport, as parents remained concerned over their child’s exposure to the virus. However, more than half of the parents we surveyed report that they would like their child’s school to be as green and environmentally friendly as possible, and this view is shared by an equal proportion of students.

“We have seen a growing trend in schools wanting to be more proactive in combatting the environmental danger of the school run, with initiatives such as no car zones being implemented by schools and encouraging other transport options such as biking and walking

“However, these alternatives can be both unsafe and impractical for children, especially those who live a significant distance away from school. It is therefore the perfect time for schools to begin investing in transport technology to tackle these mounting issues that are projected to only worsen if they are not addressed. Modern problems require modern solutions, and school travel is no different.” 

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