The journey of the Broomfield Bus

On Friday (9 November 2018) a new facility was opened at Broomfield South Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre (SILC) in Belle Isle. Here staff member Charlotte Gray-Sharp who led the project, tells the story of Broomfield Bus.

School staff and children, BITMO board members and Cllrs Blake and Truswell cut the ribbon on the new bus

Back at the start of 2017 the idea was hatched to have a unique learning zone for pupils and create some additional teaching space. A build would cost too much money, portakabins didn’t seem to have the ‘wow’ we wanted and so the ‘Broomfield Bus’ idea was born.

What followed was a fundraising campaign in which pupils, parents, staff and our local community organised and attended events, gave donations on our Just Giving page and pupils did a sponsored challenge to raise the much needed money for the bus.

School approached charities and organisations for donations and were lucky enough to secure some generous donations from Wooden Spoon, The Foyle Foundation, Belle Isle Tenant Management Organisation (BITMO) and QCE and the dream was starting to seem a possibility. A colleague in school had a family member who worked for First Bus and provided a much needed link to the company who agreed to donate the bus.

We found a company who specialised in bus conversions and asked staff and pupils the type of design we wanted. We settled on a Woodland theme downstairs and a Space theme upstairs to cater for our 2-19 age range. The woodland theme would have soft play as the focus, whilst the upstairs would have a library and sensory space.

The makeover began with the odd hiccup, like providing heating and removing the enormous engine to create a seating area at the back. Sparrow (organised by First Bus) delivered the bus up and down the motorway to Shrewsbury – can you imagine what passing motorists must have thought? Especially with a slide on the side!

After an 8 hour Saturday getting the bus into the school grounds, with a fair few near misses, it found its home in the playground.

Kevin and Marie from First Bus came and fitted the vinyl to the outside of the bus and Paul, our caretaker, started to put the finishing touches to the inside of the bus – filling it with exciting books to read, putting brand new iPads in for pupils to use and adding a table and chairs.

Pupils explore the jungle

The Finished Product

Upstairs we have our space theme, equipped with plenty of books and more soft play. There are enough seats for a whole class and even a quiet zone so students can have some peace or with our sensory resources they can experience travelling through space.

Through the soft play they find a space tunnel that will take them sliding down to the jungle area where more fun awaits.

Throughout the bus there is soft play, sensory resources, a library upstairs, a small sensory room, iPads and interactive computers. It’s wheelchair accessible as we would never leave anyone out. On board we have a variety of books, games, emotional and social resources.

This new space will be used as a library space, 1:1, soft play, for ICT lessons, rewards or for general lessons.

Downstairs we have a jungle that needs exploring. There is a soft play area with many obstacles and even a ball pit. However, before you can enter you must buy a ticket!

Secondary and Post 16 students transformed the outside space with Graffiti stars putting their own mark on the bus and brand new play equipment installed meaning pupils can use role play to buy a ticket to get on the bus from the new bus station.

Pupils are eager to get inside and those that have had a sneak peak absolutely loved it! We are so proud of this amazing achievement and the learning and fun that pupils present and future that will get to enjoy in the bus!

A massive ‘thank you’ to …

First Bus Company for donating the bus, arranging all the transport, painting and fitting with vinyls.

The support of Wooden Spoon, BITMO, The Foyle Foundation and QCE in the form of generous donations.

Steve Plimmer and the Playbus Company for a brilliant design and the fantastic standard of work on the bus.

The Fund Raising committee of Broomfield South SILC – especially Wendy Black, Sharon Crowther and Naomi Hammill not just for their work on the bus but their continuous support over the past 8 years.

The Senior Leadership Team at Broomfield – John Fryer, Debbie Windle, Will Hudders and Bev Newstead who came on board with an unusual idea and supported it wholeheartedly.

Paul Minns for all his patience and hard work fitting things on the bus, painting, ideas and DIY skills helping bring the vision to life.

Parents, staff and pupils who helped fund raise, donated and supported the project from start to finish.


This post was written by Charlotte Gray-Sharpe.