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June 17, 2013  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Dubai conference draws global insights on school transport

Speakers and delegates from around the world gathered at the emirate’s first school transportation conference, making recommendations in safety and security, driver training and other areas. NAPT President Alex Robinson says that being at the event had a feeling of “what it was probably like to be at an early Warrensburg conference.”

by Thomas McMahon - Also by this author

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Educational experience
Those who attended from the U.S. were able to gain insights from their foreign counterparts — from Dubai and other nations around the world.
Robinson said that she was interested to learn about how managers in Dubai interact with their employees.

"They have such mutual respect — it's not out of fear," she said. "They set down very clear rules. They take criticism very seriously, and they want to fix it the next day."

Another thought-provoking aspect of pupil transportation in Dubai is a school food program that serves breakfast on the school bus.

"Here, we talk about not eating or drinking on the bus, but there they have good [student] performance because kids are eating and drinking on the bus," she said. "It makes you question some of the things that we have said no to."

When Martin first visited Dubai, for conference planning in December, he said he was struck by the high levels of customer service and professionalism.

“They strive to be world-class in everything they do," he said. "They focus on customer service as much as anything there.”

As for future plans for the conference, Martin said in May that NAPT was working with the Dubai RTA "to develop a business plan that will expand our partnership throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa."

Sidebar: 11 key recommendations

Speakers and delegates at the Dubai school transportation conference made the following recommendations:

1. It will be important to continually revise legislation and policy for safety and security in school transportation to reflect changes and new challenges in the marketplace.

2. Identify and make clear roles and responsibilities for stakeholders managing safety and security in and around schools.

3. The government planning authority needs to be involved in preparing legislation and/or policy to limit travel distance to schools and encourage walking.

4. Planning authorities also need to establish clear guiding principles for location and road design layouts around the schools.

5. A continuous periodic program of training and awareness should be created for students, bus operators and parents.

6. Updated standards and specifications are needed for transporting students with special needs.

7. There is a need to invest in technology for school transportation to ensure a safe and secure journey for children. By the same token, it must be remembered that technology is only a tool to implement policies.

8. The value of time should be maximized for students while they are on the bus. There needs to be educational and awareness programs during their travel time.

9. There is a need to build the trust of parents in school transportation through improving equipment and related specifications, performance criteria, training, awareness and overall reliability.

10. In order to minimize bullying cases in schools and on buses, there must be serious efforts among the educational stakeholders to develop preventive legislation, education for students and parents, and improved marketing.

11. Utilize clearly defined safety and security key performance indicators to monitor the performance of school transportation operators.

Photo gallery: Dubai's 1st School Transportation Conference

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