A primary school in Southport is celebrating the arrival of its big new red bus!
Marshside Primary School – known as ‘the little school with a big heart and big ambitions’ – launched its ambitious ‘The Big Bus Project’ appeal last year.
Aiming to raise £10,000 to buy and kit out the vehicle, it held a series of fundraising events along with promoting an online appeal.
The bus has now arrived much to the delight of pupils! It is now able to take them on their own ‘journey of reading’.
It is also a huge boost to the local community which will also be able to utilise the new attraction.
The youngsters even went out to choose the books themselves, shunning online retail giants in favour of going ‘shop local’ – and calling in at an independent bookshop in Southport instead.
The vehicle is now well stocked with lots of books of different genres on the top deck, with seating areas on the bottom deck.
Vincent Crow, an apprentice at school, who has a passion for art and design, created some incredible artwork for the front of the bus, and for the inside going up the stairs.
A celebratory Big Bus cake was created to mark the arrival of the bus by Big Bus Committee member Julie Berry.
Marshside Primary School Headteacher Natasha Sandland, in an interview with Sandgrounder Radio, said: “The children completely own it! It’s their bus, and they have made this happen.
“It’s a fabulous resource for the children to use, but also for our community.
“We are looking for people who need a space, at very little cost, and want to just meet, and take away that loneliness that maybe there was during the Covid pandemic. Or if there are spaces that have closed down, like as community hubs.
“It is there for the children to be able to use, and also for our community.”
There are scores of books on board the top deck of the bus to choose from – which the school pupils themselves have chosen.
In doing so, they were very keen to ‘shop local’.
Natasha Sandland said: “The children were integral in that part.
“To be honest, they have completely owned the upstairs deck.
“Rather than purchasing loads from Amazon, or other big corporate businesses, we took the children on a bus ride to Broadhursts independent bookshop on Market Street in Southport town centre.
“The children chose the titles. But they also negotiated prices with Kate inside.
“The children have picked a whole range of titles including books about diversity, but also about famous stories that they just know and love.
“They are so proud.
“They have got a recommended reading list and they are going to be accessing it just to get on that journey of reading. It is absolutely awesome.”
There will be many uses for the bus.
Natasha Sandland said: “There are various spaces within it. There are spaces to be able to do withdrawal and intervention work, there are spaces to be able to go and escape on a reading journey, but there is space as well to go on and just remember what it’s like to go into a library.
“Our children have to take two buses to get to town to go and use the main Southport Library.
“The library local to us was closed so the children here haven’t got that, so we have created it for them.
“We have also created a lending library for our community to use as well. So like you see at the end of roads where they have book boxes and things like that, we have got shelves and this is where everybody can just drop off and share books.
“Reading is what gets children learning. The community loves to read as well. It is absolutely fantastic for everyone to be able to continue to read.”
If anyone in the local community would like to use the bus for their events, they are welcome to contact the school.
Natasha Sandland said: “We want everyone who has a need to be able to contact us to use it. You can contact us on 01704211177 or email firstname.lastname@example.org then we can sort you out.
“We want to be able to use the bus with the children and members of the community at the same time, because our residents and our neighbours, who live nearby, they have got so many resources, so much knowledge, it seems such a shame we have not been using it for such a long time. So we want to be able to invite them on and get old and young working together.
“This is just one part of the project. This is just the initial hook in getting people in. But we want to build our community.
“The bus will be bespoke to our community’s needs and aims to enhance the lives of our children by building bonds with our community and giving them unique experiences.”