Gateshead Council news release

Double decker becomes book bus

A Gateshead school has found an innovative way to create a new library for its pupils by converting a double decker bus into an exciting reading space for the youngsters.

Launched today by Tyneside author David Almond, creator of Skellig and other children’s favourites, the bus has been transformed at Highfield Primary School. The top deck has become a tree house themed reading area while the lower deck houses a library and a cave style reading den.

The 1977 Daimler Fleetline was originally built to ferry workers and schoolchildren along the streets of Derbyshire before being retired and used in a variety of promotional roles. Highfield Primary picked up the bus earlier this year after looking for a way to provide more space to help youngsters improve their reading.

Now instead of passengers, the bus carries £1,500 worth of books bought specially for the project. The books were chosen after recommendations from Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books in Newcastle. Staff from Seven Stories have also been providing extra training for teaching staff and special sessions for parents are planned too. The bus has space for around 30 children at any one time.

However, the first person to read to children on the bus was David Almond. David, who grew up in Gateshead and is a Freeman of the borough, officially opened the bus before spending several hours entertaining youngsters.

Highfield Primary, Head Teacher Steve Thompson,  said: “We wanted to create an exciting place for our pupils to read. We looked at all of the options and the bus came out as the clear favourite both in terms of cost and in capturing the children’s imagination.

“They have all been really excited by the bus and have been looking forward to the opening.”

The conversion work has all been carried out by a local tradesman with the exterior transformation carried out in conjunction with a local artist. The bus itself cost around £4,000 to buy but the conversion and alterations to the bus have brought the overall cost up to around £25,000. Now fitted with mains electricity and air conditioning the vehicle sports a striking green livery with tree design to complement the top deck tree house.

Gateshead Council cabinet member for children and young people, Cllr Angela Douglas, said: “The conversion of this old bus is a superb idea, it’s a really innovative way to help children engage with books.

“Reading is such an important life skill and I’m sure this project will play a big part in helping the pupils here become stronger readers.”

Media contact: Mark Pearce at Gateshead Council. Tel: 0191 433 2193. Email: markpearce@gateshead.gov.uk