School Buses: Are You Being Taken For A Ride?

Which schools are offering great transport deals and which schools aren't? takes a look at the Dubai and Sharjah school bus routes and fares...
School Buses: Are You Being Taken For A Ride?
By C Hoppe
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Last year, the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) reported that only 53 percent of buses were occupied, yet did acknowledge that plans were underway to encourage more families to drop the dreaded 'school-run,' and opt for school transport. 

But, how do those transport offerings weigh up? Which schools are offering good deals -  and which aren't? takes a look at whether enough is being done to make school transportation attractive and compelling for parents...

The good news is, if your children attend Kings Nad Al Sheba, GEMS National School Al Barsha or almost all of the city's Indian curriculum schools; we think you’re getting a pretty good deal.

Kings Nad Al Sheba has ‘frozen’ transport fees at 4,500 AED per year, two-ways, for all students regardless of where they live. From our research, GEMS National School is currently the only school advertising transport discounts which increases for each additional sibling. 

Indian schools offer the best transport deals with GEMS Our Own English High School charging only 4,700 AED per year for two-ways daily to Barsha (28 minutes, 38 km), Arabian Ranches (22 minutes, 29 km) and Dubai Sports City (24 minutes, 34 km).

Our Own High School charges 4,200 AED to Silicon Oasis (19 minutes, 17 km) and 4,950 AED to Barsha (28 minutes, 34 km).

Primus Private School also offers transport across much of Dubai or between 3,350 AED and 5,600 AED, depending on the route.

But what about the rest of us?

The bad news is, in general, the more you pay in tuition fees, the more you're likely to pay for transport.

Take or example, GEMS Founders, GEMS National School and GEMS World Academy. Founders and the National School are built on adjoining plots while GEMS World is located only two kilometres away, yet the transport fees differ significantly.

Founders charges 6,000 AED per year for transport to the Marina, GEMS National School charges 7,000 AED (plus various sibling discounts) and GEMS World Academy charges 9,100 AED. All schools are, approximately, 18 minutes, or 16 km away.

"How can the price discrepancy be possible?" says one Dubai mum. "It's all the same company, how can they justify having different prices for schools located right beside each other?"

Victory Heights Primary School charges 9,500 AED for the 20 km trip to the Marina. The most expensive annual, two-way school transport, we found during research, is from the School of Research Science, which asks parents for 10,000 AED for the, approximately, 20 km daily trip to Silicon Oasis.

Deira: It is not only the distance that matters, time a bus takes to navigate the traffic is as important.

The Best Deals

The best transport deal (possibly not in kilometres, but certainly in sheer time spent on the service), must be Al Diyafah School’s 7,875 AED from Ajman to the Dubai school. It takes, when there is relatively good traffic, approximately 30 minutes.

And, for number of kilometres, GEMS Winchester Jebel Ali offers clearly the most miles or your money, with a staggering 60 km + each way to Sharjah daily for only 6,400 AED.

Location, Location, Location

Interestingly, if you plan on using the bus, it's often not cost effective to live in the vicinity of your child's school.

Green Community based school Dovecote Green's transport company charges parents living in the Green community itself 7,500 AED per year. Yet, it charges those living in Ghadeer 9,000 AED transport fees.

That's an additional 1,500 AED in transport, yet the cost of accommodation in the two areas differs significantly, with a three-bedroom villa in Ghadeer costing around 115,000 AED per year and in Green Community the same costs from 175,000 AED plus.

Dubai British School located in Springs Community, charges those living in the Springs 8,400 AED, yet it is only 600 AED more per year to catch the bus from the Mirdif and Warqaa areas.

Again, villas in Mirdif start around 100,000 AED per year while those in Springs are priced from 150,000 AED. Dubai mum of two, Hannah says:

"This is my first year with kids at school using buses and I don't really have anything positive to say! "I hate the fact that I pay nearly 14,000 AED a year for two kids to use the bus. We live approx 5 minutes journey in the car away from school yet the kids get picked up 55 minutes before school starts... Myself and my husband work so there's no way for us to do the drop offs/pick ups. I'm looking into getting a family driver for next year."

Kent College Dubai asks 8,000 AED per year for a 7 km trip to Silicon Oasis, yet, Dubai English Speaking School asks parents for 8,500 AED for the 27 Km to Springs Community.

The Flat Rates

While most schools offer fees depending on the location, there are schools which offer parents a flat rate regardless of where their children catch the bus.

Dubai International Academy asks 8,200 AED, Arcadia Preparatory School asks 8,400 AED and English College 9,360 AED for anywhere in Dubai.

Interestingly, English College has been running a trial metro shuttle bus service to and from the school, allowing older students to use the Dubai Metro for the majority of their journey and charging only 5 AED.

North London Collegiate Dubai charges 8,860 AED regardless of whether students live in Meydan Heights (10 km from the school) or Mirdif, 25 kms away or the Palm Jumeirah, some 35 kms away.

GEMS Founders Barsha charges 6,500 AED to Mirdif, yet the new GEMS Founders in Mizhar (just beside Mirdif) charges parents only 5,500 AED to JVC, the neighbourhood just past GEMS Al Barsha.

One Way Has Come A Long Way

One of the perennial parent gripes when discussing school transport has always been the  lack of one-way options available. Well, it seems the schools were listening, and currently there are many schools offering the option should the seats be available. 

GEMS in particular, is now offering one way routes, however it should be noted the majority are prices at around two-thirds of the full/two-way fees. 

Out Of Town Options

Victoria International School in Sharjah (Australian/IB curriculum) offers parents in the Marina, Palm, Springs, Arabian Ranches, Silicon Oasis two-way annual transport for 9,300 AED and one way 6,510 AED. Not bad or the 40 km plus trip!

Al Salam Private School also offers a Sharjah pick-up for 5,800 AED, and Al Diyafah for 6,300 to 6,800 AED depending on the Sharjah location.

What do you think?

Are school bus companies doing a great job? Do you feel the bus fees you pay make sense are are fair? Let us know! Add your comments below!

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