Catching the school bus

A DigitalNZ Story by Zokoroa

A pictorial journey about school buses in NZ from the 1900s onwards

Transport, bus, school, school bus, students, children

Memory lane

Childhood memories include waiting at the end of the road to catch the school bus to our primary school. The driver would travel in a circuitous route through the farmlands picking up students on the side of the road. Nowadays when travelling by car and slowing down to pass a stationary school bus or seeing the delightful bus stop sign outside Tirau School, I'm reminded of my school days.    

c.1924: Students lining up to board Dept. of Education bus

Children boarding a Department of Education school bus

Alexander Turnbull Library

c2009: Bus stop sign at Tirau School made out of corrugated iron

Tirau School bus

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

EARLY DAYS getting to school: 1900s 

School children on horseback

Whareama pupils on horseback : photograph

Wairarapa Archive

Pre-motorised days with horse and cart

Horse Drawn School Bus

Howick Historical Village

c.1910s: First day of opening of Waitaki Boys' Junior High School. Giffin's Motor Service buses

First day of opening of Waitaki Boys' Junior High School. Giffin's Motor Service buses.

Waitaki District Council

Free bus service: 1924

In the 1920s, the number of country schools was reduced by setting up larger, central schools, called consolidated schools. The Education Department’s school transport policy (1924) enabled students  living more than 3.2 kilometres away from their nearest school to travel for free by bus. 

1 April 1924: First free school bus operated at Piopio District School

Department of Education buses leaving Piopio School, Waitomo district

Alexander Turnbull Library

c.1924-25: Boarding Model T Ford vehicles

Buses were labelled with the destinations: Arapae, Paemako, and Te Mapara

Department of Education buses at Piopio School, Waitomo district

Alexander Turnbull Library

Article: "Boarding the bus"

By Logan Moss (2006) in New Zealand Journal of History, 40 (1), pp.57-74.

Boarding the school bus

University of Waikato

Models of buses over the decades

1926: Model T Bus at Coopers Creek near Rangiora.

School Bus at Coopers Creek, Oxford

Kete Christchurch

1930: Children from Hokio Beach used the bus to attend classes in Levin

School Bus, Hokio Beach

Kete Horowhenua

c.1924: Hampden to Oamaru Motor Service (Whittakers) at Middle School

Hampden to Oamaru motor service

Waitaki District Council

c.1924: Students on board Model T Ford

Department of Education bus, probably at Piopio School. There were no windows; a curtain was rolled down when it rained.

Department of Education bus

Alexander Turnbull Library

1936: Auckland region

TRAVELLING TO SCHOOL BY MOTOR-BUS

Auckland Libraries

Late 1920s: School buses outside Hawarden School

Waipara County Historical Society

Hurunui District Libraries

c.1940: Opiki School on the border of Horowhenua and Manawatu

The First School Bus at Opiki

Palmerston North City Library

1942: Katikati School

Katikati School Bus (c1942)

Tauranga City Libraries

1944: Children and their teacher board the school bus at Denniston on the West Coast

School bus, 1940s

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

1945: Albany School bus taking students on a picnic outing

The Albany School bus on picnic day.

Auckland Libraries

1968: Travelling along the Wainui Stream near Paekākāriki

School bus on a road beside the Wainui Stream

Alexander Turnbull Library

1945-1967: School bus in country setting signed "Kuaotunu - Mercury Bay"

[School bus]

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira

School bus "Vintage 1949" is painted on the front

Warea School Centenary, Parade

Puke Ariki

School buses at Hawarden (No date given)

Waipara County Historical Society

Hurunui District Libraries

1950: A Wellington bus driver with a bus decorated by Eastbourne School children

A bus decorated by Eastbourne School children

Alexander Turnbull Library

1952: Photo possibly taken by a teacher at Mangapakeha School, Greytown in the Wairapapa

Masterton-Castlepoint bus : Photograph

Wairarapa Archive

c.1955: Ford V8 bus of Harold Peterson's bus company at Greytown

Men in front of school bus

Wairarapa Archive

1965: Mt Wellington

New school bus, Mt Wellington, 1965.

Auckland Libraries

1969: Spare tyre on rear of bus at Coromandel

Bus, Coromandel

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

1960s: Whataroa on the West Coast

School bus, 1960s

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

1987: School bus travelling through Greymouth

Tainui Street South1

Buller, Grey and Westland District Libraries

1996: Omarumutu School

School bus

NZEI Te Riu Roa (New Zealand Educational Institute)

2009: "Betsy, the beloved Leithfield School bus"

Leithfield 150 years : Parade : school bus

Hurunui District Libraries

Waiting at the bus stop

Southland School Bus Shelter

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

1944

Children boarding the school bus in Denniston

Alexander Turnbull Library

1960

School boys waiting for bus

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

2000: Whareorino School near Te Kuiti

Rural schoolchildren

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

School bus

mychillybin

ALL ABOARD! 

On board we'd chat with one another and catch up on homework - reciting our times tables and spelling lists of words out loud were some of our activities.  

1958: Invoice for Mataura School; the students nicknamed the bus the biscuit tin.

Invoice, Mataura Motors Ltd

Mataura Museum

1960

[Children on school bus]

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

1960

Group riding on bus

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

1965: Bus driver's seat

New Zealand Motor Bodies, School Bus

Alexander Turnbull Library

1965: Bus interior

New Zealand Motor Bodies, School Bus

Alexander Turnbull Library

c.1975-1977: Bus drivers

Tinui School bus drivers : Photograph

Wairarapa Archive

1978

Ruatoki school bus, Ruatoki

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

End of the school day

At the end of the school day, we'd line up along the school's driveway beside the crab apple tree near the dental clinic. A teacher would check we were all present and we'd traipse on board.   

1967: Bus wardens

Shannon School Bus Wardens 1967

Kete Horowhenua

Bus shelter at Bunnythorpe built in 1960

Bus Shelter, Bunnythorpe

Feilding Library

2005: Bus shelter at Cornwall Street School, Masterton.

Bus shelter, Cornwall Street School : digital image

Wairarapa Archive

No date given

Children waiting for school bus

NZEI Te Riu Roa (New Zealand Educational Institute)

Getting off the bus

A decorated school bus shelter near Motunui, Taranaki,

No Homework

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

c.1960: Getting off the bus

New Zealand: School Children

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

1962

School children alongside a Volkswagen Kombi school bus on a country road

NZEI Te Riu Roa (New Zealand Educational Institute)

Bus safety

1953: Traffic regulations required vehicles to stop

Currently, there is a 20km/h speed limit to pass a stationary school bus

NEW SCHOOL BUS REGULATIONS * ALL TRAFFIC... - (Te Ao Hou - No. 6 Royal Tour)

Alexander Turnbull Library

1957: Series: Infant reading pictures. School Publications Branch, Department of Education

Catching a bus [poster]

Puke Ariki

DigitalNZ also has news reports about school buses involved in accidents, including the following incidents. 

c.1960s. Photo thought to have been taken near Bideford

Bus in a ditch : Photograph

Wairarapa Archive

1965: Foxton school bus

Foxton school bus on its side, 1965

Kete Horowhenua

2016: School bus near Ahuroa School in Makarau, north of Auckland

School bus crashes north of Auckland

TV3

Further information: