Castle vehicle leasing was established on 1st of March 1995. Our objective in those days was to provide cars and vans to our business customers with fleets of less than 50 vehicles throughout the UK along with a first class service. We gradually built our fleet up to about 700 customers. Then in 2007, we were approached by a few schools to provide them with a minibus. It became apparent very quickly that the standard of service and advice these schools were receiving was indigent, and we felt that we had an opportunity to develop a much better provision within the education sector. For a start, just delivering a minibus on time would put us ahead of the competition! We also decided that wherever possible, under the trading name of Castle Minibus, we would provide factory built minibuses only as they were designed to have the maximum safety and comfort unlike the converted vans that many schools had to put up with; and some still do!
We wanted our schools to feel that they were 1-0 up when they arrived in a minibus provided by Castle. To achieve this, we supplied the school logo and livery free of charge and added metallic paint free of charge which was some of the many innovations we were first to offer schools in the UK.
Since our humble beginnings of forming Castle Minibus in 2008, our aim is to continue to be a trusted advisor and be the champion of minibus safety. We now provide just over 1250 schools, colleges and academies more than 2,000; mainly factory built minibuses, spread throughout the UK.
In developing our relationships with our schools, we were made aware of another area the schools were struggling with, and that was Driver Training for D1 and assessment days (also known as MiDAS). So in 2013, we formed another company called Castle Driver Training. Again, we set new standards in this area by having highly qualified ADI top grade Driver Trainers, in the latest model Ford Transit minibuses and very quickly, we were recording a pass rate that was near twice the national average. We ‘hand hold’ our candidates throughout the Theory and practical tests which minimise the time the Bursar or School Business Manager previously had to spend with colleagues trying to coach them in an area they don't as standard have specialist knowledge of, and therefore the quality of coaching can be somewhat diminished.
Because of the quality of our staff and service we are saving schools money on supply teachers costs as we train in half the time other companies take to deliver courses and we because we are the only company to come to school to teach, this saves valuable time and cost for the candidates as well as twice the chance of passing first time!
Today 1 in 10 people taking their D1 test is doing so with Castle, and we will be training our 1,000th teacher in spring 2017.
Our innovations haven’t stopped at training. With the long-lasting effects of the recession and the squeeze on budgets getting ever tighter, we recognised that not all education establishments or public sector bodies want to commit to a vehicle on a long-term basis and may only need something for a day, week, or month. So in 2016, we launched Castle Rentals to provide cars, vans, minibuses or even a cherry picker for trimming the trees. In its first year, over 500 schools used this service and booked over 12,000 days of hire.
In 2016 we developed and launched The School Transport Manager app. The self-proclaimed status Champions of Minibus Safety is backed up by the work we have done to develop a free App for all Schools to help keep their vehicle compliance obligations in-check. This app allows drivers to record their vehicle checks through the app for free, once complete the school office or Head receives a compliance report via email. Once introduced at a school (so long as the procedure is adhered to) the Head can rest assured that every time a Minibus goes out on to the Highway a vehicle check has been completed therefore minimising the school's risk and liability.
Finally, we are about to launch our website called cars4teachers.co.uk. This site will offer a selection of brand new personal lease cars at very competitive prices to staff and their families.
All of our employees in Castle, many with children of school age, remain passionate about providing factory built minibuses, with properly trained drivers, creating a safe environment to transport children and other passengers on the public highways.
In conclusion, we believe we are in a unique position to deliver a complete minibus service, with the resources to help keep our customers compliant, risks minimised and cost efficient.