A native-English-speaking teacher has come up with a novel way of helping pupils overcome their fear of speaking English - he gets them to talk to 'Ming the Minibus'. It has been 'all aboard' for Ming at Hoi Pa Street Government Primary School in Tsuen Wan for the past month. Ming is made of a metal frame and canvas, and is 'green': it has no polluting engine, relying for power on a teacher standing inside. Thomas Beckett, a native-English-speaking teacher who built the minibus with two colleagues six months ago, said he wanted to make the teaching of English more lively in order to encourage shy learners. It is the off-shoot of the Ming the Minibus series of books he wrote to help children learn to read English. Mr Beckett said NETs had been trying to encourage children to talk to them during recess in the playground, 'but the same thing happens: the kids run past, shout your name and keep moving'. 'Many children are not confident enough to speak to an NET but Ming isn't a teacher,' he said. 'Anyone can talk to a bus. It goes back to the use of puppets by western teachers to encourage children to talk,' he said. 'I think many kids like minibuses. The bus was actually parked in the small secluded street outside the school and Ming drew a big crowd.' When Ming meets pupils, he talks with the children, via the teacher on a microphone, on class themes so they can build confidence. 'For example, ask Ming about the weather. Tell Ming about your family,' Mr Beckett said. Whether the minibus teacher has made a difference to children's English remains to be seen, but it has certainly attracted the attention of his neighbours. 'I have two requests for him from other schools,' Mr Beckett said. 'But he needs to remain in schools for about a month to have a real effect. This bus and a new one are available free to schools that want to use them on their English Days.'