This Mighty Traveller

As the academic year draws to a close, the team reflect on the work they have completed in partnership with special schools across the scheme area.

There are many reasons why a young person may not feel confident to travel by rail, with a range of perceived – and real – barriers making it appear complicated. For young people with disabilities, this can be even more challenging. Platform’s This Mighty Traveller programme is designed specifically for specialist provisions in the hope of breaking these barriers down and empowering young people to become confident rail-users, whether travelling independently, or with support.

This academic year, the team worked with 305 students in 13 special schools and took 225 students on 20 train trips

Before travelling, the team delivered in-school workshops to all students, with a focus on accessibility, alongside their usual focus of rail safety, confidence and behaviour. Specific travel-planning is also embedded into the scheme’s special-school offer, with information shared about the Passenger Assistance App and clear instruction on how to utilise it.

Following on from their workshops, many of the young people then joined Platform on a train-trip, to put their learning into practice. Student and teacher voice are a key part of this programme and, whilst the team were happy to offer recommendations about destinations, it was wonderful to see so many students and their teachers steer this decision this year. As a result, a wide number of destinations were visited.

In November, Chadsgrove School travelled from Bromsgrove to Worcester Foregate Street and visited the History and Heritage Pod in a trip that involved Christmas crafting with the Platform team, and some Christmas shopping with their teachers. The next month, students from Pershore College travelled to the same destination, but this time they opted to combine their trip with a Railway Careers workshop, again delivered by the Platform team.

Through the spring, students from Belmont School in Cheltenham also travelled into Worcester’s History and Heritage Pod for some activities, but this time the school staff used the trip as an opportunity to practice their life skills, such as visiting shops and food-venues to allow students to place orders and purchase their lunches, which were then eaten in the beautiful Cripplegate Park.  Huge thanks are extended to the Crowngate Shopping Centre for their generosity in letting Platform use the Pod, free of charge, as a safe and accessible space for groups.

In another This Mighty Traveller trip, the students who attend Oasis New Oak’s Deaf Learning Base travelled to Avonmouth and Severn Beach with Platform. They had been studying sustainability in school and so opted for a more traditional Platform experience, combining rail-travel with outdoor learning and a workshop, as well as a visit to the Avonmouth Garden.

Through the summer term, students from Oakwood college in Yate had two different destinations in mind, so one group travelled to Bristol Temple Meads, and another to Gloucester. The students of SGS Pegasus School in Bristol were determined to visit Weston-super-Mare on trips that involved beaches, chips and doughnuts, whilst Alderman Knight students from Cheltenham joined the team for some unicorn hunting in Bristol.

Inclusion sits at the heart of Platform’s education offer, with learning and development in this area a key priority. All delivery team members attended a sign-language course laid on by GWR this year to improve their offer for schools with non-verbal students, and those from the D/deaf community. The team all completed training from the National Autistic Society to keep up to date with how best to support young people with autism, specifically when using public transport. A qualified Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator sits on the delivery team and inclusion features prominently in team meetings.

Kevin Day – Headteacher at Belmont Special School – said, ‘The work of the rail education team is simply outstanding and they are professional in all they do. The school-based sessions were very skilfully adapted to children with special needs and the resources and ‘hands on’ activities made the sessions as fun as they were educational.  All my staff reported how much the children learnt about railways and rail safety and then to experience a train trip in ‘real life’ was wonderful. I can recommend this wonderful organisation and essential life skill intervention to all schools without reservation’.

Anne-Marie Glover – Teacher at Riverside Special School – said, ‘Brilliant, interactive workshop. The boys loved the QR code software to answer questions. They were really engaged. Fantastic day out. Lots of activities and support provided. Friendly and approachable staff interacted well with the children and answered any questions.’

Dan Miliffe – Head of Careers and Futures from Oakwood Specialist College – said, ‘Platform have been brilliant and really helped us to support students to develop their knowledge and skills in relation to rail travel, sustainability and rail careers. Emilie was friendly and approachable from the outset, making us feel like nothing was too much trouble. All of the students really enjoyed the workshops delivered and we are really excited as a college to continue linking with Platform in the future.’

Becky Williams –  Job Coach at Pershore College – said, ‘Emilie and Imogen were fabulous. The session was pitched at the right level for students and planning in preparation for the safety talk and session ensured this. Platform Rail made offering students a trip opportunity accessible due to the free cost and the effective communication they established with myself and the other job coaches. Students noted the development in their confidence following the trip. I will be recommending Platform Rail’s services to my colleagues.’

Emilie Dawson – Learning Development Manager at Platform – said, “It has been joyous to have seen such a large amount of positive engagement from Special Schools this year. School trips can feel complicated for any teacher, but even more so when there are additional needs to factor in, and then more again when you choose to throw in train-travel too, so I am extremely grateful to all the staff who were willing to engage. We have been delighted by the feedback from all those involved this year and can’t wait to do even more work with Special Schools next year.”

The Platform team extend sincere thanks to the five CRPs they work across, and to their funding partners – GWR, Cross Country and The Community Rail Network. Their generous funding means this work was carried out at no cost to the schools. Additionally, thanks to GWR for providing free tickets for rail-education.

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