One of the students, Bradley (year 6, age 11) said, “When the train first came to the school, we could not use it because it was too wet and not safe inside. Now we can use it because of the volunteers who have come in to make the train safe. I love the train and get to take books home to read.”
Just this academic year, the train has been used by 190 children which includes guest schools. The impact on the children has been really positive. For many children at the school, reading is seen as something challenging, and often associated with memories when they attended mainstream school. This causes children to become dysregulated [unable to control emotions].
Using the library carriage in the train, with a particular focus on reading for enjoyment, has meant it has engaged formerly hard to reach children. The train is seen as an exciting environment where children do not have the pressure of failing in reading. The school has been partaking in research for the Laurel Trust and has recorded numerous case studies. These case studies are demonstrating that children who previously refused to read, are now engaging in reading, so much so, some children have swapped picture books for story books. This is a massive leap to helping the children, as research indicates children who read for enjoyment are more likely to stay out of poverty.
The train has also been used to teach children how to travel safely on trains. This initially starts off using the onsite trains, starting on the platform (Donated by TEXO) to help students learn how to board a train. Then the children are introduced to the sights and sounds of the train by using the driving simulator. This helps introduce children who are highly sound sensitive to know what to expect on a real train. Northern Rail and Transpennine Express have also partnered with the school to help the children to travel on real trains. This is an important skill as train travel opens up more possibilities and drives social mobility.
The entire project has been based around building a community. The school have been supported by many local companies and larger companies like Porterbrook leasing, Texo, Network Rail, Morgan Sindall and of course, our very important team from Henkel. Thank you to all colleagues who were involved but especially Noel Forte for driving this initiative, along with colleagues Barry Lewis, John McCafferty and Mark Patterson.