During the summer of 2023, we have been leading an innovative project to inspire independence. Travel Training, which has seen six students from Nancealverne School in Penzance – who have never set foot on a bus by themselves – travel to multiple destinations and arrive with the words: “I’m confident I can do that again. I loved it!”
Travel Training: A positive journey
During the summer of 2023, Careers Hub Cornwall IoS has been leading an innovative project to inspire independence. Travel Training, which has seen six students from Nancealverne School in Penzance – who have never set foot on a bus by themselves – travel to multiple destinations and arrive with the words: “I’m confident I can do that again. I loved it!”
Travel Training, a partnership project between the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Careers Hub, Cornwall Council’s Transport Coordination Service (TCS) and Transport for Cornwall, is a training program designed to help individuals with disabilities learn how to use public transportation. It seeks to open accessibility of public transport for young people with additional needs, to inspire independence and mobility and to encourage them to take those steps with skills, knowledge and confidence to travel safely.
In simple terms, the project supports young people with SEND to try out the bus as a method of transportation, teaching them the essential skills needed and sharing information on how to handle challenges they may face along the way.
Frankie Rigolli is an Enterprise Coordinator at Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Careers Hub. He explained how the program came about, calling it ‘a unique opportunity to have a real impact on an individual level.’
“The whole idea was born from a few worrying statistics,” he said. “Schools were telling us that many of their students were picking their post-16 options based not so much their interests and aspirations, but on location.”
It’s understood that this path is typical for a lot of vulnerable students. After all, transport can be a barrier for those with additional needs, so why not pick the easier option? “These decisions cause some issues and may affect future career options,” Frankie continued, “largely because the destination may not be right – it’s just closer to home.”
It’s a complex issue that can’t be solved overnight, Frankie admits. “But we didn’t want to ignore it. We have the capacity to test out some great ideas through early intervention.”
The project aims to show vulnerable students they can use public transport and that these skills will literally open more pathways for them. And to say the pilot study has been a success is doing it a tremendous disservice; it has left the six students who took part feeling capable of doing anything.
“The benefits are huge,” Frankie added. “Suddenly you have independence. These children are confident to visit family and friends under their own steam, explore job opportunities, gain life experiences.”
“These skills will ultimately transfer into later life and could open doors they never thought existed. This project is about drip feeding and exposing these experiences at an early age.”
The anxiety that comes with travelling on public transport can start early in life, as young people are often told of the things that could go wrong. Maybe the bus doesn’t arrive, or there could be dangers or unforeseen emergencies.
“It’s about preparing for these eventualities and teaching these students how to cope,” Frankie explained. “If the bus doesn’t turn up, then there’s a Plan B. Even a Plan C. They learn how to identify people who are safe to approach and how to plan for calling people to update them on their whereabouts, such as parents, college staff or, eventually, employers.
“These anxieties shouldn’t be a barrier to their future.”
The Travel Training pilot is a partnership between parties who are all invested and passionate about supporting young people in Cornwall to thrive independently.
Firstly, Transport for Cornwall. TFC is the public transport network managed through Cornwall Council’s Transport Coordination Service who have a vested interest in seeing an increase in the use of public transport and the positive effects this would have environmentally. They also believe in the power of public transport.
“One of the first things we did – we researched what was available.” Frankie continued.
“Although we found some provision that would have job coaches available to help, it wasn’t widespread,” he added.
“It felt sporadic and unpredictable. In other parts of the UK, they have specific Travel Training services. But Cornwall is different, likely because of its rural geography and demographics. Locally, this service can be accessed as part of education and training programs, or as part of support packages. It can also be accessed through a referral to Access to Work. It’s really challenging for such comprehensive provisions to offer travel training where and when needed, resulting in very few people benefiting from this opportunity.”
“We contacted our colleagues in the Transport team and they were really supportive,” Frankie said.
“We have been endlessly supported by our fantastic colleagues at Transport for Cornwall, who have offered free travel during the programme. We worked with local bus companies who agreed to drive to the school to pick up children and drive to the bus depot, to give them the full experience.”
Daniel Baker is the Transport Co-ordination & Eligibility Manager for Transport Coordination Service. He explained why his team decided to support the initiative.
“Cornwall Council has a commitment to improve outcomes for young people and empowerment to gain the skills and confidence needed to travel independently is a key aspect of that. So when the opportunity arose to work with the Careers Hub on launching this pilot training programme, I was delighted to be involved. It has been a pleasure to support the initial trial and to see first-hand the positive impact it has had on the young people who have taken part.”
Looking back at the past few months, Daniel added: “The feedback received from the young people involved has served to underline just how important this training is and why we must roll this out further so that others can benefit. The programme has also shown the clear benefits of enabling schools to support with the delivery of the training. Moving forward, the Council is committed to building on the successes already seen within the initial pilot and we look forward to working alongside the Careers Hub and more schools during the coming academic year.”
The project was also designed with those at its heart; Nancealverne School. Specifically, Leland, Skye, Max, Charlie, and Lilly.
“The students were fantastic to work with,” Frankie said. “They were so energetic; you could see they enjoyed it so much. They all said they felt more confident for the future to travel on their own.”
“The Key is to develop skills associated with travelling on a bus such as reading a timetable, working out how to pay, checking when to get off the bus. It’s all such a huge learning opportunity. Even just to know it’s normal for buses to be late! That itself breeds confidence.”
The project is also about training those who work with students, such as learning support staff. It is also about helping bus service staff become familiar with interacting with someone with additional support needs.
Anita is a Teaching Assistant at Nancealverne School who, through the Travel Training project, was able to access context and additional methods to support the young people.
“It was amazing to see them grow,” Anita said. “The difference in their confidence after that first journey was something I won’t forget.”
“We wanted to give them some knowledge and tools to help the best they can,” Frankie added. One of the benefits of the project is involving people the students know and trust.”
A range of experiences
Charlie’s learning difficulties make travelling independently difficult, and he was excited to have the opportunity to explore with his classmates.
He said: “I really enjoyed looking at the timetables and the numbers on the buses to see where we were going. The first time I looked at the bus timetable I looked at the wrong part! But it’s all about practice and I’ve got better at it. We met people in high vis jackets who showed us where to go if we get lost.”
Along the way, the students travelled to and from Truro, Redruth and Camborne, visiting Truro College along the way to gain an insight into higher education.
“We planned three trips,” Frankie explains. “All on the same bus Route, on the T1. It was always the same route to the station but a slightly different destination. We wanted to maximise every learning opportunity.”
“We visited Cornwall Neighbourhoods for Change, who have community programmes. We visited County Hall, where they met Proper Job café who offer training and employment to adults with learning difficulties. They met the Champs, who are part of the Healthy Cornwall, a partnership between Cornwall Council and the NHS. They run campaigns and visit schools and colleges and promote healthy living and relationships. Amazing people for them to meet.”
“It was such a range of experiences for them.”
A highlight for all the students was a visit to Truro College and a chance to visit facilities, see the canteen, learn about courses and get a feel of what it’s like to study at college.
“They loved the revolving door!”, Frankie remembered. “It’s amazing that you don’t see many of them in Cornwall and that’s one thing that stood out as a memory that they bonded over on the way home.”
A huge difference
Next year the Enterprise team wants to expand the project and work with more schools, more students on more journeys. Perhaps using the train.
“The idea that SEND schools will eventually get on board and run these things in schools independently… that’s what we need,” he said.
“Projects like this often fit with their values and direction so they absolutely should be embedded in school life.”
What’s more, a couple of the students have already travelled on their own since. “It feels like it’s making a huge difference for this small number of people, Frankie said.
The ultimate goal? Seeing these students travel independently.
“That’s where see the project has worked,” he concluded. “I’m excited to hear about their journeys in the future.”
VIDEO: Hear from the students themselves about what this experience meant to them