Kent Community Rail Partnership and Sheppey College wanted to work together to provide opportunities for students to get involved in a range of community projects.The main aim was to empower students to showcase their talents, boosting self-esteem, providing real-life experiences, and helping build portfolios to enhance employment prospects.
The community rail partnership were also keen to engage with the students to promote rail as safe, healthy, and sustainable travel, and to get their views on how the Swale Rail Line, which runs from Sittingbourne to Sheerness-on-Sea, could be improved for young people and all sections of local communities, encouraging increased passenger use.
To introduce them to the projects, 250 students – some of whom had never travelled by rail before were taken on the train to stations on the Swale Rail Line. Along side information on how to travel confidently and independently, they were tasked with looking at issues at the stations and identifying potential improvements.To complement their own ideas, students asked passengers and local residents what they wanted to see at the stations, with the results fed back to the partnership and the train operator, Southeastern.
In November 2019, Sheppey College were announced the proud winner of Under 18s Volunteer Team of the Year at the Kent Volunteering Awards, based on the students hard work during community week and the established partnership with Kent Community Rail Partnership.
Sheppey College has been working closely with the Kent Community Rail Partnership since 2019 year to improve the look of the five train stations within Swale. The project began with two of the five stations being chosen, however, students began to take on more opportunities and now Sheppey College have adopted all of the 5 stations on the Swale Line.
Construction students have been involved in a number of projects to make general repairs and improvements to the stations to improve the overall look which will benefit the local community. They worked closely with the station staff and some gave up their own time to finish the work. The projects included building and installing a bench with planters, planting flowers and making and installing bird boxes at Queenborough station. Construction students also partnered with The Rotary Club to plant crocus bulbs in the shape of the logo in aid of Polio Awareness at Queenborough station. Landscaping students will continue to carry out maintenance to ensure the plants are well cared for and in good condition. Construction students are now planning to work with the Kent Community Rail Partnership to develop an allocated piece of land at Kemsley station.
Business students created surveys which were used to gather feedback from commuters about the stations, service and overall public feeling about the lines. The students went above and beyond, working closely with the station staff and community, to get a cross section of people who use the railway and to highlight changes they would like to see made. Once commuters had been interviewed business students then collated the feedback and generated a presentation for the managers of the stations to detail their findings and recommendations. IT students built a Swale Rail website listing things to do and places to visit along the line.They also created a promotional video to support tourism, information posters detailing the history of the line and its stations, and ‘PopArt’ depicting a series of images along the route. Business students designed surveys and interviewed passengers, and created a range of posters for stations raising awareness on key issues including equality, addiction, mental health, and train etiquette.
Kent Community Rail Partnership attended a presentation afternoon where the students delivered their interview findings and the finished video was shown of the improvements being made and the history of the line. At this time a number of awards were presented by the Partnership to individuals and teams for the work that had been completed. These included a teamwork award, contribution award and innovation award, among others. It was also announced that the video would be shown at St Pancras station. The students also presented the video at Maidstone Town Hall on the 21st November 2019.
Some students have gone on to complete work experience placements with Southeastern, and their achievements were also recognised by being named Kent Young Volunteers of the Year for 2019.
In December 2020, the Kent Community Rail Partnership and Sheppey College were awarded first in the Involving Children and Young People Category in the Community Rail Awards 2020. Read more about the award here.
In March 2021, Landscaping and Horticulture students went over to Sittingbourne Train Station. Before going over there, they built 2 wooden planters which they cut and measured themselves. While at the station, they put these planters together and then used a solution to seal the wood. The students had great fun working together as a team while learning new skills and knowledge of working in a public place and following health and safety guidelines. Not to mention making the local station a nicer and brighter place for commuters passing through, we can't wait to see them filled with flowers.
In March, Health and Social care students took to Sheerness to conduct a video survey with members of the local community regarding the Swale Lines. This was a great success with a lot of helpful feedback received. Computing students then compiled and edited this video footage into a finished product to be shared with volunteers for the Kent Community Rail Partnership who came into the College to view the video and receive treatments in our Salon by our Hair students.