Stafford schoolchildren get ‘hands-on’ activity day thanks to local rail project

Pupils from Stafford’s Blessed William Howard Catholic High School got the chance to engage hands-on with the rail industry last month, when they were visited by volunteers from Network Rail and the Staffordshire Alliance.

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The Staffordshire Alliance is working to deliver a £250 million programme of improvements in the area, which will provide faster, more reliable services and increase capacity on the busy West Coast main line.

As part of this, the project will be building a new junction at Norton Bridge and resignalling the area around Stafford station, with both projects due to be completed in 2016.

With its Stafford compound just around the corner, the alliance had previously worked with the school to take part in the Go4Set scheme last year and was keen to offer support for further projects.

The day was held on the 11 February, where around 160 year eight pupils took part in five different workshops delivered by alliance volunteers.

Held as part of the school’s Impact Day, the event was designed to teach pupils about how a large infrastructure project works and for staff to share their skills and expertise with the students.

At the school, sessions were held on engineering, business and careers, with students getting the opportunity to experiment with forces by building their own ‘tube-train’ and also learning about career opportunities in the industry.

They were also given the opportunity to visit the project’s site offices near Chebsey, where workshops centred on ecology and archaeology took place.

Activities included a mock-up of an archaeological dig, where students had to remove layers of soil and catalogue their finds, as well as a session identifying animal footprints and habitats from around the project.

Matt Clark, alliance manager, commented “The Staffordshire Alliance is committed to working with the local community and this event was a great opportunity to inform local students about the project and the benefits and opportunities developments like these can offer.

“All the staff who participated in the day worked incredibly hard to make the workshops as engaging as possible and relate the activities to the students’ own potential careers.”

Dr Martin Murray, director of achievement for the Foundation School at Blessed William Howard, praised the event, calling it ‘an outstanding day which we would be delighted to repeat’.

“The variety of themes and activities suited pupils well and the whole event was extremely well planned and organised,” he added.

Year eight pupil Poppy McEwan was one of those participating in the day, commenting: “I enjoyed the talk on careers; it helped me to focus on my future and the skills I might need.” 

Student Katie Wood also took part in the activities, saying: “I found the whole day very interesting. I really liked the archaeology dig as I liked to be so hands on!”