East Sussex Your Active Journey case study focusing on SCRP’s Independent Train Travel for students with Special Educational Needs or disabilities (SEND).


Building confidence in independent train travel with students with SEND – Southeast Communities Rail Partnership

Southeast Communities Rail Partnership are supporting students with Special Educational Needs or Disabilities from Hazel Court School in Eastbourne to break down the barriers around travelling independently. The activities are delivered as part of Your Active Journey, East Sussex County Council’s programme to support active and sustainable travel choices,

The aim is to empower students, and to equip them with the skills, knowledge, safety awareness and confidence that travelling around the local area independently can bring.

Fiona Morton, CEO from Southeast Communities Rail Partnership, said: “Helping people who need assistance to travel independently is a priority that runs through the Department for Transport strategy for community rail. The benefits for students with additional needs are similar for all people using public transport. Our Independent Travel Training Programme, delivered through Your Active Journey East Sussex, is a practical way of making public transport more accessible to marginalised groups at the right time to encourage lifelong active travel habits.”

Building confidence in a familiar environment

Working with Hazel Court School, Southeast Communities Rail Partnership developed a series of resources and workshops for the classroom to build skills and broaden knowledge of what it means to travel actively and by train.

First up was the ‘Plan a Journey’ workshop. This involved finding out about train times and journey times, identifying the railway platform required, considering what to take on the journey, and learning what to do in case of emergency.

The students interacted with tickets, posters and maps in the classroom, learning what to expect during a real train journey.

“The best part of today was using my maths to work out the time until the train was leaving and how long it was going to take.” Hazel Court student

Next was a ‘Rail Safety’ workshop. This helped the students to explore how to behave and stay safe whilst on a train journey or in the station. Together they addressed real life scenarios with ‘what if’ cards, ensuring they felt confident when embarking on a train trip.
This was followed by a ‘Sustainable Travel’ workshop, with a focus on active travel and door-to-door choices for journeys. It highlighted the benefits of walking and cycling for personal health and wellbeing, and also for that of our planet.

Providing support to put new skills into action

Following the classroom activities, the students took part in a ‘Try a Train’ experience, travelling from Hampden Park to Brighton.

It included a station visit, free train travel organised by Southern Rail, and a walk around Brighton.

Sharon Hunt from Southeast Communities Rail Partnership, who led the training, said: “Several students were incredibly nervous about asking for their own tickets, but with gentle nurturing and support, every student managed to order their own.”

A member of staff from Southern Rail joined the ‘Try a Train’ trips, sharing their knowledge of the railways, and answering many questions from the students along the way.

Upon arrival at Brighton Station, the students also met Rail Enforcement Officers and The British Transport Police, engaging with them and asking questions about train travel.

 “I loved meeting new people at the station.” Hazel Court student

The students were shown inside a ticket machine and how many tickets are on each roll.

“The best part of my day was seeing the ticket machine and learning about the trains.” Hazel Court student

They participated in an ‘I Spy’ game, specifically designed to encourage discussion about aspects of safe travel, and to familiarise them with the station.

The students were able to assist with making announcements on the return train back to college.


Tailoring the programme to the individuals

The sessions are designed with the individuals in mind.

Having worked together through classroom sessions, the team were able to identify where extra support was needed, particularly during the ‘Try a Train’ session.

This bespoke approach to the session meant each of the students were given the time and support they needed to make positive steps towards feeling confident about train and active travel.


Charlotte is a student at Hazel Court and she attended the SCRP sessions.

During the ‘Try a Train’ session, she felt particularly anxious about ordering her return ticket to Brighton at the ticket office.

Sharon and Charlotte worked together to find a way to order the ticket that she felt comfortable with.

Aware of the session, Matt at Hampden Park ticket office asked Charlotte closed questions to help her navigate the conversation more easily.

Listening to each question, Charlotte told Sharon the answers, and Sharon relayed them back.

This solution meant Charlotte was able to experience navigating the options in a ticket office and felt the achievement of successfully ordering her train ticket for the day.

“The best part of my day was being on the train. I feel happier at the station now.” Charlotte – student Hazel Court


A ‘potentially lifechanging’ step for the students

Reflecting on the training, Toby Patton, Further Education Teacher at Hazel Court School, said that the training has been “potentially lifechanging for our learners.” Adding:“I am now much more confident to bring my students out on the trains.”

Monica Hocking, Further Education Teacher at Hazel Court School said, “This training has fully met expectations, especially breaking down barriers and decreasing anxieties regarding train travel.”

SCRP Independent Train Travel sessions are delivered as part of Your Active Journey East Sussex, delivered with funding East Sussex County Council has secured from from the Department for Transport’s Active Travel Fund.

Independent Train Travel sessions focus on enabling children with Special Educational Needs or disabilities to access sustainable and active travel. Sessions include rail safety, how to plan a journey and active/sustainable travel, as well as the ‘Try a Train’ experience.

Your Active Journey is an East Sussex County Council active travel programme, delivered through providers Sustrans, Living Streets, Pedal Power, Road Safety and Southeast Communities Rail Partnership. For more information contact helen.kellar@sustrans.org.uk