In January 2022 Kent CRP began working on community based projects with Ashford College. The aim of the project was to engage students in a range of activities near to our stations along the Kent Downs Line. These projects would provide an opportunity for students to develop their life skills and gain work experience in real life situations to supplement their college course work. The projects also aim to benefit their communities through a variety of station improvements and also to hear from our young people their views on the future of rail travel.
Ashford College is part of the East Kent College Group. Back in 2018 we started working with Sheppey College and this partnership has flourished.
In January, Kent CRP took a group of Ashford Students on the train to Charing. This was an ideal opportunity to meet with the students and tutors and provide some initial travel training. At the same time it enabled students to see one of the local stations and identify potential station improvements and projects that could be undertaken over the next few years.
The first project took place in April 2022 and was to add some planters to Charing Station and repaint the Charing Stones. Working in partnership with Heath Farm School, members of the Parish Council led by Susan Eusan and local residents from Charing a working party was organised and the station platform and building brought to life.
The 4 very hard working special education students from Heath Farm Schools Secondary Nurture Class are studying Horticulture and were aged 14-16yrs. Some of the 7 industrious students from Ashford College are refugees from Afghanistan who speak English as a second language (ESL).
In May 2022 Seventeen students from Ashford College (17-18yrs) and their tutors joined Kent Community Rail Partnership on the train from Ashford to Maidstone East during Community Rail Week. Whilst on the train the students engaged in discussions expressing their views on many aspects of rail travel including barriers to train travel for their age group, sustainability, accessibility and rail safety. The student’s views were collected to form a report to advance ways of opening up rail travel more widely to this age group.
Whilst at Maidstone East the students saw behind the scenes watching how the trains travel across the network. To their delight they were able to make public notice announcements and also received a valuable safety briefing from Southeastern’s Travel Safe, Travel Smart Manager, Sanchez Virginie. Community Rail Network’s Chief Executive, Jools Townsend joined the event discussing various aspects of rail travel with the students.
The event ended with lunch prepared by Ashford College Catering students and a tour of the College. A great day was had by all and the information gathered will inform many of the Partnerships future projects, activities and events.
Ashford College adopted Ashford International station in March 22 and have several impressive plans to improve the passenger experience whilst using the station. The first improvement was to add Platinum Jubilee designed community artwork to the station underpass. The College students and tutors undertook a massive community engagement project whereby they engaged 26 community groups who submitted a piece of Jubilee artwork to replace the existing tired and peeling panels. The groups included primary and secondary schools, Girl Guiding and young carers through Imago amongst the impressive list. Sixty one panels were designed and fitted to form an exciting and interesting entrance from the station’s front foyer to the platforms.
The grand unveiling took place on Friday 27 May when 140 community members lined the underpass to rip off the paper coverings to expose the impressive Jubilee bonanza!
Activities continue to be driven by the students, linked to the curriculum and helping the college to connect with local communities. The 2022 Community Week saw students from a wide range of departments showcase their skills at the station. Beauty students offered manicures and hand treatments, Early Years created activity handouts for younger travellers, Music students Dee-Jayed and held Open-Mic sessions, the Catering team baked delicious treats, even the Hair Salon offered their services.
March 2023 saw student re-imagine tired planters outside the station as a statement artwork, wrapping them in colourful vinyls and erecting a simple “Welcome” message of weaved willow letters to replace dead trees. Entitled “A Fish Out of Ashford” the artwork formed part of an exhibition of public murals throughout the town.
Station orientation sessions in May helped to prepare a group of SEN students for a travel training trip to Charing in July, where they helped the station adoption group to refresh planing in the window boxes.