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Ashford College

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Project Overview

Kent Community Rail Partnership began working on community based projects with Ashford College in January 2022. 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 flourishe

Travel Training and Station Visits

In January 2022, 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). 

Whitewashed stones in a grassy bank spell "C-H-A-R-I-N-G"

Community Rail Week Student Interviews

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.

A group of students on a train being interviewed about their travel choices.

Special education needs (SEN) students and their tutors from Ashford College were guided around Ashford International station to help familiarise them with the station. The students have high anxiety and it was felt they would benefit from an orientation event prior to travelling by train the following week. During the orientation event the students were shown the electronic screens and taught how to work out which trains go where, at what time and from which platform.  They were shown where to buy tickets and how to accesses assistance if required. They then explored the platforms learning about the yellow line, tactile paving, how to access assistance if anything is dropped on the track and they watched the trains being dispatched. Their orientation morning helped them feel reassured and safe to move around the station and they said they looked forward to travelling by train the following week.


A week later the SEN students (12 in total, 1 blind, 1 deaf and all with ADHD and speech and language difficulties) undertook a train travel training journey to Maidstone East.  They were shown various station projects from the window as they passed through the adopted stations.  On arrival at Maidstone East station they were greeted by friendly Southeastern staff and shown their train being dispatched. They were then taken behind the scenes to see how trains travel along the network. Two lucky students made public train announcements which they were very excited about for some time. All students said they would like to travel on a train again however, some felt they would need someone to help them to buy their tickets and ensure they were on the correct train. Referring to the train trip and making the announcement, Pharrell said, “It was amazing” and was buzzing all the way back to college!  Samira, who is deaf was aided by a tutor signing for her and by the end of the trip said she would feel confident to travel by train. Kent CRP would like to thank Southeastern staff for supporting and funding these travel training sessions.

These sessions helped the students to overcome the barriers to travelling by train created by unfamiliar environments. Their increased confidence could be clearly seen in the student’s behaviours whilst on their next rail journey, a trip to Charing station in July.

Volunteer station adopter Councillor Susan Easun met us at Charing station to greet the students and encourage them in their planting of the window-boxes, adding fresh colour for the whole community to enjoy.


Therese and Matt with a group of students and tutors outside the entrance to Ashford International station
Therese and the college group on board a train
Colouful flowers in a window box
Planting up a window box

Jubilee Artwork at Ashford Station

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! 

Therese and Matt at the unveiling of the jubilee panels.
Brightly coloured panels in a variety of designs celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II
Brightly coloured panels in a variety of designs celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II

Ashford College Community Week 2022

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.

Creating a Welcome to Ashford

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.


A colourful planter with the letter "A" above it a willow sculpture of "W"
A night time scene. Colourful planters featuring flowing shapes and fish spell out "Ashford". Mounted in the planters are willow sculptures that spell "Welcome"
A colourful planter with flowing shapes and the image of a fish, featuring the letter "S". Above it a willow sculpture of the letter "E"

Festive Fun at Ashford Station

Building on their community week success, tutors and music students ran a Christmas Karaoke event.


Getting everyone rocking around the Christmas tree was a confidence booster for the students and a great way to spread some festive cheer.

Two people singing in a station foyer, behind them are an inflatable snowman and Santa.