Students from Sunderland’s Barbara Priestman Academy have produced and starred in a short film about their experiences of travelling independently to and from school.
The students, who are aged between 16 and 18, worked with a film maker to make the film, which was premiered in front of an audience of local councillors, students from local special needs schools, and council officers.
The students had taken part in the six month Move Makers project delivered by Living Streets on behalf of Go Smarter, Tyne and Wear’s sustainable travel programme which is supported by Sunderland City Council and its regional partners. The project was designed to tackle the barriers to independent and active school travel for Deaf and Disabled young people.
Go Smarter works with schools in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland to encourage students to travel to and from school independently using public transport, on foot or by bike.
Francesca Di Giorgio, Project Coordinator for Living Streets, said: “Barbara Priestman Academy caters for young people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The students explored the barriers to travelling independently in their local community, including physical barriers such as a lack of signalled crossings but also attitudinal barriers from parents and carers who are nervous about their children traveling actively to school.
“The students made the film to communicate to their parents, carers and peers the impact independent travel has had on their lives with the confidence and freedom it brings.”
Daniel Kirtlan, a student at Barbara Priestman Academy, said: “All the good things I got from being an independent traveller was using a bus pass on your own, travelling on the bus on your own and it was very good. It felt magnificent.”
Luke Hunter added: “To be an independent traveller is very important to me because you don’t have to wait for someone to take you somewhere, you can go somewhere by yourself. You can walk, you can use a train, a metro, you can use any mode of transport you like.”
Adele Pearson Assistant Headteacher - Post 16, Barbara Priestman Academy, said: “The Move Makers project has empowered our students to speak out about the difficulties they face when travelling in the community. The project has helped to foster and develop teamworking skills, thinking skills, independence and has boosted the confidence of all of the students who took part.
“Being able to showcase their work in front of parents/carers, other students and also at the regional event gave the students a fantastic sense of pride and self-worth.”
The group of students held a consultation with a road safety officer and an engineer from Sunderland City Council to talk about possible improvements to the streets to the Academy which could make the journey to school easier for them and their fellow pupils.
They also presented a series of assemblies at the Academy which were attended by parents, carers and students, who heard about the group’s experiences of learning to use public transport or walk to and from school and how to support someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder.