Children at Great Oaks School enjoy a visit from Bluestar buses

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Great Oaks School is a secondary school for young people with a range of complex learning difficulties including autism and speech and language difficulties.

Southampton City Council’s Independent Travel Trainer, Paula Dougan, met over 30 children from the secondary school in small groups, encouraging them to explore the bus, choose where to sit, meet the driver and practice using the Stop button. 

For some of the children it is a new and challenging experience. “Helping the children to become familiar with how it feels to be on a bus in a safe environment is both fun and educational for them and can be the first step to travelling independently. We aim towards promoting inclusion in the community, preparing pupils for their future, be it at college or in the workplace.” explained Paula. She works with individual children who currently use council-funded school transport for their journey to school.The Independent Travel Training Scheme is run over a 3 week period providing guidance and support and enabling pupils to reap the benefits of independent travel.

During the visit the Bluestar bus driver, Rob George, interacted with the children, encouraging them to take turns sitting in the driver’s seat, showing them how to turn on the engine and issue tickets to each other. Two of the older students, Richard (Yr 10) and Brandon (Yr 11) were chosen to coordinate the groups getting on and off the bus and make sure everything went according to plan. Mr Hardy, Pathways 3 Manager at Great Oaks School said “Richard and Brandon were chosen because they are already interested in buses and they impressed the driver with their knowledge of how everything works.”