Work on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link has spun-off the Schools Liaison Initiative, a major programme of local construction education for local schoolchildren. Adrian Greeman reports.
As part of Kvaerner Construction's community public relations exercise on contract 430, near Ashford in Kent, more than 30 mainly primary schools are participating in a construction-based education programme
The initiative, which started a year ago with the backing and support of project manager Rail Link Engineering, is set to continue throughout the three-year contract period. It is based in the project's accommodation where a teaching and demonstration room has been set up with seats for up to 40 children, teachers and some accompanying parents.
Contract 430 public liaison officer Lisa Doughty explains that the main focus of the teaching is to emphasise the dangers of casual play on one of the busiest sites the area has seen. But the programme also examines environmental questions, noise and water pollution and construction itself.
'Local education authorities insist that schools help to develop children's knowledge of their towns and surroundings,' explains Doughty. 'This fits in with that aim, especially as the railway will permanently change the town.'
On-site facilities include a television and video playback facility, information panels and photographs on the walls explaining all the work that is going on in the local area to build the CTRL. Best of all is a big scale model of the contract and, even more thrilling, a model of the Eurostar train to remind the kids what the construction is all for.
Melanie Shore coordinates the programme which combines site visits with classroom activities. A Kvaerner coach picks up a group of children and teachers from one of the schools, takes them to site where two construction managers pitch straight in with a welcoming talk on site safety.
Site safety videos, with a quiz on hazards spotted, kick off the proceedings. Then, after oranges and biscuits, the children are told about the project's effects on animals, the land and water. The session on noise pollution includes a screaming competition into a noise gauge to let off steam.
'Then we fit them up with hats and visibility vests and take on them on to a safe part of the site' says Shore. 'The reaction is usually ecstatic as they watch the machines; girls as well as boys.'
After lunch it's back to the classroom to learn about the project with a team quiz, hunting out items from the knowledge boards in the room. Finally, the group visits a recently relocated show farm at the Rare Breeds Centre and then returns to school with a pen, safety helmet pencil sharpener and other items.
But according to Shore the best thing they take away is the exciting memories. One visitor, she added, described the day as 'more exciting than going to the moon'.
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