Sunderland special needs students star in film about independent travel

Student Daniel Kirtlan taking the bus to school.
Student Daniel Kirtlan taking the bus to school.
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Students at a school for young people with special needs are on the move.

The pupils from Sunderland’s Barbara Priestman Academy have produced and starred in a short film about travelling independently to and from school.

To be an independent traveller is very important to me.

Luke Hunter

Working with a film maker, the 16 to 18-year-olds, made the film which premiered in front of an audience of councillors and students from other special needs schools.

The students had taken part in a six-month project, delivered by Living Streets on behalf of Go Smarter, Tyne and Wear’s sustainable travel programme, designed to tackle the barriers to independent and active school travel for deaf and disabled young people.

Go Smarter encourages students to travel to and from school using public transport, on foot or by bike and this project focused in particular on increasing the students’ confidence in using public transport to get around.

Francesca Di Giorgio, project co-ordinator for Living Streets, said: “Barbara Priestman Academy caters for young people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. 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.”

Fellow pupil, 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, said: “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.”