It’s great being able to get to school myself

Valuable team member: Danyl Iqbal at The Cedar Court Hotel on his work placement. Below: Danyl and Jason Oldfield at the bus stop

Valuable team member: Danyl Iqbal at The Cedar Court Hotel on his work placement. Below: Danyl and Jason Oldfield at the bus stop

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It may be a straightforward trip for most of us but for one special Calderdale student, it‘s proved to be the journey of a lifetime

WHEN Danyal Iqbal hops on the bus to school, it might just seem like your average journey.

Ravenscliffe High School, Jason Oldfield and Danyl Iqbal, both of them involved in the Independence Scheme

Ravenscliffe High School, Jason Oldfield and Danyl Iqbal, both of them involved in the Independence Scheme

But for the 18-year-old, a pupil at Ravenscliffe High School and Sports College, Calderdale’s only secondary special school, it is so much more.

It is a huge step towards independence and getting there has involved the journey of a lifetime.

When Danyal first started as a Ravenscliffe pupil, along with his fellow students he would travel to school and back in a specialist vehicle.

But all that changed when the school introduced the Independent Travel Scheme to its curriculum.

Danyal was the first student to trial the scheme and at the age of 12 he was selected for the intensive Independence in a Month course, which involved him taking time off from the general curriculum to concentrate on developing skills allowing him to travel independently on public buses.

Under the watchful eye of travel trainer Jason Oldroyd, his skills have grown, along with his self-pride and the transformation has been amazing.

It is a bright and cheerful Danyal, smiling and full of confidence who greets me when I arrive at Ravenscliffe.

“I was a bit nervous at first about the scheme because I didn’t know where I was going or what bus to get on but Jason soon showed me and now I go to all sorts of places,” he says.

He outlines his route to school which involves a walk to the bus stop near his home in Halifax where he catches his first bus into the town centre.

“I can then get the 503 or the 501 and if I miss those then I have another choice,” he says knowledgably.

“One of the buses just takes me as far as the hospital and then I walk the rest of the way, another brings me right to Skircoat.

“If I am having problems or I’m going to be late I ring school or if it’s at home time, I ring my mum. Everyone knows I’m safe then,” he says. His journey takes him just over an hour.

“I love being able to do it myself though. I found it a bit boring when I used to get picked up in the school’s special bus.”

And Danyal’s travel doesn’t begin and end with journeys to and from school. Thanks to the scheme he can make his way independently to Halifax pool if he fancies a dip, as well as North Bridge Leisure Centre and to rehearsals for his band Souled Out, where he is a drummer - and now he has added another exciting trip to his itinerary.

Every Thursday he makes his own way to his work placement at the Cedar Court Hotel, Ainley Top, where he has become a valuable member of the team.

“I have never been late to work once,” he says proudly.

What’s more the scheme has given him the confidence to take driving lessons - the next step to a more independent life.

“To see the transformation in students is amazing,” says Jason.

“They literally walk round school with their heads held high with a smile on their faces. You can see them flourish. Having this independence means so much to them and Danyal has been a shining example of success.

“We earmarked early on that he had the makings to benefit from the scheme and he has proved he has.”

In fact Ravenscliffe have been so impressed with Danyal, he even accompanied Jason and head teacher. Martin Moorman to a travel training conference in Lancaster, where he spoke about his experiences to other schools interested in introducing the scheme.

The scheme, which is run in conjunction with Calderdale Council, has now received national recognition and even won an award, and the added benefits are immense.

“Students build confidence and self belief, an understanding of the value of money, road safety and it also gets them thinking about personal safety. We teach them all about stranger danger,” says Jason.

Not all Danyal’s journeys have run smoothly - but that has not deterred him in the least.

“I got on the bus one day and some boys were bullying me but the bus driver saw and told school,” he says.

Once the boys were identified, they were invited to Ravenscliffe to see for themselves how special it and its students are and how hard they work to overcome their difficulties.

“Those boys have now become my friends and we play football together,” says Danyal.

“It was great the driver realised Danyal was in a situation he shouldn’t have been. We rely on working closely with local bus companies to support us with the scheme,” adds Jason.

He says that in the six years the scheme has been running 60 students have become fully independent and another 15 have achieved a degree of independence thanks to the yellow buses.”

“Pupils who use the yellow buses have to make their way to the various pick up points and that gives them confidence. Not all our students of course have the ability to be as independent as Danyal.”

Careful co-ordination by Jason means that students travelling to and from school will meet at the same time in the bus station.

“That way they socialise and make friends,” he says.

“I love meeting up with everyone and we all chat on our way in,” adds Danyal.

Danyal will leave Ravenscliffe this summer but the travel scheme has also prepared him for his next step. He hopes to go to Calderdale College to study and become a youth support worker.

“I’ll be able to make my own way there as well, once Jason has shown me,” he says.