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Old trains restore students' faith

Welding the chassis of a Victorian tram carriage is not on every key stage 4 curriculum.

But 72 students in rural Cumbria are benefiting from a pathfinder project linking their schools with Appleby training and heritage centre.

The centre, in Appleby-in-Westmorland provides training and education through restoring historic trains.

Pathfinder funding of pound;35,000 over three years has allowed it to lay on engineering courses for pupils in Years 10 and 11 from Ullswater community college, Appleby grammar and Kirkby Stephen grammar.

The students, some of whom make a 26-mile round trip to the centre from school, take either a vocational GCSE or a City and Guilds progression award.

David Robinson, head of Ullswater community college, said: "This is a 21st-century solution to the issue of rural isolation.

"The course enriches what we can provide in our curriculum. There is no way we could offer these facilities or expertise without this extra funding."

The centre is restoring an 1890s carriage which will eventually run on the North Norfolk Railway.

John Weir, general manager, said the students had been involved in everything from cutting, welding, and filing the chassis, to making brass components for the communication cord. They also made railings and steps for the carriage.

Adam Stephenson, 16, of Appleby grammar, is now planning to go on to study civil engineering at university.

"It's much more hands-on than other subjects," he said. "We like it because it's more interesting than sitting down reading books or using computers."

Classmate Craig Robinson, 16, is applying for a five-year apprenticeship with a local firm. "I would never have thought about electrical engineering before doing this course - but I think it will give me a better career," he said.

Julie Park, the training manager, said: "This widens their options at KS4, increasing their options in the sixth form, and then for the rest of their lives."

The first students started in September 2002. Amy Richardson from Appleby grammar is the only girl, but the centre hopes to recruit more for next year.

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