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The Evacuation Project at the Kent and East Sussex Railway normally runs in May each year. This Project has grown from a starter project supported by SEGfL, the Kent ASK Team and Kent EIS. The project now runs for four days with some 1880 children, teachers and helpers learning from the experience. The Evacuation Microsite provided by SEGfL has been running since October 2008 so that teachers and children can access the wealth of resources it contains.
The Evacuation project began in 2007 when SEGfL and Kent supported the Kent and East Sussex Railway's bid to provide Learning Outside the Classroom. The Evacuee Reunion Association, a group of real evacuees, also joined in to provide the children with a real link to the past. SEGfL and Kent wanted to help the Railway produce an educational experience that in subsequent years could be replicated by the railway itself, though SEGfL has always provided a microsite for online learning support. The Kent and East Sussex Railway was awarded the Quality Badge for Learning Outside the Classroom in 2010.
Real evacuees come together with re-enactors and stations dressed for wartime. On arrival each child is issued with a wartime identity card, the art work and the permission to print it coming from the National Archives at Kew. Children and teachers then participate in a number of activities, including "The Crowded Coach", where they are packed into just the sort of compartment that the real evacuees experienced and given a introduction to Operation Pied Piper, the code name of the real wartime evacuation. Another real wartime experience which has proved very popular is the children being able to access a cycle of British Pathé newsreels through the RBC licence programme, this gives them a further incite into what it was like to be a child during the Second World War. A specially constructed Anderson Shelter with sound effects, also gives them a taste of what life was like in the South East of England for children of the war years. Surrounding these and other creative educational activities re-enactors patrol the stations as Home Guards, Service Personnel, Chaplains, Nurses and Policemen adding to the air of authenticity.
When the time comes for the trains to leave, children and their teachers assemble on the platform where "Billeting Officers" marshal them into the correct carriages. As the train pulls away the real evacuees begin to work with the children. By the time the children reach their final destination, they have a real kinaesthetic awareness of what Evacuation was like
The Project has been a runaway success and is now run by the Railway and its Educational Consultants, together with ex-members of the Medway Evacuee Reunion Association, which sadly no longer meets. This would not have happened without the initial help and investment given by the founding educational partners and is a perfect example of how, with initial aid from the experts, volunteer based heritage organisations can provide Learning Outside the Classroom that, at current numbers, benefits nearly 2000 children per year.