Campaigners fighting plans for a high speed rail route in our district are furious that the company running the project is trying to involve schoolchildren in the process.
Yorkshire Against HS2 chairman Jonathan Pile, of Crofton, said that an ‘engagement programme’ offered to schools in our district is Orwellian “propaganda”.
The programme – delivered by London-based communications agency Hopscotch Consulting as part of a £280,000 contract with HS2 Limited – asks children as young as seven to “help plan, design and build Zoom Rail, a fictional railway of the future.”
This comes before the March 2017 deadline of a consultation which allows people affected by the real proposed route to raise their concerns with HS2.
Mr Pile said: “If this wasn’t so sinister and unacceptable it would be funny, but to the hundreds of families facing enforced relocation by HS2 and the thousands being financially blighted and facing years of noise and construction pollution it is anything but a joke.”
In a letter about the project, Key Stage Two teachers are told: “Our aim is to provide a cross-curricular tool that will develop an early understanding of the skills requirements and career opportunities connected with the transport and infrastructure industry.
“To bring the platform to life, we will be running a series of workshop events which schools along the line of the route can get involved with.”
These “provide an opportunity to delve deeper into the careers and opportunities modern railway projects offer,” the letter reads.
Only a small number of schools are wanted to take part with up to 30 pupils involved at each, but information has been sent by email to more than 100 primaries in the district.
After planned high speed rail maps were amended in summer, the route was prospectively moved from Derbyshire to Yorkshire. This would mean trains passing through Crofton, Altofts and areas close by. The scheme was offered the broad support of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling last month.
Yorkshire Against HS2 is also outraged that an email advertising the programme was circulated to schools by Wakefield Council, which has expressed opposition to the route.
A council spokeswoman said: “The council’s position is clear – it is opposed to HS2. However, this is an educational opportunity and it is up to each individual school to decide if they want to participate.”
The Department of Transport had not responded to our request for a comment by the time the Express went to print.
Sally Kinkaid, divisional secretary of Wakefield and District National Union of Teachers, said: “This stuff going into schools is just complete propaganda.
“We know how busy teachers are, so when someone gives them a lesson plan, a lot will take it, but this is blatant marketing.
“If schools are going to use this, I would very much encourage them to invite campaigners against the project to put their case, so there is a balance of views, which is an essential part of the learning process.”
The government has backed the revised route, which is subject to a consultation until March 9 next year.