SCHOOL trips to the fire station were once the norm before the Covid pandemic and have since struggled to make a full return, until now.

Schoolchildren across Wigan are taking part in an initiative to educate them on the dangers of fire and other accidents. The state-of-the-art Training and Safety Centre based in Bury will now host youngsters from the borough thanks to a new scheme providing transport to and from Wigan.

The initiative has been led by ex-Wigan Borough Fire Commander, Councillor John Harding and supported by his Atherleigh ward colleague, Councillor Debra Wailes following a pre-Covid motion at full council.

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This motion to provide funded transport was unanimously supported and provided by Wigan Council before coronavirus destablised the world in 2020. Lockdown put a hold on things, but now that schools are running more normally, the project is back on track.

This is a strong passion for Coun Harding, who is keen to ensure the safety of children when it comes to fire risk. As a former firefighter himself, this is of “paramount” importance to him.

Leigh Journal: The project was agreed in 2020 but has been delayed due to the pandemicThe project was agreed in 2020 but has been delayed due to the pandemic (Image: Wigan Council)

“I have seen the devastating results of fires many times over a long career and ensuring our children are aware of the dangers is paramount to me,” Coun Harding said. “This project will go a long way to keeping them safe and, as they become adults, their children too.”

Coun Harding and Coun Wailes held meetings with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, council support staff, and Rik Tapper, the Sales Manager of Tyrers Coaches recently to get the ball rolling. The local coach company has supported the project by providing transport at a large discount, thereby enabling more children to visit the centre.

“We at Tyrers are very proud to be able to support this worthwhile initiative and our borough wide community,” Rik said. “The children can’t stop talking about the experience when they get back on the bus.”

The first secondary school from the borough to benefit from the two hour interactive training session was Atherton High School.

Headteacher Ben Layzell said: “This project is unique in its delivery of hands-on fire safety training to pupils and will remain in their memories forever. I would like to thank the Fire and; Rescue Service and staff, Tyrers Coaches and Councillors Harding and Wailes for their efforts to bring this to fruition.”

Dave Russel, Chief Fire Officer, added: “Keeping our residents safe from fire is our number one priority and we are proud to have developed this Community Safety Centre for our residents and children. I am very pleased to see the resource being used by schools from Wigan borough and we welcome other schools from across the county to visit too.”