Celebrating 1 year of keeping Gloucestershire safe

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As Gloucestershire’s only safety education centre celebrates its first official birthday on February 1st 2014 figures show around 100 children a week have visited SkillZONE during the school year.

SkillZONE is a state-of-the-art village which gives people of all ages the chance to experience 16 real life scenarios, each designed to teach them how to recognise a range of dangerous situations such as on the road, in water, at home or online.

Based in Gloucester, the centre’s main visitor is schools with one in three primary schools in the county benefiting from a trip to SkillZONE since it opened.  Another 15,000 local people have attended SkillZONE events or used the building facilities.

To mark its first birthday balloons and cake will be given to Oakridge Primary School and Bisley Blue Coat Primary School on Thursday January 30th after their SkillZONE tour.

Maria Boon, Head of Prevention at Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said; “We are delighted to reach this milestone and to be providing access to safety education to Gloucestershire.”

“Young people’s safety is at the heart of what we do and although there are more schools and community groups we would like to reach, I believe we are on the right track. If you haven’t been to SkillZONE, please put a date in your diary to come along to our open day on Saturday July 19th2014.”

A visit to SkillZONE with Crudwell Cub Scouts was particularly meaningful for Adam Hanwell, 11, who had recently experienced a house fire. His father Tom Hanwell says; “We came home to six foot flames coming out of the chimney and all the emergency services were there. It was completely alien to my son and he couldn’t understand it.”

“At the end of SkillZONE he knew and respected what the fire fighters and emergency services do. It taught him what to do in an emergency and he wouldn’t be afraid to call for help now. Our scouts valued the trip so much we will come again. “

The centre has also been used for a wide range of community events including Older People’s Month, Gangculture Day, Black History Month, a Women in Islam event, Child Accident Prevention Week and safety courses for young mums.

SkillZONE’s partner, Gloucestershire Road Safety Partnership, regularly enjoys using the venue to train drivers. It trains over 12,000 drivers each year and many come through the SkillZONE. Courses run at the centre include seminars for lollipop ladies and men, advance motorcycle riding courses, cyclist training, drivers caught using mobile phones, speed awareness courses and hosting special events such as the launch of its annual Anti Drink Drive Campaign or Road Safety Week. 

Used by all walks of life from clubs like Brownies to the Bangladeshi community, the 2 hours tours on safety in SkillZONE’s village are run by volunteers and Stroud Wardens.

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Safety messages reach rural schools

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From rural road safety lessons to the importance of closing gates in the countryside, children from some of the county’s more remote schools are being given a safety lesson with a difference.

SkillZONE safety education centre has invited a number of rural schools to attend tours that teach lessons specific to their communities.

The week of special tours from 15th to 22nd January will cover topics such as preparing for bad weather conditions on country roads and considering what to do if a bus is cancelled or road is closed. The home and fire safety scenarios will also cover tips and advice for rural communities.
Cllr Will Windsor-Clive, Gloucestershire County Council cabinet member for fire, planning and infrastructure, said: “We want to ensure that no school is excluded from learning the important safety lessons that SkillZONE has to offer. It’s great that the centre gives us the opportunity to cover a range of situations and educate children from all walks of life.”

Withington Primary School teacher, Sonia Beames, said: “We didn’t know what to expect when we came and we were really impressed. Because we are from a village I picked relevant scenarios for our safety. I thought learning about first aid was really helpful as some of the children are far away from an ambulance and the fire safety lesson was good too.”

Pupil William Saunders, 11, added: “It was really exciting, I have learnt quite a lot out of it. I liked the cell the best and I know when to replace batteries in the smoke alarm.”

Twelve schools from the Forest of Dean and Stroud, along with the outer areas of Cheltenham and Gloucester, are taking part in the week.

Photo: Pupils of Withington Primary School, Cheltenham, take up the opportunity to visit SkillZONE for the first time from left to right: Abbey Finch 10, Megan Hood 10, Penda Mungendje 10, William Saunders 11, Elliot Carter 10.

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Rural Schools Week

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SkillZONE is running a special week for rural schools from January 15th to January 22nd 2014 in a bid to extend the reach of its safety lessons to schools which are further afield.

The week has been organised at the Gloucester safety education centre to teach specific messages to rural communities about staying safe and to give these schools the chance to experience SkillZONE.

SkillZONE’s whole ethos is to teach children and young people to stay safe by letting young people experience danger in realistic situations from a dark alleyway to an internet cafe or travelling to school.

 SkillZONE Manager, Donna Potts, says; “Rural schools are by nature more isolated. We believe gaining the experience of learning from our scenarios is particularly important because rural residents can sometimes feel more vulnerable in an emergency and these sessions may give them more confidence.”

“We recognise that many schools on the outer reaches of the county have not been to SkillZONE and we wanted to invite them to see what we have to offer.”  

The bespoke tour will cover road safety lessons for rural residents such as being seen while walking or cycling, preparing for bad weather conditions, considering what to do if a bus is cancelled or road is closed and the importance of closing gates on farms.

The home and fire safety scenarios will also cover tips and advice for rural communities. The schools visiting have then chosen five other areas in the village from the internet cafe, water safety, internet cafe, shop, farm, builders’ yard, train platform, police station and court room.

12 schools are taking part in the week and schools were invited from the Cotswolds, Forest of Dean and Stroud along with the outer areas of Cheltenham and Gloucester.





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New Year, New Volunteers

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SkillZONE is calling for more volunteers to join its Gloucester safety education centre in the New Year and make a difference to young peoples’ lives by teaching them to stay safe.

Run through Gloucester Fire and Rescue Service and Gloucestershire County Council, SkillZONE is a state of the art building with a life size street scene inside.

School groups, clubs and the wider community make decisions on how they should stay safe in nine different situations such as hazards in the home, stranger danger online, experiencing difficulty in water and how to travel safely in a car, a bus or walking. 

SkillZONE’s Volunteer Manager, Will Knight, says; “People make New Year’s resolutions to do positive things and we hope this year they will consider giving something back to the community by teaching young people about safety.”

“Our volunteers are magic, they really are and SkillZONE has developed with their help but we need more volunteers from around the county to be guides or work on reception and help out at events.”

Volunteer guides take groups on a 2 hour tour of the centre scenarios where they encourage visitors to identify dangers and come up with ways to avoid risk.

Candidates come from all walks of life and are required to give a minimum of two days per month. Along with on- the- job training volunteers will gain other skills from courses given on; safeguarding, first aid, health and safety and equality and diversity. 

Student Anastasiya Belova, 17, says; “I became a volunteer here through my school and I thought it was a really cool place. Everyone is welcoming and I just enjoy interacting with young people. It’s good for my personal development as well.”

Volunteer and retired Firefighter Frank Prentice (pictured) says; “I find it interesting and it keeps you modern and in touch with young people. If a young person can remember just a few things about safety we tell them then it’s a good start in life. The feedback we have absolutely makes it worthwhile.”

Volunteer Jim Dale, a retired RAF Wing Commander, says; “When you can install something meaningful into youngsters about danger and they sit up and take notice, it is rewarding. It’s just nice to put something back into society.”

Retired Firefighter Bob Allison adds; “Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service is a great thing and SkillZONE which is part of that family is a wonderful resource. I like giving something back and I like to use my skills to be of value.”

To apply to be a volunteer email or phone 01452 834 150.


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School Governors Coffee Morning

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SkillZONE is running a School Governors Coffee Morning on Thursday December 19th from 10am -12pm at its Tuffley centre.

It is a chance for governors to learn about Gloucestershire’s only safety education centre and experience the facility first hand.

The FREE event will include a welcome, a tour of the life size village and an opportunity to chat with other governors over a coffee or tea and Christmas mince pie.

SkillZONE is a fully interactive learning environment which teaches school groups and the wider community how to recognise a range of dangerous situations and stay safe.

There are 16 zones in SkillZONE, which cover a range of scenarios including road, rail and water safety, an internet cafe, as well as home and personal safety.  

Places are limited so please email to book.

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Dramatic campaign launch as deaths increase

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The Gloucestershire Road Safety Partnership is launching its 2013 anti drink driving campaign today at SkillZONE as the national number of drink drive deaths increases following decades of steady decline.

The Partnership figures reveal that during December and based on last year’s data, 23 families across the UK will lose a loved one in a sudden, violent and preventable tragedy.

In Gloucestershire last year, 2 collisions every single week involved somebody who took the risk of drinking and driving and from these, 31 people received fatal or serious injuries. Based on these figures, the Partnership is more determined than ever to drive home the anti drink drive message.

This year’s campaign, Eat, Think, Be Merry will combine police enforcement with a broad scale innovative media campaign across the county.

The launch of the campaign will focus on the devastating impact of a serious road collision. The streetscape at Skillzone, the county’s education centre, will be setup to simulate the scene of a crash to illustrate the most serious consequence of combining drinking with driving.

However the personal and social consequences of a drink drive conviction run far deeper than most people think. These can range from imprisonment, to large fines, a loss of a driving license for a minimum of 12 months and a criminal record. The Partnership will be joined by a recently convicted motorist who is willing to share the true affects of a drink drive prosecution.

You can find out more information on the campaign here.

Here is a short video featuring Garry Handley from The Citizens article covering the Drink Drive Campaign Launch 2013.

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‘Tune into Road Safety’ messages highlighted

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Visiting pupils from Cheltenham’s St James Primary School were today given valuable and practical road safety lessons as part of their SkillZONE tour to coincide with Road Safety Week.

SkillZONE is a state-of-the-art safety education centre where students can learn how to recognise dangerous situations in everyday life and how to stay safe.

During their visit the 90 pupils from Year 5 and Year 6 learned about the ‘Tune in to Road Safety’ theme for 2013 – that while it is human to daydream and get sidetracked, on the road distractions can be fatal.

Groups were taught about catching a bus or travelling in a car safely and to think about common distractions, such as listening to music or using a phone while walking and riding a bike. They also got to experience walking in near darkness and discovered how long it takes a car to stop after breaking suddenly.

Lottie Hutton, 10, from St James Primary School says “It was scary and unexpected finding out where the car went to after it brakes. I didn’t realise it would go so far.”

Andre Bovington from the Road Safety Partnership says; “Our main focus at this time of year is about walking in dim light on your way to school and to be aware of distractions. So our message to St James Primary pupils is to stay on the footpath and use safe crossings but to remember that drivers can’t always see you in poor light. If you’ve got an mp3 player or mobile phone, do not use them before crossing the road as they can be distracting.”

Road safety was only one of nine real life scenarios the Cheltenham school covered in its tour of SkillZONE’s life size village. They also got to experience danger in other situations such as in a: house, train, farm and internet cafe.

SkillZONE manager, Donna Potts says; “We are delighted that we can celebrate Road Safety Week together with the Road Safety Partnership in a realistic way that we know young people will remember. This is just one of the many ways we work with our partners to make the people of Gloucestershire safer.”

St James Primary School teacher Sarah Wakefield adds; “I thought the whole experience was really good, giving them the opportunity to do all these real situations and think for themselves.

“The videos were really powerful and a lot of every day hazards came out from the children that they had never questioned before.”

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Primary schools urged to visit SkillZONE

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SkillZONE, Gloucestershire’s state-of-the-art education centre, has published a new brochure which aims to encourage all primary schools in the county to visit.

The facility, which opened just over a year ago, teaches children, young people and the greater community to recognise dangerous situations in everyday life so they can stay safe.

SkillZONE is particularly popular with the Year 5 and Year 6 primary school groups and the interactive scenarios used in its life sized village have been designed to compliment PSHE delivery.

Gloucestershire’s Chief Fire Officer, Jon Hall says; “If you haven’t been before, it really is a fantastic and engaging learning environment which teaches valuable life skills.”

“We have had a brilliant response from schools who have visited so far (thank-you) but unfortunately there are others in the county who haven’t been or may not have heard of us. We want to spread the word about what a wonderful resource SkillZONE is to get all schools in Gloucestershire utilising it.”

Queen Margaret Primary School Teacher of Year 6, Daina Kelly, says; “It is a definite must to come again as I think all children would benefit from a visit.”

“The resources are so realistic that the children can realise themselves the situations and it is hard hitting enough for them to remember the lessons.”

The new brochure offers a snapshot of the important safety lessons offered at SkillZONE and the various scenarios including a house, shop, police cell, bus, train and internet cafe.

If you are interested in receiving a brochure please email To book SkillZONE or find out more visit or phone 01452 834150.

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Launch of Year 7 ‘safer choices’ tour

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SkillZONE has developed a new tour designed to teach Year 7 pupils to make safer choices on their school journey and in everyday life which will be launched on Monday, November 18th to coincide with national Road Safety Week.

SkillZONE is a state-of-the-art safety education centre where students make decisions about staying safe. The centre allows classes to experience a range of real scenarios in its life size village such as in a; car, bus, house, shop, alleyway and internet cafe.

The package is aimed at Year 7 pupils as for many this year marks the beginning of their solo journeys to school, whether that is catching a bus, cycling or walking. Its other objective is to enhance students knowledge of Year 7 citizenship curriculum topics such as understanding how laws are made and money is managed.

Part of the 2 hour tour will cover the ‘Tune in to Road Safety’ national theme for 2013 so that groups will learn that while daydreaming and get sidetracked is human nature, on the road distractions can be fatal. As part of this pupils will be taught about catching a bus or travelling in a car safely and will be asked to think about common distractions, such as listening to music or using a phone while on their school journey.

The topics included from the Year 7 citizenship programme include;

  • developing an understanding of the role of the law and justice system – using SkillZONE’s own Police Station and Court Room
  • learning about managing money on a day to day basis with practical experience in SkillZONE’s shop and;
  •  discussions about the roles played by public institutions and voluntary groups in society.

Any teaching staff of Year 7 pupils, whether curriculum Leads, PSHE coordinators or teachers, are invited to a free prepratory tour of SkillZONE during Road Safety Week (November 18th – 21st) on Monday, Tuesday or Thursday morning.

The 2 hour tour costs £5 per pupils if coming with a school group and a total of nine scenarios will be on offer. To book or find out more information visit  or phone 01452 834 150.

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A spooktastic time at SkillZONE Halloween event

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Witches, devils, spiders and baby pumpkins were just some of the costumed youngsters who turned up for SkillZONE’s Halloween Open Days on October 30th and 31st.

SkillZONE, which opened just over a year ago, is an educational centre that teaches children, young people and the greater community to recognise dangerous situations in everyday life so they can stay safe.

Around 120 people came to the Halloween open days on Wednesday and Thursday and took part in short tours of the centre’s life size village.

Local families were able to learn more about fire safety at Halloween with Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue crews running fire truck demonstrations over the two day event.

SkillZONE Manager Donna Potts says: “It’s our first time running a Halloween event and we’ve been pleased with the feedback we had from visitors. The kids Halloween outfits have been wonderful and it’s been lovely to see them enjoying SkillZONE and taking in the important safety messages we teach on our tours.”

Children had the chance to play Halloween games, get their face painted, watch fire truck demonstrations and listen to spooky stories.

Oliver Bond, 5, of Quedgeley, (pictured left) won a prize for his skeleton pirate outfit.  He says: “I was happy to win. I liked putting my hand in the spaghetti game the best and the scary story.”

Local volunteers helped run the open days for SkillZONE and local businesses; Fosterplus, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury, Morrisons and the Over Farm Market donated treats, pumpkins and prizes.

“A special thanks also to young Jack and Chloe Hughes who helped with putting up the Halloween decorations.”


Pictures : Main image shows Halloween kids, from left: Sophie Lewis, 9, Jack Gardner, 6, Sophie Orton, 7, Kate Gardner, 9, and Spencer Lewis, 6. On right is Kate Gardner, 9, with her prize winning pumpkin.




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