3 students’ journey to work placement, employment and beyond!

Here are the stories of 3 students from Heart of Birmingham Vocational College who broke barriers, accomplished milestones and developed excellent communication, confidence and employment skills throughout their placements.

Sharfin Hussain – Edgbaston Priory Club

Student on ork experience painting a rail
Sharfin during work experience

Sharfin has worked at this placement for over 2 years. He works with the Grounds Staff, conducting various manual and physical duties, such as weeding, planting trees and shrubs, painting and staining outdoor furniture, litter picking, etc.  Sharfin has been hand-picked by the Club Staff to be considered for a Supported Internship going into September 2018.  The Club can see potential in him as a future employee, and an exemplar for other people with learning difficulties.  Sharfin is a pre-entry learner who, at this stage, cannot read or write.  The Club do not see Sharfin’s lack of literacy and numeracy ability as a barrier to achieving within the workplace.

Farjana Begum – Maple Dene Care Home

After being seen as someone who is extremely difficult to find a work placement for, Farjana has excelled within a local Care Home setting.  She started in late May 2018, and has not looked back.  Farjana helps set tables for lunch times, by correctly using appropriate cutlery, serviettes and plates, and also conducting any other manual tasks asked of her.  She loves this placement.  Moreover, the Care Home residents love Farjana’s enthusiasm and fun-filled personality.  With the support of her Social Worker, this placement will continue from September 2018.

student on work experience talking to a colleague
Joshua talking with a colleague during placement

Joshua Raj – PohWer

Josh is a very literate and numerate learner, who was diagnosed quite late with his autism.  He tried various placements throughout his stay with HBVC.  However, none of these ever took his imagination.  Then, Josh was highlighted as the ideal person to continue the College’s great work with PohWer, the advocacy organisation for people with disabilities and learning difficulties.  Having already placed a learner with PohWer in 2016/17, who later obtained paid employment with them, Josh also began in a voluntary administration role.  He input advocacy applications onto a bespoke computer package, and handled other associated clerical duties.  Thanks to his hard work, Josh too will be in paid employment with PohWer from July 2018.

Oliver’s story: Exceeding expectations

Student on work experience
Oliver during work experience

Oliver has exceeded all expectations since starting this Pathway. He started at Landmarks in September 2017 after six weeks of transitions from school. Oliver found his last year at school difficult, becoming anxious and disengaged, resulting in his placement breaking down.

Since starting at Landmarks Oliver has gone from strength to strength, settling in really well and managing his anxieties whilst engaging in a varied timetable. In order to stretch his educational progress even further, Oliver moved onto a Further Education Pathway to ensure his time at college is suitably challenging.

His Tutor says “Oliver has really progressed in all areas since joining Landmarks and it’s clear that he really enjoys coming here. He is always willing to try anything and always engages in every activity. Oliver has grown in confidence and has learned lots of new skills in areas such as personal safety, communication and independence skills.”

Oliver has now expressed his interest in work experience and as a result of this he will soon begin a placement at our Hospitality and Catering provision, The Archer.

Liam’s journey: digging his way to success!

student doing horticultural work experience
Liam during his work experience programme

Liam is currently in his second year at Landmarks College. In his first year Liam was on The Further Education Pathway and was reluctant to communicate with staff or peers, as he was very shy. Throughout his first year Liam worked on increasing his independence and developing his communication skills.

Liam participated in work experience which gave him opportunities to increase his knowledge of vocational areas and develop his social, independence and communication skills. Liam had a keen interest in horticulture and in this area,  it was clear he had more confidence and was keen to learn.

In his second year Liam has begun a Supported Internship at Creswell Crags supporting the grounds team to look after the large site. Liam has continued to develop his communication and independence skills through his Internship and his confidence has increased significantly. Liam is learning to travel independently to his placement with support from his Job Coach and is now able to do the journey with minimal support.

Liam has participated in a wide variety of horticulture and grounds maintenance tasks and regularly completes tasks such as litter picking and tree pruning independently. When Liam’s programme ends in July he will continue his work at Creswell Crags as a volunteer.

His Job Coach says “Liam has become a great help at the Crags in helping Jim keep on top of jobs, mainly in the upkeep and the appearance that Crags prides itself on. Liam has learnt a number of tasks, that he is able to do independently thus freeing up Jim to start on other projects.”


Natspec Network: June Highlights

Natspec Network is a monthly round up of all the great news stories happening in the FE sector, focussing on the accomplishments and success of providers that work with learners with SEND.

As we begin to near the end of the academic calendar, many Natspec colleges and stakeholders are running their end-of-year summer initiatives, whether that’s awareness weeks, projects and services to assist in learner development and more. Here are a few of the highlights from this month.

In this article, we’ll be looking at:

  • Hereward College; who have opened an employment hub to support people with disabilities and launched a citywide campaign to encourage considerate parking
  • Orpheus Centre; who ran a successful health and wellbeing campaign
  • Disabled Living; Kidz to Adultz Wales and West exhibition
  • Karten Network Summer 2018 newsletter
Hereward College | Employment Hub and Pavement Parking campaign

A new employment hub has been launched to help young people with disabilities gain employment in Coventry and Warwickshire.

Representatives from around 60 businesses, schools and local authorities attended the launch event to hear more about its work with employers to bridge the disability employment gap.

The Employment Hub at Hereward College will help young people to source work placements, skills training, support in the workplace, money management advice and training, benefit advice and travel training.

It will also support employers with disability awareness training, analysing and adapting job roles and promoting good employment practice.

The employment hub workers standing outside their building
The employment hub team

Citywide pavement parking campaign launched at Hereward College

Students at Hereward College officially launched a citywide poster campaign at an event attended by local councillors, local authority representatives and sponsors.

Deputy Lord Mayor, Linda Bigham presented awards to the competition winners whose posters will be displayed in public places across the city, with the aim of making people think twice before parking their cars inconsiderately.

Hereward is a college for young people with disabilities and additional needs, which provides its learners with a curriculum that focuses on skills for independent living and employment.

A group of students from the college decided to run a competition to encourage young people and children to design a poster highlighting the difficulties that pedestrians have when motorists park on the pavement without leaving room for wheelchair users and people using pushchairs.

The Hereward College pavement parking steering group chose the three winners from local schools and colleges.

The students said as part of their presentation:

“Inconsiderate parking is a city-wide problem and we want this campaign to help raise awareness, and make people think about the impact of parking their car on the pavements.

“It’s a problem that affects everyone – from blind people, people who use wheelchairs, parents pushing buggies or anyone who just wants to walk from A to B safely.”

Deputy Lord Mayor, Linda Bigham said:

“It’s a problem that affects so many people that I know, whether they are a wheelchair user or have a pushchair. Through working on this campaign, the Hereward students have developed democratic life skills and demonstrated the benefits of collective action. They can now see the positive impact this will have on the lives of Coventry people.”

The students have also produced two videos about the issue.

Students holding their artwork for the pavement parking campaign
Students part of the pavement parking campaign


The Orpheus Centre | Wellbeing Week

“People with learning disabilities demonstrate the complete spectrum of mental health difficulties, with higher prevalence than found in those without learning disabilities.”

(Source: Mental Health Nursing of Adults with Learning Disabilities)

The promotion of positive mental wellbeing is currently being reviewed in education as a result of the recent publication of the Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision: a Green Paper, with calling out for a ‘Happiness Ofsted’, it’s certainly a developing and exciting area of educational reform.

Remaining truthful to our core values of quality, inclusion and innovation, The Orpheus Centre’s Learning Team decided to put on a Wellbeing Week that would aid the development of positive wellbeing strategies for all of our learners.  In an exciting departure from our usual ‘produce-a-show-in-a-week’ intensive weeks, we chose to develop learning programmes for a ‘non-intensive week’ which would include internal and external practitioners/therapists delivering sessions on: mindfulness, yoga, aromatherapy, healthy cooking, cinema therapy, sound baths, art & music therapy, and a whole range of other activities.  These activities exposed learners to opportunities they may not have otherwise have experienced, so that these could be reflected upon and, if necessary, built into individual Wellbeing Plans.

The week culminated with a Wellbeing Fair to showcase, promote and celebrate a range of resources and techniques which had developed physical and mental health within our learners.

Find out more about the Orpheus Wellbeing week by watching the videos below or emailing enquiries@orpheus.org.uk

Video 1

Visit from a PAT Dog (Pets As Therapy) – Learning about how pets can be therapeutic.

Alive With Flavour – Healthy breakfast foods and snacks.

Laughter Therapy – Laughing as stress relief.

Supporting Good Listening – How to support others and be a good listener.

Craft Workshop – Creating artefacts to promote concentration and wellbeing.

Meditation Sessions – Promoting quiet time with thoughts.

Party Dance – Using dance movements to promote happiness.

Video 2

Mindfulness – With experienced practitioner Teresa Gain.

Vegetable Gardening – Exploring how gardening skills can promote wellbeing.

Sports – Taking part in team activities and building relationships through physical activities.

Sound Bath – Exploring sound as a sensory, healing practice.

Hand Massage – Learning how to give a hand massage which relaxes and reduces anxiety.

Aromatherapy – How essential oils can promote health and wellbeing.

Pilates – Developing core strength and physical flexibility.

Video 3

Singing & Movement – Promoting wellbeing through singing as a group.

Love Rocks – Creating art on rock-canvases and sharing them with the world.

Mindful Movement – Learning how nature can inspire movement and dance.

Crochet & Pom Pom Making – Using knitting techniques to focus attention and create artefacts.

Art Therapy – Self-expression through artistic techniques.

Cinema Therapy – Self-reflection and connection as a result of film viewing and discussions.


Kids to Adultz Wales & West

The biggest free exhibition for people with disabilities is taking place in Bristol this year and is open to children and young adults, families and professional carers. The event will be filled with exhibitors to provide advice and guidance on equipment, products, funding, services and more. In addition, professional guardians, carers and tutors can access free accredited CPD seminars on the day covering a range of issues and topics on SEND legislation, best practise and guidance.

The event will be taking place on Thursday 5th July 2018 from 9am – 4.30pm.

Location: Thornbury Leisure Centre, Bristol, BS35 3JB

Kidz to Adultz Wales and West leaflet for exhibition
Kidz to Adultz Wales and West poster


Karten Network Summer 2018 newsletter

The Karten Network supports organisations that work with people with disabilities who use assistive technology to communicate. The Ian Karten Charitable Trust is a grant-making trust that devotes substantial resources to establishing computer-aided vocational training, education and communication (CTEC Centres) to help transform the lives of disabled people. They have recently shared their Summer 2018 newsletter highlighting stories, technology updates and information and case studies from the past few months.

You can read the entire newsletter here.

Learning Disability Week 2018: Highlights

Last week, hundreds of organisations in the educational, non-profit and health sector across the country showed their support for Learning Disability week 2018 from 18 – 24 June.

The week was led by Mencap; a national organisation and the leading voice of learning disability.

This year the focus for Learning Disability week 2018 is about health with a primary focus on Mencap’s Treat Me Well campaign. By making changes in the way healthcare is delivered and communicated, significant improvements in the way care is delivered to patients with learning disabilities and lead to life-saving care and treatment.

The campaign involved calling upon NHS staff to listen to people with learning disabilities about how they can improve the quality of healthcare they receive. In a powerful video produced by Mencap, it was uncovered that 1200 people with learning disabilities die avoidably each year – much to the surprise of the hospital workers they were interviewing in the video. 1200 people a year equates to 21 people a week and 3 people a day; these numbers should make us feel uncomfortable.

Two thirds of health care professionals want more training on learning disability – this can help improve outcomes in patients and ultimately lead to a better and more effective healthcare service to patients with learning disabilities.

Foxes Academy, a Natspec college that participated in the awareness week ran several initiatives and workshops on health and wellness for students to learn and express their thoughts about important issues like relationships, sex and health to name a few.

Here at Natspec, we’re pleased that the conversation around improving health outcomes in people with learning disabilities is becoming a significant topic within mainstream media. This leads to meaningful changes in the lives of people, especially young people with learning disabilities who communicate differently than many health care professionals are used to.

To finish off, we’d like to share Angela’s story – a mum, whose son was unable to express his discomfort, pain and anxiousness the way other children do and the impact this had on his health.

If you want to follow the campaign in more detail, visit the Mencap website here.

Natspec events announcement: 2018

We’re pleased to announce our latest events for 2018 for FE providers. This includes a new event for recently formed specialist post-16 institutions to learn how to navigate the often confusing and unclear path to successfully establishing  specialist education provision.

In addition, we’re running our TechAbility 2018 conference for all providers across FE who wish to update their knowledge and share best practice information in delivering assistive technology solutions for SEND students.


Post-16 specialist education: essential information for new providers

Have you recently opened new education provision for post-16 or post-19 students with SEND? Or are you thinking of opening a new specialist post-16 institution, funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency?

Entering the FE sector is not straightforward: attend this event to find out common pitfalls and hear what others have learnt about effective transition, curriculum planning, costings, staffing, reporting, contracts, partnerships and more

“I never realised how much I didn’t know about specialist FE provision – I’ve learnt so much” – Sarah Jones, Willow Tree Centre

“Becoming a college changed our whole perspective and culture.” – Therese Timberlake, ROC College; Part of United Response, Devon

26 September | Manchester | Book here 

29 November | London | Book here.

Professionals sat around a table sharing best practise

TechAbility conference 2018

TechAbility presents a conference for all who wish to improve and expand Assistive Technology provision for their learners. This one-day conference is focussed on increasing skills and knowledge in assessment and AT practice across the FE sector.  Designed to enable leaders, managers and practitioners to choose the right solutions for learners, helping them to access the curriculum or workplace to deliver positive education and training outcomes.

16 October | Birmingham | Learn more and book your place here

2017 TechAbility Conference
Delegates at the 2017 TechAbility conference discussing best practise.


Natspec Games 2018

The 2018 Natspec Games have proven to be a resounding success after welcoming more than 270 learners and 29 specialist colleges for the inter-college inclusive sporting event.

The games were held by host colleges including: the Royal National College for the Blind (RNC) in Hereford, Communication Specialist College Doncaster, Havant & South Downs College and Sportcity in Manchester organised by Seashell Trust.

Students warming up and participating in activity at the 2018 Natspec Games in Havant & South Downs College.
Students warming up and participating in activity at the 2018 Natspec Games in Havant & South Downs College.

The games took place between the 9th and 25th May 2018, bringing together local colleges and learners with a range of abilities to participate in inclusive sport and try new experiences. The activities were diverse and suitable for each learner and included boccia, shotput, athletics, tennis, cycling, archery and football to name a few.

Group photo of participating colleges and students at the Natspec 2018 Doncaster Games.
Group photo of participating colleges and students at the Natspec 2018 Doncaster Games.

The events received praise from learners, volunteers and teachers alike. Dan Stephen, a lecturer at Linkage commented that the games put the learners through their paces and provided a healthy challenge. As we approached him, his students were playing football and he said it was great they were able to utilise the space and facilities at Doncaster, which were larger and able to accommodate a wide range of users.

Students playing football at the Doncaster games.
Students playing football at the Doncaster games.

Stacey Betts, Assistant Principal at Communication Specialist College Doncaster, one of the host colleges for the 2018 Natspec Games, commented, ‘It’s about an opportunity to come together – it doesn’t matter what disability the learner may have, they can partake in each activity. It’s inspiring to see learners take part in sports that they otherwise might not have done so and encourages healthy competition!’

Lauren, a teacher at Seashells Trust also weighed in, ‘It brings a lot of value to our learners with Autism. It helps them with socialising and gets all students involved and is really accessible – all the students love it’.

The Natspec Games is in its third year and is a national tournament offering students with a range of disabilities and learning difficulties the same opportunities as everyone else: to get involved in sports.

Group photo of participating colleges and students at the 2018 Natspec Games in Hereford at the Royal National College for the Blind (RNC).
Group photo of participating colleges and students at the 2018 Natspec Games in Hereford at the Royal National College for the Blind (RNC).

Clare Howard, Natspec CEO said, ‘We’ve received lots of positive feedback from learners and tutors about how the games have impacted learners and encouraged team-work, competition, and improved confidence. In addition, it’s provided them with an opportunity not usually presented to learners with disabilities and ensures that they can have the same social and educational experience as their peers. We’re pleased to have closed another successful year of the games and look forward to the 2019 tournament and offer more colleges and learners the opportunity to take part in inclusive sport.’