Natspec Response to Government’s new major review of SEND provision

Today, the Government announced a new review into support for children with special educational needs and disabilities. It follows last week’s announcement of £700 million for learners with SEND, and the Department for Education say it “will look at the how the system has evolved since [the introduction of the Children and Families Act 2014], how it can be made to work best for all families and ensure quality of provision is the same across the country.”

Natspec’s chief executive, Clare Howard, said:

“We agree that there is an urgent need to improve the system. In its announcement, the government has identified some of the critical issues to be addressed. However, much evidence on what is going wrong has already been gathered, most recently through the Department for Education’s call for evidence on funding for SEND, the Education Select Committee’s Special Educational Needs inquiry and by Edward Timpson’s exclusions review. We would urge the government to focus its energies on resolving the issues already identified; the time and expertise of the sector would be far more profitably used in this way.

In particular, we would advise that the legislation underpinning the SEND reforms is widely accepted as appropriate. The failings relate to making the system work in practice. We need to find ways to ensure the system can deliver on the good intentions of the reforms. And it’s not going to be able to do that without significant additional funding beyond the £700 million already announced, particularly for the post-16 age group.

We are pleased to see that the government intends to explore how to achieve ‘the right balance of state-funded provision across inclusive mainstream and specialist places.’ The continued commitment to public funding of specialist places within the wider provision for students with SEND is welcome. Natspec and its members look forward to working with the government to clarify the place of specialist providers, develop mainstream-specialist partnerships and help resolve the issue of providing quality provision for the highly specialised services that are not cost-effective to provide in every local area.”

Natspec Response to School & College Funding Increase

On 31 August, Sajid Javid, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced he will be investing £400 million in education for 16 to 19-year-olds. An additional £700 million has also been promised as part of the schools’ budget for pupils with SEND.

Clare Howard, Natspec Chief Executive, said:

“Natspec welcomes the government announcement of an additional £400 million in funding for Further Education, the first meaningful investment in FE for more than ten years. Although the funding increase is long overdue, we are delighted that the government has responded to the views of college staff, students and stakeholders. The additional funding, however, will only go part-way to providing the investment the sector needs and further investments and funding increases will be required for colleges to provide the very best education and training for young people.

£190 million of the promised amount will go towards increasing the core funding rate for 16-18 year-old students, including those with SEND. The majority of the remainder of the funding is earmarked for T levels and STEM subjects at higher levels. We recognise that colleges play a vital role in delivering vocational education and training at level 3 and above. However, they also provide valuable opportunities for young people working at level 2 and below, including those with SEND, to acquire the skills and qualifications they need to gain employment, become active and responsible citizens, and lead fulfilling adult lives. This provision also requires increased funding.

We await further specifics of SEND funding. The £700 million announced as part of the schools’ budget is much needed. However, it will not address the serious funding crisis currently facing the sector. The Education Select Committee’s recent report forecasts a £1.2 billion deficit in High Needs funding in 2020-21.

The new funding must be combined with invest to save measures and actions to reduce the bureaucracy of the current funding system. Natspec awaits the outcomes of the recent DfE consultation on the SEND funding system which we hope will be similarly positive.

We will continue to work with our partners in the sector to push for a longer-term commitment to both FE and High Needs funding. This is required in order for all students with SEND to reach their potential.”

Sam’s story: building confidence through a love of animals

Sam started at Landmarks in September 2017, where he studied Animal Care for his first year. In Sam’s second year he continued his studies in Animal Care at Floralands Farm Park and at the RSPCA, all of which he has enjoyed doing.

Over the last two years Sam has built up his skills when working with animals. He is now able to complete most of the jobs given independently. If it’s a new job he has built up the skills and confidence to ask for help if needed. His work experience co-workers can give him a list of jobs to get done and he can complete it with minimal support. Both Floralands and the RSPCA have complimented Sam on how hardworking he is and how well he works with the animals. Sam is currently working hard to finish his Skills For Working Life animal care entry level 3 qualification.

Since starting Landmarks, Sam’s communication skills have improved massively. Initially, he would say very little here and there. Now, he is initiating conversation with other staff, learners and his work placement staff. He will tell jokes, talk openly about various topics and he will also join in on group discussions by telling others his thoughts and opinions. It has been wonderful to see how well Sam has improved in confidence with communicating with new people. This improved communication has aided him at his two work placements as he is able to build up relationships with his co-workers.

Sam has always loved working with animals. It is often said about him from people that support Sam “that he has a calming affect around animals”.

Sam filling a hutch with hay

Sam has progressed so well at the RSPCA that they’ve offered him a voluntary placement. He’ll start this in September 2019 after his pathway has completed at Landmarks. His Personal Assistant will support him in this role. She has already supported Sam via respite care, so they are already familiar with one another. This will be funded through Sam’s Direct Payments.

Once Sam has completed his education at Landmarks he is really keen to ensure he is engaging in meaningful activities during the week. There’s also hope a further voluntary placement can be secured at Stonebridge City Farm, as Sam is familiar with the site having attended work experience there previously.

Natspec Games 2019 – Yorkshire and Humber

The Natspec Games is a national sports competition that aims to provide inclusive sporting opportunities for young people with SEND. It is run in partnership with AoC Sport and is supported by Sport England. 2019 marks the fourth time the Natspec Games has run, this time in five different locations.

Yorkshire and Humber Games

serving a tennis ballThe fourth event in the Natspec Games 2019 calendar took place on a day with blue skies and sunshine, heralding a day full of success.

Communication Specialist College Doncaster (CSCD) tutor John Nugent and his team oversaw the day’s events. Joining them was Natspec Games co-ordinator Shannon Howarth from AoC Sport. Everyone expected a high turnout.

With a wide range of activities available, the day promised to be a fast-paced roller coaster of fun. Representatives from 8 colleges across the region participated in the event, including: Camphill College, Linkage College, Landmarks College, Portland College, Homefield College, Henshaws College, John Leggott College, and the host college CSCD.

Tutors and support staff from the host college were on hand to ensure all ran smoothly. So were 16 volunteer sports students from New College, Pontefract. Proceedings got off to a relaxed start with an enthusiastic team talk. The simple instruction was to ‘enjoy the day, encourage the participants not to worry, and not to focus too much on competition, just have fun!’

A student cyclingAs is traditional with each venue, a host of activities was available. Favourites such as Tennis, Boccia, Football, Cycling, and Curling all proved popular. There were also new offerings of Mini Athletics, Volleyball and Military Training.

Everyone enjoyed the variety of activities on offer at CSCD. As was the case with the other Natspec Games 2019 venues, there’s always a clear favourite. Here, Military Training captured the imagination and excitement of the students. Lead by ex-soldier Aaron Leggett and his young team of military tutors, the aim was to improve the QPD (Quality Personal Development) of students. They did this by offering a range of replicated army training to inspire, build confidence and challenge individuals to try something new. The enthusiasm to participate was infectious! The delight and determination of the students was evident. Fuelled by the encouragement and praise of young tutors, all enjoyed themselves.

Football skills and volleyball ensured that the team spirit and camaraderie shone through. There was a non-competitive focus to the day. But a little bit of competition boosted the element of excitement for the students.

One of the highlights of the day was the unique opportunity for a bird’s eye photo. All the students gathered together on the tennis courts to be photographed from the unique vantage point of the sports hall balcony.

Large group of students cheeringIt was yet another successful sunny day. Tired yet happy students headed home with medals in hand. All thanks to CSCD who supplied an exceptionally well thought out and inclusive day.

Read more about the Natspec Games 2019:

Natspec Games 2019 – South West
Natspec Games 2019 – North West

Tay’s Story: Finding Retail Success

Tay scanning clothing Tay has been working extremely hard on her world of work journey this year at Fairfield Farm College. Tay works at Tesco Express Westbury Leigh on Mondays and Tesco Extra in Trowbridge on Tuesdays.

At Tesco Extra Tay works in the clothes section sorting out clothing sizes and putting clothes out on display. Tay also used the stock gun to scan items that need to go out onto the shop floor.

Whilst at Tesco Express Tay does such tasks as tagging where she puts security labels onto more expensive items and also sorts out the stock cages and helps to stock the shelves.

Tay really likes working in retail and wants to work in a supermarket in her home town when she finishes Fairfield Farm College. Tesco have been amazing supporting our students on work placements.

Tay arranging a display of shoes

Charlie’s story: from college to paid employment

Charlie sitting at his desk at workFormer Queen Alexandra College (QAC) student Charlie has entered paid employment with The Albion Foundation – the charity of West Bromwich Albion Football Club.

Charlie really enjoyed his time at QAC and successfully completed a BTEC Level 2 in Sport. The College provided the structure that he needed and offered him the opportunity to complete an external work placement with The Albion Foundation during his first year.

Initially the work placement was over a four week period, but it went so well it became ongoing during Charlie’s time at College with staff supporting him. With the help of QAC he was able to fulfil his long-term goal of securing paid employment.

Charlie commented: “I love my job, the responsibility and various tasks that I have to complete. I have also recently passed my driving test; I can now drive into work independently using my own car!”

Lewis’s story: specialist provision allows him to thrive

Prior to coming to Landmarks College Lewis attended mainstream colleges, where his motivation was limited, and he did not make the expected level of progression and his placement finished.

Lewis preparing a burger in the pub kitchenLewis joined Landmarks in September 2018 and enrolled onto their Employability Pathway based at The Archer, which is a full working pub staffed by people with learning disabilities. His Pathway was particularly geared towards preparing him for a career working in a bar and kitchen of a public house. After his baseline assessment we agreed a clear pathway to success, in so much that Lewis needed to work to develop his functional English and mathematics skills, so that he could write down food orders legibly and navigate the menu timings when cooking food for customers, by gaining a greater understanding of time, measurements and fundamental cookery skills.

Lewis has the desire to work within the kitchen section of a pub/bar, he has a natural ‘can do’ attitude, willingness to work with others and exudes passion and a real desire to get a paid job. This disposition has developed over his time at The Archer, with Lewis developing an understanding of banter, learning to take constructive criticism and recognising what steps he needed to take to improve his performance. Initially Lewis would struggle to take on comments about his performance, focussed on the negatives and couldn’t easily identify the steps needed to overcome and improve his performance.

Lewis is now one of the more confident team members and is routinely taking orders from customers, serving drinks and making food with reducing levels of support as his confidence and competence continues to improve.

Because of all his hard work, Lewis is on track to achieve an Award in Hospitality and Catering, as well as improving his level in mathematics and English, which are so crucial to maintaining future employment.

Lewis’ progress has been such that he is now accessing an external placement one day a week in a pub close to where he lives, where if successful, could lead to supported or independent paid employment.

His tutor says “Lewis has done exceptionally well, improved in many areas and is working hard to further develop his numeracy and English skills in the work environment. He is eager to secure paid employment and has the right attitude. I am confident with this continued determination, Lewis will be successful in this area of work.

You can watch Lewis demonstrate his skills in the following video shot at The Archer.

Celebrating success: Natspec Highlights July 2019

It’s the end of the academic year for our colleges! As staff and students hopefully have a chance to catch their breath and enjoy the summer, we’re here to round up the highlights from the specialist sector.

Students have been celebrating their achievements, winning awards and fundraising for their colleges – a perfect way to top an incredible year of achievements.

Congratulations to all students who have graduated and are moving on to pastures new. From all of us here at Natspec, we wish you luck in the next stage of your lives.

  1. RNIB College recognises outstanding local employers
  2. Fairfield Farm College student Harry wins sporting award
  3. Homefield college celebrates learning disability week with inclusive sports event
  4. Derwen College students complete Mack’s Challenge
  5. Lost Boy and the Canterbury Tales performances at Orpheus
  6. Catcote Academy features on ITV’s This Morning
  7. QAC welcomed Paul Faulkner and Alison Hammond to open its annual Summer Games!
  8. Student Success Stories
  9. Derwen Skills Competition
  10. Natspec welcomes new ministers

RNIB College recognises outstanding local employers

Staff at Fearon celebrate being awarded their certificateStudents at RNIB College Loughborough spent the last few weeks of term thanking the supportive local businesses that the college has partnered with over the last academic year.

64 RNIB College students have undertaken an external work placement or internship since September 2018. These are an excellent opportunity for them to continue to develop the key skills they learn while at college. This year’s work placements have varied from catering in Loughborough University’s Halls of Residence, to local community projects and work experience in charity shops.

To say thank you to all of the employers who have supported them each year, RNIB College Loughborough run the Employer Recognition Awards at the end of the summer term. During this time, students hand-deliver certificates to employers, while a few receive a special award for their support.

This year, Tesco (The Rushes) received the Debut Award for an excellent first year of partnering with the college. The Outstanding Employer Award has been awarded to Loughborough University, who provided a number of opportunities for students this year. The college hopes to progress the relationship with them further in the year to come.

And finally the most prestigious Award, The Special Recognition Award, was handed to Fearon Community Association for their continued support of RNIB students in the community.


Fairfield Farm College student Harry wins sporting award

Harry smiling with his awardHarry Humphries, a student at Fairfield Farm College, is celebrating a massive achievement as he achieves the accolade of Young Individual Sportsperson from the 2019 Westbury Young People Awards. Harry started his swimming success story in April 2017 where he was spotted at a gala in Southampton specifically for people with Downs Syndrome. From that point, he has been travelling across the world from Canada to Kosovo, taking part in competitions and also representing Team GB.

The award was presented at the awards ceremony at Matravers School on Wednesday 19 June, where the prize was jointly awarded. This was the first time there were 2 winners of this category, due to the phenomenal talent of the 7 young people nominated. Harry was extremely pleased to receive his trophy, with students and parents all in attendance for support and to celebrate his achievement.

Harry joined Fairfield Farm College, Dilton Marsh in September 2018 as a residential student. Harry joined Warminster Swimming Club, near the College, so that he could increase his training to include an early swim and a one to one evening session with his coach.

As well as attending college full-time, undertaking training for work and independence as a young adult, he is also swimming 5-days per week and competing in various competitions and galas across the globe. He continues to beat his personal best records, regularly winning gold, silver and bronze medals. Harry is focusing on his future and is currently training to qualify for the next Downs Syndrome European Championships in Sardinia in September this year.


Homefield college celebrates learning disability week with inclusive sports event

Students from Homefield College took part in an inclusive sporting event organised by Mencap and Leicester City Football Club Community Trust exclusively for the College as part of Learning Disability Week 2019.

On Friday 21 June, students spent the day at Sileby Town Football Club to learn about Mencap’s ‘Round The World Challenge’, a programme to help people with learning disabilities get involved in sport supported by Sport England and the National Lottery, and practice their football skills with Inclusion Coach Sarah Jones from Leicester City Football Club.

Students celebrating on a field in football kit
Homefield College students celebrate LD week with Mencap – Eliot Owens

This year’s Learning Disability Week focused on the theme of sports and inclusion; taking part in a sport can be a great way to tackle isolation that people with learning disabilities experience, as well as helping them keep an active lifestyle and improving communication and team-working skills.

Jon Stonebridge, Mencap’s Round the World Challenge Project Manager for Loughborough, said: “We know that people with a learning disability can face barriers to getting involved in sport, this project is helping to break down the barriers and empower people with a learning disability to lead a healthy and active life.

“We also know that taking part in sport helps people with a learning disability feel more confident, healthy and a part of their community. We hope that all of the students at Homefield College had fun, developed their football skills and now feel more confident in accessing local sports facilities to make taking part in sport a key part of their life.”

Overall, students and staff had a great day, learning new football skills and keeping active for the afternoon.

Abstract art on display at a gallery

Students at Homefield College also held an art exhibition at Loughborough University. Work included woodwork, floristry, jewellery and mixed media, showcasing the wide range of student talent. The event was a great success, raising £286 to support the College’s Creative Arts and Design programme.


Derwen College students complete Mack’s Challenge

A large group of students with their bicycles

Staff and students from Derwen College have successfully completed a cycle challenge around Lake Vyrnwy to raise funds for the college. The challenge, led by college student Mackenzie Beeson saw students take on the full distance of the Mid Wales beauty spot – a distance of 14 miles.

Steve tries out an adapted bicycleMack and his friend Joe Simpson cycled the lake in adapted bikes and their fellow cyclists used traditional mountain bikes. Derwen College Sports Co-ordinator Steve Evans also cycled the distance in an adapted bike to highlight how tough the challenge was for students with disabilities. Training for the challenge, he said: “These students’ commitment to cycling Lake Vyrnwy has been inspirational. I wanted to understand and highlight the challenge of riding an adapted bike on a long-distance route by trying one out myself. It has taken me out of my comfort zone and given me more of an understanding of how hard Mack is pushing himself for this challenge.”

This is the first time that Derwen College has embarked on a charity event like this – but, spurred on by Mack’s determination to cycle around the lake, the idea soon took flight and eight other students wanted to join. They threw themselves into training and ensuring they had the equipment needed to complete the challenge – bikes, adapted and conventional, supplied by the generous team at Pedal Power in Alyn Waters – as well as fundraising efforts. All in all, they managed to raise £1500 for the college!


Lost Boy and the Canterbury Tales performances at Orpheus

The Orpheus dancers were invited to perform ‘Lost Boy’ at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the Southbank at this year’s U.Dance 2019. The Orpheus dance group created this piece for an inclusive dance research seminar in February 2019 with the ISTD and the University of Bedfordshire (as previously featured in the Natspec Highlights!).

Orpheus’s end of term student production was The Canterbury Tales. Rachel Martin, Curriculum Manager for Performance and Outreach, said: “Geoffrey Chaucer, known as the Father of English Literature, has given us so many laughs and moments of poignancy this year, and has been a font of inspiration for stories, giving us this year’s Summer Production! Always wanting to challenge and stretch ourselves, we decided to stage this production site-specifically, all around the college. This required our audience to be more active, but allowed them in turn to fully immerse themselves in the Middle Ages.

We produced 11 of the 24 stories Chaucer wrote, and worked in varied art forms including tapestry, dance, devised theatre, installation, song and film. The students researched and reinterpreted each story and were able to retell Chaucer’s work in their own way.”

Students and staff in medieval costumes


Catcote Academy features on ITV’s This Morning

Students at Catcote Academy produced a lip dub video to Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’. Produced to raise money for their performing arts department, lead roles were taken by performing arts students across the school and college. The aim of the performing arts programme is to give students opportunities to express themselves and break down the barriers that hold them back.

The video was shared widely and caught the attention of the team at ITV’s This Morning. The school and college was featured live on the show on the 12 July, showcasing the best of specialist provision and how everyone can get involved in performing arts. Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield even had a special surprise for the staff and students as they revealed that the show had put in the money for the funding goal to be met. Currently, they’ve raised over £12,000 to put towards performing arts!


QAC welcomed Paul Faulkner and Alison Hammond to open its annual Summer Games!

QAC were delighted to welcome two very special visitors to open this year’s Summer Games. TV presenter and resident Brummie Alison Hammond along with Chief Executive of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce Paul Faulkner, joined staff and students to say a few words before officially declaring the games open!

Paul Faulkner, Alison Hammond and Bev Jessop
Paul and Alison with QAC principal Bev Jessop

The Summer Games are a brilliant time of the year for all at QAC, bringing everyone together and providing a fun and competitive end to the academic year. This year’s Summer Games theme was ‘Inventors and Inventions’, with each student group picking a famous inventor or invention to research and base their performance/presentation on – some brilliant choices were included, ranging from Nikola Tesla to the vacuum cleaner!

The collaborative effort of everyone at QAC to make the games what they are created a brilliant atmosphere around the College campus which was thoroughly enjoyed by all involved.


Student Success Stories

We’ve been adding to our collection of student success stories! If you’ve got some time, why not read about Tom, who’s secured paid employment as a barman in London following work experience, or Mitchel, who’s combining work with Paralympic training, or the success of three Lukes from Hereward College who have all secured paid employment at Holiday Inn.


Derwen Skills Competition

A student practising cake decoratingDerwen College opens its first series of Skills Live competitions with competitions running between 21-25 October at the college. The competitions are open to young people aged 16-25 years old with SEND who are currently in mainstream or specialist colleges or schools.

The deadline for competition entries is Friday 13 September. Art competition deadlines from 2 August.

The competitions provide an opportunity for young people with SEND to showcase their work skills to a wider audience. It is also a useful introduction to competition and form good preparation for any student to enter the national World Skills UK competition in 2020.


Natspec welcomes new ministers

Natspec has released statements welcoming Gavin Williamson as the new Secretary of State for Education, and Kemi Badenoch as the new Minister for Children and Families. Both face immediate challenges in their new roles.