Natspec Highlights | May 2019

It’s been another busy month for our colleges! At Natspec, we were delighted to see so many colleges and students participate in the Natspec Games over the month – and there’s still the South East Games to get involved with in June.

We’ve got some exciting things to watch in this edition of the Highlights, as students from Catcote Academy have been producing their own cookery show, and RNIB college has been hosting a film festival! Students have also gotten involved with the great outdoors, tackling mountains and canoeing canals to complete expeditions, whilst others have been working out how to use digital technology to express themselves.

Read on for stories about the following:

  1. Catcote Academy launches a second series of cookery programme.
  2. Portland College student Jess wins Emerging Artist Award!
  3. Learners from Eat That Frog get a bite of the digital skills apple!
  4. Cambian Lufton learners tackle the Ten Tors
  5. Learners at Homefield College play at Leicester City FC.
  6. Seòl Trust Open Day: 18 June 2019.
  7. Derwen College Students Going for Gold, Silver and Bronze.
  8. The 2019 Shorties Film Festival at RNIB College.
  9. Talking to Support Staff at Bridge College.
  10. Expanse Learning’s Latest Recruit
  11. Hedleys College students become ambassadors to their favourite football team new social campaign ‘United As One’
  12. Hereward College shortlisted for national award for supported employment work.
  13. Ready, Steady, Cook at Queen Alexandra College
  14. Upcoming Events

Catcote Academy launches a second series of cookery programme

Look out Gordon Ramsay! The students of Catcote Futures College in Hartlepool have their very own weekly cookery programme! The show is called Catcote Cooks and each week the students demonstrate how to make simple, functional snacks and meals to increase independence skills.

Teacher Pete Wells said “I’m thrilled at how excited the students are to be part of the project and, of course, with the progress and skills they have demonstrated. As well as showing their awesome cooking prowess, the students have to be mindful of keeping the audience engaged, which is really important. So, like the very best celebrity chefs, they try to ensure there are no boring silences, which is great for their communication skills.”

The Catcote Cooks crew have a diverse range of needs and the college is keen to highlight the use of assistive technologies to allow all learners to be an integral part of the show. Student and presenter James Dean has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, and his movement limited primarily to his head and thumbs. He not only uses switches to control the kitchen appliances used in the show, but he also composed the theme tune. He said “Using the technology gives me independence and allows me to show the world what I can do!”

New presenter Conor Lambert said “I watched the first episodes of Catcote Cooks during my Easter holidays to give me tips on how to present. I really enjoy doing it, it’s my favourite lesson of the week!”

The web-based series is updated weekly and is in its second season.

Portland College student Jess wins Emerging Artist Award!

Jess with her Be Mighty Be Creative AwardOne of Portland College’s first year learners, Jessica Fisher, last month won an award at the ‘Be Mighty Be Creative Awards 2019’ which were organised by The Mighty Creatives, a Midlands-based charity working with children and young people to provide them with creative opportunities.

Jess was awarded with The Young Emerging Artist Award following her work with a developer of a wheelchair controller through which she can play music. She has performed at the Mansfield Palace Theatre and at the Metronome in Nottingham showcasing this amazing piece of equipment. Jess has also been invited to perform at a BBC Introducing Gig with Dean Jackson on the 27 June.

Jess’s tutor Lianne Worth said: “Jess’s family, myself and her progression tutor, Verity Cartwright, are extremely proud of this achievement and are hopeful that this will lead to further opportunities for Jess in the future.”

Learners from Eat That Frog get a bite of the digital skills apple!

Learners from Eat that Frog display the drawings they've made on iPadsLearners from Eat That Frog’s South Devon centres have been working closely with local Apple representatives to help them make the most of the latest technology. Apple originally approached ETF to offer a training day for staff, who were shown how to use the new iPad Pro to its full potential.

Staff then arranged for a mixed group of digital skills and creative learners to experience this for themselves, giving learners the chance to experiment with a design app called ‘Procreate’. With this application they drew artistic portraits (mostly of their tutor!). After creating their portraits the learners began tinkering around with tools the application had to offer, creating beautiful symmetrical drawings.

The learners all expressed great pleasure in learning how to use their technology better, and said they’d love to explore more in the future, which is great, as Apple are keen to keep collaborating with Eat That Frog throughout the next academic year!

Cambian Lufton learners tackle the Ten Tors

Cambian Lufton students climbing the TorsOn the 10 and 11 May, three Cambian Lufton College learners took part in the Ten Tors Challenge on Dartmoor. The group set up camp on the Friday for the overnight stay and completed their challenge walk on the Saturday. Our college team completed the Jubilee Challenge Route 2 in just over 4 hours and were the first team back.

Learners at Homefield College play at Leicester City FC

A student excited about visiting the King Power stadium

Seven students from Homefield College had the chance to show off their skills at the home of Leicester City Football Club. Gracing King Power Stadium’s hallowed turf, the students participated in a memorable ‘Play on the Pitch’ football tournament.

The team had a fantastic day, playing five separate matches with some difficult opposition. The Homefield students came together with great team spirit and made the most of a very special day.

Seòl Trust Open Day: 18 June 2019

The Seòl Trust buildingRuskin Mill Trust are proud to announce the opening of their latest provision, the Seòl Trust, this Summer 2019. Set in 60 acres of beautiful woodland in East Lothian, this day provision offers people with complex needs, aged 18+ years the opportunity to build self-confidence and improve independence through experiencing meaningful craft, land and practical skills based activities. Progression towards internship, apprentices, employment and accreditations are available through a programme built around the unique Trust method of Practical Skills and Therapeutic Education (PSTE). Pishwanton Wood is a site for environmental education, research and holistic practice, offering opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to renew and deepen their relationship with nature.

Derwen College Students Going for Gold, Silver and Bronze

Derwen College students have faced wet weather, blisters and nights under canvas this month in preparation for challenging Duke of Edinburgh’s (D of E) Awards. A total of 44 students have been training for their Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards on gruelling practice expeditions. Students have covered miles of road, canal and lake in the build up to demanding treks which will see them achieving Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards.

16 Bronze Award students tackled a 5km walk across Pontcysyllte Aqueduct into Chirk in preparation for a two-day expedition around the Chirk area. 22 Silver students spent three days and two nights on a canoeing and camping expedition along the Llangollen canal, completing a gruelling 26 kilometres on the water.

Six students have been working towards the most challenging Gold Award. Students spent five days and four nights at Glan Llyn activity centre on the shores of Lake Bala taking part in a range of outdoor activities and helped instructors deliver activities to school children. They also undertook a four day and three night trek in the Beddgelert area of Snowdonia, walking 10km each day

Steve Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards leader and Sports Coordinator at Derwen College says: “The D of E programme is challenging and gives our students the chance to develop skills for life and work. It promotes independence, pushing young people out of their comfort zone. As well as gaining a nationally recognised award, achievement of the D of E evidences commitment and dedication whilst developing problem solving, independent thinking and leadership attributes; skills that the students can use in other areas of life. It is recognised as the world’s leading youth award and can enhance employment and independence – something we actively promote at Derwen College.”

  • Students setting off on their DoE expedition

The 2019 Shorties Film Festival at RNIB College

A student receives a certificate for participating in the film festivalOn Wednesday 8 May, budding filmmakers, directors and producers came together for the Shorties Film Festival at RNIB College Loughborough.

Following on from the success of last year’s film festival, the 2019 Shorties were held to give students, staff and friends of the College an opportunity to show off their best work in the form of a short film. Entries included a film about staying safe on the internet, short animated movies, an instructional DIY video and an insight into what Darth Vader does on his days off!

The audience enjoyed an independent screening of ten films that had been submitted by staff and students of RNIB College Loughborough, Forest Way School, Homefield College and Gateway College.

The film festival was organised by one of the tutors at RNIB College Loughborough, Anna Janickyj, who said;

“This year we moved from Stop Motion Films to Short Films for the Festival. We had 10 very different and interesting films in different genres. Two of this year’s films are part of a series; one continuing the story of Psycho the Squirrel and the other continuing the ‘How Darth Vader Learned to Love…’ series. We also had a number of documentary films for the first time including a film about how to make a work bench. We received 3 external entries from other colleges and schools, so it was good to see their work. We did, of course, have the odd technical glitch, which was quickly resolved. I was pleased to hand out a Certificate of Participation to each entrant and sell a few DVDs featuring all of this year’s films. I hope that we continue with the Short Film Festival next year, and I would like to see many more external entries”.

You can watch some of this year’s submissions here.

Talking to Support Staff at Bridge College

Jade Cole from Bridge College caught up with two of their support workers to chat about what makes them proud, the highs and lows at Bridge College and what inspires them. Sandi says “it’s about ensuring the students feel like they’re in a safe happy environment so they can do their work.”

Debbie says: “One student stands out for me. When he first arrived at college he was working with three support workers and displaying very challenging behaviours. We’ve worked together as a team and now three years later he can manage his behaviours really well! Currently he doesn’t display any challenging behaviours and that’s because of all the input from the staff team.”

You can read more of the interview here.

Expanse Learning’s Latest Recruit

Student with Molly the therapy dogExpanse Learning recently welcomed a new member to the team in Molly, School’s Therapy Dog. Research shows that therapy dogs have the ability to ‘reduce depression, PTSD symptoms, and anxiety’. Therefore, for a specialist school supporting students with SEND, a therapy dog is the perfect fit.

During an average school day, Molly, who belongs to Expanse Learning’s CEO Tony, sits in class with our students, offering therapeutic respite throughout the day, where needed. During break time the students can interact with her, take her for a walk around the school grounds or even play ball with her.

Molly has been supporting our students-she has been settling anxieties and putting smiles on lots of faces. She brings a real sense of excitement to the school and is proving to be one of the main attractions.

Molly is a lively dog, enjoys all the attention and the time spent with students and is really helping to improve the emotional wellbeing of both students and staff at the school. She is a wonderful asset to our team.

Hedleys College students become ambassadors to their favourite football team new social campaign ‘United As One’

"This is an opportunity for different types of people to come together and enjoy the experience" - Harry"I want all clubs to let people know everyone is welcome with open arms" - EwanNewcastle United Football Club, supported by its own former frontman Shola Ameobi, has recently launched a campaign ‘United As One’. We were thrilled to hear when the club has invited Hedleys College students, who are currently attending work experience at St James Park, to become the campaign ambassadors. Both Ewan and Harry are over the moon to become a part of the campaign that they strongly believe in. United As One’ aims to end discrimination and inequality in football and society and improve social inclusion in the sport by linking the club’s work in the fields of diversity, inclusion and welfare under one banner.

Hereward College shortlisted for national award for supported employment work

Hereward College in Coventry has been shortlisted as a finalist for the ERSA Employability Awards 2019 in the Disability and Health Employment category. Now in its seventh year, the ERSA Employability Awards celebrate best practice across the employment support sector and seek to demonstrate the day-to-day hard work and dedication of those working to improve the lives of jobseekers, communities and the wider workforce.

The college has been shortlisted for the Disability and Health Employment award, which recognises an employment services provider who has demonstrated exceptional commitment in supporting jobseekers with disabilities and health conditions to achieve sustained employment.

Its highly successful supported internship scheme has seen rapid expansion, with over 55% of participating learners achieving sustained employment as a result.

As a successful finalist, Hereward College will attend a special ceremony on 20 June with the Minister for Employment, Alok Sharma MP.

Paul Cook, Principal, Hereward College said:“We are delighted that our work has been shortlisted for this national award. Our Supported Internship model has shown real results and continues to grow year on year, showing demonstrable benefits to both learners and business.”

Ready, Steady, Cook at Queen Alexandra College

Student cooks preparing for competitionAs part of Queen Alexandra College’s ongoing healthy eating project, they invited the School Food Showdown to deliver interactive workshops to students.

Chef Ian explained why breakfast is important, the five food groups and why less healthy food should only be eaten in moderation. The session culminated in two student groups (red and green) competing against each other to produce the best healthy meal. The audience voted on the best dish with their green and red cards.

There were two competing rounds and all the student groups involved tried to produce the winning dish; one of the groups produced a Birmingham Stew which was unknown to the entire audience and unfortunately didn’t end up as the group had intended. Despite this, it was a great morning and the students had lots of fun.

Loosely based on the popular TV show ‘Ready, Steady, Cook!’ students found the workshops exhilarating, fun, highly interactive and educational. Chef Ian offered students advice and guidance throughout and kept the audience entertained and engaged!

Upcoming Events

Students were busy throughout May attending the North-West, Yorkshire and Humber, Midlands and Wales and South West Natspec Games. Still to come is the South East Natspec Games, happening on 20 June in Sussex.

The next meeting of the Student Voice Parliament is also coming up on 11 June at the Seashell Trust in Manchester. It’s been two years since we set up the Student Voice Parliament and it’s exciting to see it go from strength to strength.

Announcing the TechAbility Conference – Raising Standards

At Natspec, we know the impact that technology can have on student’s lives. It’s why we launched the TechAbility service, which aims to support providers to make effective use of assistive technology. The TechAbility Conference, happening on 21 November 2019 in Birmingham, aims to build on this by showcasing good practice and enabling you to raise the standard of assistive technology provision in your organisation.

Fil McIntyre, one of Natspec’s assistive technologists, said: “This conference is focussed on how Assistive Technology can be used to ensure learners reach their goals. All presentations are firmly based on practice and use, no matter what the technology. We are also excited to introduce the TechAbility Standards as a new way for you to measure your Assistive Technology provision”

Bookings for the conference are open now and we hope that as many of you as possible can join us.

group examining a piece of assistive technology

Keynote Speakers

We are delighted to announce Professor Janice Murray, Sal Cooke and Robert McLaren as our keynote speakers for this event.

Janice Murray is a professor at Manchester Metropolitan University, specialising in Augmentative and Alternative Communication. From 2016-2019 Janice was the Chief Investigator on the NIHR funded research project ‘Identifying Appropriate Symbol Communication Aids for Children who are non-speaking: enhancing clinical decision making’.

Sal Cooke is a director of the Karten Network and a council member of the British Assistive Technology Association. Sal has previously worked with the Department for Education and Skills, JISC, and a number of schools and colleges. Currently, Sal is particularly interested in working with specialist colleges.

Robert McLaren is head of the industry technology and innovation team at Policy Connect, a think tank dedicated to improving people’s lives by influencing policy. Policy Connect administer the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology, which aims to facilitate engagement on assistive technology amongst Members of both Houses of Parliament, thereby raising the profile of AT and enabling it to help more people.


Assistive Technologist demonstrating the use of a tabletWe have several informative and educational workshops happening throughout the day that will help enhance your assistive technology provision. A wide variety of topics will be covered, with more workshops to be confirmed shortly. Already confirmed are:

Opportunities for Professional Development in Assistive Technology – Paul Doyle, Access Centre Manager, Hereward College & Matt Daly, Assistive Technologist, Seashell Trust

AT Solutions for People with Visual Impairment – Anna Janickyj, RNIB College

Identifying Appropriate Symbol Communication Aids; presentation of a research project – Janice Murray, Manchester Metropolitan University on behalf of the whole team and project collaborators (Barnsley Assistive Technology Service, the University of Leeds).

What Use is 3D Printing? – Matt Daly, Assistive Technologist, Royal College Seashell Trust

Implementing Assistive Technology: What can Specialist Colleges and General FE Colleges learn from each other? – Rohan Slaughter, Subject Specialist, JISC

Demystifying Switching – Hannah Golding, Assistive Technology Manager, Treloar College

Throughout the Day

All delegates will get the chance to discuss and share their opinions on current topics in assistive technology with our experts, and the day will end with a panel discussion where everyone can get involved.

There will also be lunchtime drop-in sessions and demonstrations, with the chance to get hands on with current assistive technology and see how to use it effectively.

An agenda for the day is now available and we hope to see you there.

Two years of Student Parliament

The Student Voice Parliament is two years old!

In May 2017 Natspec launched the National Student Voice Parliament. The Parliament set out to enable Students from specialist colleges across the country to come together to talk about issues that are important to them. The Parliament members have shared ideas about projects and campaigns within, and external to, their colleges including support to travel more independently by train, pavement parking and issues around ICT.

  • Student sticks post-it note to 'what are you good at?' wall

The Student Voice Parliament has ensured that its members have a forum in which to discuss important matters in ways that are accessible and inclusive. Members have said that they benefit from ‘getting out and about and meeting people from other colleges and hearing their ideas’. Other feedback from members states that they enjoy the ‘chance to talk about things in a way we understand with time to think about our ideas and to work with others in fun ways’.

The Student Voice Parliament meets twice a year and is always well attended. There is a long list of suggestions from the Parliament members for discussion at future events but the meeting in June happening at Seashell Trust in Manchester plans to explore raising awareness of learning difficulties and disabilities with the general public. The day will be an opportunity to work collaboratively and creatively to identify areas where the group may need support and celebrate the things they do more independently.

A further meeting is planned for November at Queen Alexandra College in Birmingham.

Celebrating student voice

A key issue that has previously been discussed at the Student Voice Parliament is Hereward College’s campaign to raise awareness of the problems of pavement parking. The students made it a large campaign, running a competition with local schools and colleges to design posters and launched the campaign at an event attended by local councillors and local authority representatives.

The campaign by students at Hereward College is a great example of the power of student voice. You can see the wide range of activities they undertook in the campaign on their twitter account, and even listen to Joey and Shane, two students who were part of the campaign, be interviewed on BBC Radio Coventry about what they wanted to achieve with the campaign.

Ofsted’s Education Inspection Framework

Natspec has welcomed the publication of Ofsted’s new Education Inspection Framework, in particular the decision to retain the separate high needs judgement in FE and skills inspections, alongside grades for education programmes for young people, apprenticeships and adult learning programmes.

Clare Howard, Natspec chief executive, said “During the consultation process we argued strongly that the separate high needs judgement is a key means of keeping providers focused on meeting the needs of learners with high needs. We are delighted that Ofsted has listened to the case we made, which was supported by many others with an interest in SEND from across the sector. It is right that provision for learners who attract High Needs funding is inspected and graded alongside the other funding streams for young people, apprenticeships and adult learning.

We are equally pleased to see reference to learners with SEND throughout the new inspection framework, demonstrating Ofsted’s commitment to help ensure that young people on SEN support, as well as those with Education, Health and Care Plans, are getting the high quality education and training they deserve, whatever programme they are following.

We also welcome the increased focus on curriculum, the recognition that learner outcomes are about more than qualifications achieved, and the separate treatment of behaviour and attitudes and personal and social development.  We believe that the new inspection framework has the potential to serve learners with SEND well: it should lead to clearer judgements about the quality of provision for learners with SEND, allowing young people and their families to make informed choices between different providers, and support continuous improvement of SEND provision across the sector”.

Ofsted has played an important role in driving up standards in post-16 high needs provision, and the separate high needs grade will mean that they can continue to fulfil this function. Effective inspection of high needs provision will ensure that providers are sufficiently held to account for meeting their statutory duties under the 2014 Children and Families Act. It will ensure that learners and their families, as well as LA commissioners and others, will have important information to support them in making decisions about post-16 options or comparing the quality of provision.

National Numeracy Day 2019

Numbers play a huge part in all of our lives. Being confident with numbers prepares students for life.

At Natspec, we want students at all our colleges to be numbers people. This is why we support National Numeracy Day. Our Maths Week challenge celebrates the work our colleges do with their students, embedding maths skills across the curriculum, enabling them to become confident with numbers.

There are so many daily tasks that involve numbers; we use them every day. Students from The Orpheus Centre have produced the following video, illustrating all the ways numbers are essential to our lives.

During Maths Week, we saw so many different ways students use their maths skills in a variety of creative ways. Within the shortlisted entries we saw students use GPS location to draw shapes, measuring of surfaces, cost calculations, cutting things to the correct size, pattern making, and so much more.

All the ways maths is useful

Creating an organised garden requires a variety of maths skills that you may not have thought about. Students counted and sorted plants into groups to create equalised displays. Beds have to be measured out accurately and divided using fractions to create spaces. And if you’re checking up on the health of your plants, you might want to measure them to see how tall they’ve grown.

Many of our colleges run student enterprise programmes, requiring students to accurately price and cost the things they make. They also help run the shops, which means they have to count out floats and provide members of the public with accurate change for their transactions – a very important task to be accurate in.

two students helping with accounts work
Derwen students help with college accounts

The kitchen is another place where maths skills are on full display. Whether it’s weighing out ingredients, adjusting recipe quantities, or cutting fruit and vegetables in half, maths is constantly required in the kitchen.

We need Maths every day of our lives. Being maths confident enables young people to progress and is such a valuable skill in their journey to independence. We’re proud that all our colleges do such fine work with their students to enable them to be confident and comfortable using maths.

And if you’re looking to be numbers confident, just like our students, take the National Numeracy Challenge.

Work Experience Students at Natspec’s National Conference

Natspec’s National Conference was busier than ever before, with two hundred delegates visiting us over the two days to attend workshops and network. To help us out, we invited six students from RNIB Loughborough and Homefield College for work experience.

Here at Natspec we know how important work experience is to help students thrive and move into employment after college. To help them prepare for the day we invited them to look around the venue beforehand so they could get used to the space and discussed with them which tasks at the conference they felt were of most interest to them.

Student directs delegates at Natspec's National Conference

The students got involved with a wide range of duties. They helped welcome delegates to the conference, giving out directions and information when delegates had questions about where to be. At the lunch break they guided delegates to the seating areas. Throughout the day they were cheerful and welcoming, happy to speak to delegates about their experiences at college and at the Natspec conference.

Laura from RNIB Loughborough said “the whole day was really fun. I really enjoyed working on the reception, greeting people and giving them their lanyards. It gave me confidence to speak to new people which I really enjoyed.” Niah, also from RNIB Loughborough, said “it was really good and a great experience. I really enjoyed helping the delegates with their luggage and showing them where to go, I enjoyed the whole day! The staff were amazing and helpful.”

Work experience students receive their certificatesGina Hufford, Work Placement Officer at RNIB Loughborough said: “The opportunity for our students to work at the Natspec conference was a great experience and they all thoroughly enjoyed it. I felt that each of the students flourished in the roles they were given and it really boosted their confidence as well as giving them the opportunity to see different roles in the work environment that they could possibly do in the future once they leave College.”

Charlotte Dobson, Employability Advisor at Homefield College, commented that “It was a great event, through careful planning it was perfectly executed. The students had the opportunity to speak with delegates about their experience at Homefield College and gain a better understanding of the purpose of a conference and the types of environments they are held in. Also, by highlighting the skills such as communication, organisation and time management they have identified key parts of the role they enjoyed and their strengths during the experience.”

Additionally, students from RNIB Loughborough and Homefield College provided beautiful table decorations for the Tuesday dinner. Homefield College provided a wide range of wonderful flowers that brightened up the tables whilst RNIB Loughborough created artistic sculptural pieces inspired by Natspec’s values. These brightened up the tables and created a wonderful atmosphere for our dinner, making the room look lovely and very special. We are very grateful to all the students who were involved in making the decorations.

Having the students involved in the Conference was a great experience for all of us and Natspec is keen to make sure students are involved in future events.

Read more about Natspec’s National Conference: High Needs High Aspirations:

Government consultation on reviewing SEND funding May 2019

The Department for Education has launched a call for evidence regarding the funding system for children and young people with SEND in schools and colleges. The consultation also covers Alternative Provision. They are looking at how changes could be made to the funding system to ensure that local authorities, schools, colleges and other providers can effectively support young people whilst still ensuring value for money.

The aim of any changes is to ensure the system ”supports decisions being taken centred around the needs of the child or young person, and what provision will best address those needs, rather than principally for administrative or financial reasons.”

DfE is looking for evidence regarding the following three funding areas:

  • funding for pupils with SEND in mainstream schools
  • funding for pupils who need alternative provision or are at risk of exclusion
  • funding for students with SEND in further education.

Additionally, the review looks at early intervention and preparation for adulthood, as well as effective partnerships between the education, health and care sectors.

Natspec will be responding to the consultation, focusing on the system for further education providers and how funding can be better used. We will be working with all Natspec members and colleagues at the Association of Colleges to collect views in relation to the place planning process, relationships and planning with local authorities, and how the existing funding system affects the ability of specialist and mainstream colleges to budget effectively and plan ahead. Although the high needs budget is very stretched, this particular call for evidence will not be looking at increasing the amount of funding within the SEND system; rather it is looking if there is any way to better distribute the funding at existing levels and whether the current funding arrangements promote short-term financially-motivated decision making that isn’t in the best interests of children or young people.

Natspec members and other FE providers will have views on many parts of the consultation document; for example on whether there are “other aspects of the financial arrangements that are acting as a barrier to young people accessing the support they need, regardless of the amount of funding available… whether there are ways in which the operation of the funding system is inhibiting the achievement of good outcomes, adding to the cost pressures on local authorities’ high needs budgets without preparing young people for adulthood.”

Natspec is also involved in the separate consultation, due out in the next few weeks, with the Department for Education regarding the approach to funding of special post-16 institutions and whether this can be improved.

Natspec Highlights | April 2019

It was a busy start to the month as we welcomed over 200 delegates to Natspec’s National Conference for two days of discussion about specialist provision in the further education sector, thinking specifically about having high aspirations for all students. Our colleges have also been busy finishing up Spring Term and thinking ahead to summer.

Nonetheless, they’ve still been up to plenty, with student progress, new projects and partnerships all featured! Read on for news of what they’ve been up to.

  1. Maths Week Winner Announced
  2. Ruskin Mill Trust organises Neurodiversity Conference
  3. Orpheus Centre student participates in professional readings
  4. QAC ArtsFest 2019
  5. Bridge College partnership with Sport England
  6. New College Worcester partners with LEGO in braille bricks project
  7. Landmarks College introduces Wayfinder Recruitment
  8. Learners at Horizons College impress Swindon Town FC
  9. Holiday fun with Short Breaks @ Derwen
  10. Upcoming Events

Maths Week Winner Announced

Chris assembles his kitchen splashbackThis year’s Maths Week competition was won by Chris Sterry from The Mount Camphill Community. Chris made a colourful tiled splashback and showcased the variety of maths skills developed through creative activity, showed an awareness and engagement with the task, and thoroughly enjoying himself!

Ruskin Mill Trust organises Neurodiversity Conference

Ruskin Mill Trust are continuing their partnership with Hay Festival in committing to helping neurodivergent individuals reach their potential and participate fully in their communities.

For the second year running, Ruskin Mill Trust will be present at the Hay Festival on 30 and 31 May hosting a panel discussing what it means to society to be genuinely accepting and inclusive.

This informative event will be followed up by a further two day ‘Living Conference on Neurodiversity’ to be held on Ruskin Mill Trust’s site in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire on the 19 and 20 July. Attendees will be able to discover and engage with new perspectives on autism through talks, panels, and performances as well as interact with our students and experience working with craft.

Orpheus Centre student participates in professional readings

Orpheus Centre Student Awa JagneAwa Jagne, a third year Orpheus Centre student attended an internship with Graeae Theatre company for 6 months. She was then asked to take part in a Professional reading at the Dorfman Suite in collaboration with the National Theatre of ”And Others” a play which brings to life the voices of women who fought for suffrage but whose stories have been lost to history. This was hugely successful and Awa was again offered another Professional reading of the same at the Rose Bruford Theatre in Kent which took place on 16 April.

QAC ArtsFest 2019

QAC staff and students use 3D pensStudents at Queen Alexandra College (QAC) saw out their spring term in style with their ArtsFest event. The event showcased everything creative that happens at College with over 20 staff-led workshops taking place across the week. Sessions included percussion making, iPad music, virtual reality experiences, Anime art, dance, 3D pens and puppet making.

QAC also welcomed local Creation Station leader Emma McCalla-John to run some rainmaker craft sessions with Preparation for Life (PFL) groups and Neil from Freshwater Theatre Group who offered an interactive Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare workshop.

Find out about everything else the students got up to!

Bridge College partnership with Sport England

Bridge College logo

Bridge College has received funding from Sports England to help promote disability sport at the college. Sport and community manager Julie and Sports coach Chloe are spearheading the project and discussed their ambitions for the future over on the Together Trust’s blog. Julie says “My goal has been getting as many students as active as possible. We’re currently doing this through our sports and motor activity training programme sessions. We’d like to broaden that out, initially for our students in college and then progressing to activities outside college hours. Then hopefully we’ll develop that again to work within the community.”

New College Worcester partners with LEGO in braille bricks project

New College Worcester Student uses LEGO braille bricksNew College Worcester has been heavily involved in testing the prototype LEGO Braille bricks and showing the potential of learning with them in the classroom, testing them out in Maths, English and Spanish. The Braille bricks are moulded with the number of studs used in the Braille alphabet, while remaining fully compatible with the LEGO System in Play. To ensure the tool is inclusive allowing sighted teachers, students and family members to interact on equal terms, each brick will also feature a printed letter or character. This ingenious combination brings a whole new and playful approach to encourage blind and vision impaired children to engage with learning Braille, enabling them to develop a breadth of skills needed to thrive and succeed in a fast-paced world.

Box of LEGO Braille BricksSusan Lock, Head of Mathematics at New College Worcester, said: “Braille gives vision impaired children and adults absolute independence. Without it, how will children learn grammar, or how to spell? The ability to read and understand Braille can be life changing for many of our students and can present very many opportunities, which is why we were so thrilled to be involved in the project.”

“I’m passionate about both the Braille Bricks and teaching at NCW because we have the opportunity to transform children’s lives. LEGO Braille Bricks is doing that because it is making subjects far more accessible than they ever were before.”

Landmarks College introduces Wayfinder Recruitment

Landmarks College has set up Wayfinder Recruitment, a new service dedicated to supporting people with learning difficulties and disabilities into employment. The team work closely with the college to assist people on the Employment Pathway develop the skills they need to secure work, as well as searching out employment and placement opportunities with a range of employers. They’re dedicated to providing successful and meaningful placements and ensuring learners get the qualifications and accredited experience needed for future work.

Learners at Horizons College impress Swindon Town FC

Horizons College students pictured standing with Swindon Town FC youth playersA group of learners at Horizons College have been undertaking a long-term fitness enrichment project, developing their understanding of health and fitness. The project has gone so well that learners began planning their own training sessions and delivering them to the rest of the group. Horizons College Governor and ex Swindon Town Football Club Chairman Cliff Puffet shared the project with Swindon Town FC, who were very impressed by the development and perseverance of the learners. In April, two players from Swindon Town’s youth team attended the college and supported the learners through one of their planned fitness circuits. This unique learning experience is something that the learners will never forget and all learners felt the support of the players.

This project has paved the way for future learners at Horizons College and the college is hopeful that the project will turn into an ongoing collaboration, allowing learners to develop not only their fitness abilities but also enhancing their entire personal learning experience.

Holiday fun with Short Breaks @ Derwen

Derwen College has had a busy Easter holiday period entertaining new guests as part of its new short breaks provision. While students at the college enjoyed their April Easter break, the college was delighted to welcome visitors to its new programme of short breaks that provide specialist holiday care and activities all year around. Guests take part in a range of activities and trips, as well as making use of the campus facilities. The holidays are also a great opportunity for young people to meet new people and explore local attractions. Holiday activities have included swimming, basketball, use of the gym and football, day trips, shopping, cooking, bowling and cinema.

Amy enjoys learning independence skills in the Short Breaks kitchen20-year-old Amy is one of those who’s been taking advantage of the new provision. She enjoys the over-night experience of being away from home and spending time with peers of her own age in a fun environment with plenty of activities organised on and off site. Amy has Down’s Syndrome, learning difficulties and speech and language needs. She needs support in some day-to-day care tasks and uses Makaton to support her communication. As a Makaton user, Amy benefits from working with staff who are trained in Makaton and can support her communication and understanding using signs and symbols. An active, sporty person, she relished joining in with activities including swimming in the on-site pool, cinema trips, bowling and a day out in scenic Llangollen. She has experienced shopping trips and been involved with household activities such as baking a chocolate cake.

Upcoming Events

The Natspec Games are fast approaching on 16 May in the North West and South West, followed by Midlands & Wales on 20 May, Yorkshire and Humber on 22 May and the South East on 20 June. It’s a great opportunity for students from our member colleges to access a wide range of inclusive sports – and maybe find something new to enjoy.

If you’re interested in how to make technology accessible to a wider range or learners – or simply wondering how to use it more effectively – our upcoming TechAbility webinars may be of interest to you.

Our Student Voice Parliament is also coming up on the 11 June and is a great chance for students from across the country to meet and gather and exchange ideas.