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.

Upcoming Natspec Games 2019

Students celebrate after a long day at the Natspec Games

The Natspec Games are fast approaching and the excitement is building with the hosts and participants putting the final touches to their preparations.

The games seek to bring together local colleges and learners with a range of abilities to participate in inclusive sport and try new experiences. The activities are diverse and suitable for each learner and include boccia, shotput, athletics, tennis, cycling, archery, football and more.

This year’s Natspec Games are kindly being hosted by the below colleges:

The event is a major opportunity to showcase the skills and enthusiasm of students and is being supported by Sport England, AoC Sport and several Governing Bodies of Sport. The Natspec Games are also a great way to ensuring students are living a healthy and active lifestyle.

In 2018, AoC Sport conducted research into the current landscape of physical activity and sport for disabled students. Sport has a number of positive impacts as you can see below:

Last year the games ran across four sites and twenty-nine colleges and over 270 learners took part in the range of inclusive sport on offer. 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!”

Students engage in a parachute game at the Natspec Games

If you haven’t already signed up to take part in the Natspec Games then please email who can tell you all about how to get involved with your local event.

High Needs, High Aspirations: Natspec National Conference 2019

Delgates at the Natspec Conference 2019 listen to a keynote presentation.

Over two hundred professionals from across the specialist FE sector gathered for two days of discussion at Natspec’s National Conference on the 2 and 3 April.

The theme for the conference was High Needs, High Aspirations – looking at ways to meet needs in increasing challenging times, whilst also stretching the boundaries, raising expectations, having high aspirations for students and showcasing expertise and excellence in our colleges.

Clare Howard, Natspec Chief Executive said “We moved the conference to a new, bigger venue this year and we were delighted to see so many delegates. There was a lot of interactive debate as well as input from experts, and we were also pleased to involve students in the conference, with student voice prominent throughout.”

Videos of students from various Natspec colleges talking about their aspirations for the future were played before each keynote. Six students – three from RNIB Loughborough, three from Homefield College – joined the conference on Tuesday for work experience, helping out on the registration desk and directing delegates. Students from ROC College (part of United Response) won the Student Voice Banner competition and their winning banner was displayed for all delegates to see as they entered the conference.

Sherann Hillman speaks at Natspec's National Conference 2019During the first keynote, delegates heard from expert speakers from outside Further Education, who gave their perspective on the challenges facing the sector. Claire Dorer from NASS gave an update about the issues currently faced by specialist schools, such as staff recruitment, retention and development, and changing cohorts with young people with more complex needs now coming through schools. Sherann Hillman of the National Network of Parent Carer Forums discussed the current concerns of parents and carers, and the support they are looking for from specialist colleges. An update on health provision for young people with SEND was given by Lorraine Mulroney from NHS England, who emphasised the challenges still faced with joint commissioning, but was positive about new accountability and developments in NHS structure.

Alison Fiddy from IPSEA discussed SEND and the law in second keynote. In a speech packed full of facts and figures, she noted that tribunals are at an all-time high, the number of appeals concerning young people are increasing, and a lack of judicial time is still contributing to issues. She also discussed issues relating to quality of EHCPs and the areas where local authorities are struggling to meet their statutory obligations. The keynote from Clare Howard and Ruth Perry gave delegates an overview of Natspec’s policy priorities and future actions in the sector.

On day two, we heard from Martin McLean from the National Deaf Children’s Society and Dr James Cusack from Autistica. Both discussed the ‘finest evidence based practice’ focusing on their areas of expertise. Martin spoke passionately about how deaf people can thrive with the right support, and that young people need to hear more about successful deaf people, because this information is not currently reaching them. Careers guidance needs to be sufficiently specialist if it is to succeed. James spoke about research progress surrounding autism, and the need for research to have a real, social impact.

The final keynote of the conference was from Suzanne Wainwright of Ofsted, who spoke about the new Education Inspection Framework and how curriculum has been placed at the heart of it. She acknowledged that there was debate about the proposal to remove the High Needs judgement and emphasised that Ofsted will be considering the results of the consultation carefully.

Delegates have a discussion at a workshop at Natspec's National Conference 2019Throughout the conference delegates also had the opportunity to attend workshops to expand their expertise and learn about the best practice across the sector.

On Tuesday evening, delegates heard from Dave Thompson at a drinks reception. Dave gave a thoughtful, humorous speech about his own experience with disability and the challenges he has faced. The drinks reception also saw the announcement of the winner of Natspec’s 2019 Maths Week competition: Chris Sterry from The Mount Camphill Community.

Natspec looks forward to welcoming everyone back to Hinckley Island next year for our 2020 Conference.

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

Maths Week 2019 Winner Announced

The Mount Camphill Community student Chris Sterry has been awarded the top prize in this year’s Maths Week competition. Chris’s video showcase summed up everything Maths Creative was about. He demonstrated the skills we were looking for, showcased the variety of maths skills developed through creative activity, showed an awareness and engagement with the task, and thoroughly enjoying himself!

Chris made a tiled splashback for a kitchen, measuring the tiles, creating a repeating pattern and worked out a price for the full splashback. As a prize, he has been awarded a personalised tape measure, marking him out as the winner of Natspec’s 2019 Maths Week.

Chris's splashback
The colourful splashback produced by Chris

Chris’s win was announced at a drinks reception sponsored by Scanning Pens at the Natspec National Conference on 2 April to a large crowd of attendees.

Ruth Perry & Dave Thompson present the award for Maths Week
Ruth Perry & Dave Thompson present the award for Maths Week to Sara Garland, principal of The Mount Camphill Community

The Shortlist

The other entries that made our shortlist for the prize are as follows:

Jake, Courtney, Kieran and Daniel from Cambian Pengwern, for their experiments with shape, colour and recurring patterns in designing a set of tiles. Paul Milner from National Numeracy, our competition judge, commended them on their team effort and how they all tried something different.

Ellie, Tom, Cher, Joe and Iesha from Fortune Centre of Riding Therapy used counting, estimation, measurement, angle and shape alongside GPS to plot out and create large scale drawings of horses. Paul was impressed that they got out in the open, used different methods of measuring and planned their activities well.

Kyle, Keaton, Eric, Karolis, Matty and Leah from Portland College built a cart to display and sell produce. They had to use a range of maths skills, measuring the cart and ensuring it would fit through the glasshouse door. Paul commended them on their great use of practical maths skills.

We had a wide range of entries this year and would also like to honourably mention Derwen College, Condover College and The Orpheus Centre for giving us a fantastic showcase of creatives maths across the college

Maths Creative

Maths Week logo (a hand with a melting clock)Natspec’s Maths Week ran from 25 February to 1 March, focusing on the maths skills developed while participating in creative activity. Maths Week is delivered in partnership with National Numeracy and this year saw hundreds of students participating over the course of the week.

Participants excelled themselves during the week itself with the fabulous range of making, performing and creating on display. From upcycling furniture, to creating floral displays, from dance to drama. Learners were busy baking bread, making cakes, pottery, picture frames and cocktails. And the maths skills they were using were many and varied: we saw learners measuring, counting, ordering, estimating, using fractions and ratios, patterns and shapes, taking and giving instructions using positional vocabulary, sequencing, and comparing sizes and capacity.

Natspec Network | March 2019 Highlights

March has been a busy month here at Natspec. We’ve celebrated another successful Maths Week and made preparations for our National Conference which is happening very shortly – on the 2 and 3 April. Read on for highlights from across the SEND Further Education sector.

  1. Maths Week
  2. World Book Day & Red Nose Day
  3. Mechanical Interest turns into Employment
  4. Orpheus students take part in research project
  5. Performing Arts Student in ‘Call the Midwife’
  6. Portland College wins award for Woodlands Adventure Zone plans
  7. Exeter Deaf Academy breaks ground on new Exmouth Campus
  8. Fairfield Farm College wins Apprenticeship Award
  9. New College Worcester student represents Great Britain internationally
  10. Beechwood College students shine in work placement
  11. Upcoming Events

Maths Week

This year’s #MathsCreative was a huge success, with over a hundred students participating from a range of colleges. On twitter, we saw the wide array of ways colleges have successfully embedded maths into the curriculum. From folding towels and sheets into halves and quarters, weighing ingredients for cooking, counting out money for purchases and travel, to measuring out garden displays, students’ skills were on full display. Thanks to all who participated for making it such a success, and we are looking forward to announcing the winners at Natspec’s National Conference on 2 April.

World Book Day & Red Nose Day

  • Author Jan Hedger visits Derwen College
    Derwen College

Several of our colleges held fun days for both World Book Day and Red Nose Day this month, dressing up as their favourite characters and engaging in fundraising efforts. Pictures from a few of our colleges are featured above.

Catcote Academy deserves a special mention for producing a video full of jokes, which is particularly brilliant.

Mechanical Interest turns into Employment

Our latest student work experience success story features Ryan from Landmarks Specialist College. When he started with Landmarks College, Ryan would always talk about cars and mechanics; he wanted to learn more about engines and how they work. He started an employability qualification, and in September 2018 he began a supported internship at ETC garage in Alfreton. He has become such a valued member of the team that he has now been offered paid employment from April!

Orpheus Centre students take part in research project

Orpheus Students being filmed at the University of BedfordshireStudents at The Orpheus Centre have been selected to take part in a ground-breaking research programme at the ISTD (Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing). The ISTD believe there is a need for more avenues into the profession of dance and it should be more open to young people with disabilities and provide a more inclusive dance education. This research is being undertaken by the ISTD and the University of Bedfordshire. Orpheus students visited Bedfordshire University recently to be filmed.

The process of the research is being documented and analysed. The findings will be launched in early 2019.  The outcome should lead to more opportunities into dance for young disabled dancers, increasing accessibility to private dance studios, and advocating for further teacher training opportunities in this area.

Performing Arts Student in ‘Call the Midwife’

Former QAC student PoppyFormer Queen Alexandra College (QAC) performing arts student Poppy appeared in the final episode of BBC period drama ‘Call the Midwife’ which aired on 3 March 2019.

Poppy, who studied BTEC Performing Arts at QAC between 2014 and 2017, starred as Jane, the girlfriend of Reggie, during the final scenes beneath the mirrorball at Shelagh’s charity dance as series eight came to an emotional end.

Principal and Chief Executive Bev Jessop commented: “We are delighted for Poppy on her amazing achievement. We all eagerly tuned into last night’s episode and we weren’t disappointed. Poppy has a bright future ahead and we wish her continued success, we are very proud!”

Portland College wins award for Woodlands Adventure Zone plans

Principle Mark and Assistant Principle Edward pick up the Active Place AwardAt the Notts Getting Active Together 2019 Awards ceremony at Nottingham Trent University on Thursday 14 March, Portland College won the Active Place Award for their innovative plans for the fully accessible Woodlands Adventure Zone at the Ashfield based campus. Work on this exciting project, which includes a climbing tower, zip-wire and activity trail, is underway and the College looks forward to opening to the public in Summer 2019. As part of the College’s commitment to the community the College will provide free of charge programmes to local primary schools and groups supporting disadvantaged people to ensure this wonderful facility to accessible to all. The Woodland Adventure Zone has relied fully on fundraising efforts and would not have been made possible without prominent supporters such as Mansfield Building Society, Nottinghamshire County Council and Ashfield District Council.

The Notts Getting Active Awards Awards celebrate the fantastic achievements of communities, groups, clubs and individuals across Nottingham and Nottinghamshire who are helping to make physical activity the norm. They want to show the world some of the amazing work going on and help spread the word about how physical activity can change lives.

Exeter Deaf Academy breaks ground on new Exmouth Campus

Breaking ground at the Exeter Deaf Academys new campusFormer student Nikki James, along with current students Lily, Hugh and Winston, broke the ground on Exeter Deaf Academy’s new campus on Friday 1 March, before handing the spade over to the Chairman of Midas, who are responsible for the construction of the 10.5 million pound project. The new academy is set to open in April 2020.

Nikki James said, “It’s an exciting future for a connected deaf and hearing community. We will be taking Exeter Deaf Academy’s rich heritage with us to build upon in Exmouth. Generations of deaf young people will achieve great things on the ground we stand on today”.

Fairfield Farm College wins Apprenticeship Award

Fairfield Farm College accepts Apprenticeship AwardFairfield Farm College has been awarded the 2019 Wiltshire College Medium Business of the Year Award for Apprenticeships during National Apprenticeship Week.

The achievements and successes of apprentices were celebrated at Wiltshire College and University Centre’s annual Apprenticeship Awards. Over 100 guests, a combination of winners, their families, employers and staff, attended the event hosted at the Arc Theatre in Trowbridge on Thursday 7th March.

Business Development Training Consultant Alistair Baxter, who nominated the Fairfield Farm College for the award alongside other staff members, came to the college specifically to present them with their award. Fairfield Farm College are delighted to have won this award and are really proud of working to support employees to learn the skills they need to work in the sector.

New College Worcester student represents Great Britain internationally

Stuart and other players at the International Goalball TournamentStuart, a student from New College Worcester, was part of the men’s U23 Great Britain Goalball team at the International Goalball Tournament in Lithuania this month. The team battled against other countries and eventually came in third place, scooping bronze.

Of the experience Stuart said: “The team played really well, and some games were so close in score. I’m glad we achieved Bronze. It was also a great experience visiting Trakai in Lithuania!”

Beechwood College students shine in work placement

Two students from Beechwood College completed a week-long work placement at Admiral Insurance’s Head Office in Cardiff this month. Admiral had never had SEN students on placement before so everyone was hoping this would be a successful trial.

The students got amazing feedback from Admiral’s work-experience co-ordinator: “The students should be very proud of themselves, I know it is not easy for them to come out of their comfort zone and come into a busy working environment, but they dealt with it extremely well. I think they should also see themselves as an inspiration not only to themselves and your college but also to people like myself and the people that they interacted with this week who don’t have a full understanding of what people with Autism must deal with in their day-to-day lives.”

Read more about what the students got up to.

Upcoming Events

The Natspec National Conference is happening next week on the 2 and 3 April, and we are very excited to be welcoming over two hundred delegates for two days of specialist workshops, keynote sessions and networking opportunities.

We are running our Using RARPA in post-16 SEND provision workshop again, this time in Birmingham on 9 May. This workshop is ideal for curriculum managers and practitioners who are considering introducing RARPA or looking to improve their existing approach.

The Natspec Games kick off 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. Last year’s event featured learners from across 29 specialist colleges who got the chance to participate in inclusive sport and try new activities. We look forward to welcoming all learners to our hosting colleges for 2019.

National Star wins Specialist Provider of the Year

National Star collects award from host Dave Gorman and Natspec's Clare HowardNatspec member National Star has been crowned specialist provider of the year at the prestigious TES FE Awards. The award was presented at a glittering ceremony on Friday 22 March, at Grosvenor House Hotel, London. Hosted by comedian Dave Gorman, the award for specialist provider of the year was presented by Natspec’s Chief Executive, Clare Howard.

The TES FE Awards, now in their eighth year, aim to celebrate and reward the dedication and expertise of the people and teams who contribute to Further Education.

The category was highly competitive and four other Natspec colleges were also shortlisted. The full shortlist was as follows:

  • City College Peterborough
  • Coleg Elidyr
  • Derwen College
  • Foxes Academy
  • National Star College
  • Queen Alexandra College
  • The Manchester College
  • Weston College Sensory Learning Base

National Star is recognised as a national centre of excellence, and partners with local authorities and other colleges to help deliver continuing professional development for teachers who support learners with special educational needs and disability. The college provides a wide range of personal development and vocational courses, ranging from pre-entry to level 2, for 119 residential and 112 day students.

David Ellis, Chief Executive of National Star, said the award was testament to the commitment of the charity’s 1,000 staff. “The outstanding work that our staff all do – at every level – has enabled the charity to be recognised in this way,” he said. “That, and the fact that National Star has a strong values-led culture, makes the organisation quite special. I am very proud of the National Star team.”

National Star also won an AoC (Association of Colleges) Beacon Award at the London prize giving. The charity received the British Council International Award for its training programme that helped to support teachers across Europe to develop a more inclusive approach to their teaching.

The charity works with learners who traditionally do not have the opportunities to work through international collaboration due to the level and range of their disabilities.

Mechanical interest turns into employment

Ryan commenced his Employability programme with Landmarks College in September 2017.

When he started with Landmarks College, Ryan would always talk about cars and mechanics; he wanted to learn more about engines and how they work. He started an employability qualification, concentrating specifically on mechanics and it was evident from his enthusiasm and engagement in the qualification that this was the career route that Ryan should choose to go down.

In September 2018, Ryan began a supported internship at ETS garage in Alfreton. When Ryan started at ETS he had an induction; straight away Ryan took in all the information and understood the basics of working in a garage.

Ryan working at ETS Garage

He started off observing jobs before gradually completing tasks with assistance, and then doing them himself. If he was unsure of anything he would always ask.

During his placement Ryan introduced new systems that have been gratefully received by his employer. He identified that the technicians left the weights all over the place due to the busy atmosphere in which they work. Ryan used his initiative and decided to sort this out; putting weights in order and restocking them. He also did this for new tyres, always making sure they are in the correct place and with labels facing outwards. These changes have made work easier for everyone.

Ryan has become accustomed to tyres, from writing sizes down on his hand to a note book and now he can recall all tyre brands, standards and sizes from memory! He can also deflate tyres, insert new valves, inflate tyres and balance wheels.

Ryan routinely assists technicians on servicing cars, sorting the correct parts, tools and taking in methods, he talks to customers and guides them to the reception very politely.

Over the past 5 months Ryan has gained confidence in all aspects of his programme; he now gets to work independently and his social and communication skills have improved immensely. Ryan fits well into the team and all the guys have made him feel a part of the team. When they got Branch of the Month Ryan was included in the photo shoot with the trophy.

He has become such a valued member of the team that he has now been offered paid employment from April!

Ryan’s Job Coach says “He has done an amazing job, so have all the guys at ETS. I am very proud of him and Ian (the Manager) would not have set him on if he was not worthy.”

Natspec Network | February 2019 Highlights

February has been another exciting month in SEND Further Education, and we are pleased to bring you these highlights consisting of stories from the wider sector. Highlights include TV appearances, sporting events, award nominations, new employment services and more. Read the highlights below.

  1. New Recruitment Agency launched to support learners into employment
  2. Learners are nominated for Young Citizenship awards
  3. First-of-its-kind inclusive rugby match takes place in Wigan
  4. Natspec colleges are featured on the BBC
  5. Specialist physiotherapy manager wins a national award in recognition of work
  6. Natspec college becomes Beacon Award commended college
  7. Hearing impaired learner navigates world of work through supported internship programme
  8. New Garden School to open in May
  9. Last spots left – Natspec National Conference 2019

New Recruitment Agency launched to support learners into employment

Landmarks College has announced the launch of its new supported internship and employment programme, Wayfinders Recruitment Agency.  This is dedicated to supporting people with learning difficulties and disabilities into employment and plays a key role in assisting people on the employment pathway to develop the skills needed to secure work.  Wayfinder Recruitment aims to help people with additional needs and disabilities, aged 16-24 years old, overcome barriers to employment by supporting people on the employment pathway to develop skills they need.

Read more about the programme.

Learners are nominated for Young Citizenship awards

Three students from Derwen college have been nominated for young citizenship awards for their outstanding contribution to college and community. The students were nominated for The Sheriff of Shropshire’s Outstanding Young Citizenship Award and have been invited to attend an invite only ceremony with the county’s High Sheriff where the winner will be announced.

Students Bethan Charles, Maisie Thomson and Carter Gough were put forward for the award for embracing opportunities while at the college. The trio have gone above and beyond in their efforts at college: Bethan has represented Derwen College through her work with Student Union Board and National Union of Students; Maisie has challenged herself through Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards; and Carter has pushed himself through work experience and competing in table laying at high-pressure national skills shows.

First-of-its-kind inclusive rugby match takes place in Wigan

lewisA student from Expanse Learning student took part in a first-of-its-kind inclusive Rugby match as part of the Wigan Warriors Learning Disability Rugby League (LDRL) initiative, launched in 2018. Expanse student Lewis was selected as a member of the inaugural Wigan team who played and won their first match on 19 February against St. Helens. Lewis played extremely well and thoroughly enjoyed playing in the match and being a part of a team representing his home town.

The Learning and Physical Disability Rugby Super League is a specially adapted non-competitive game, which focuses on encouraging participation and skills development.’ (Wigan Warriors, 2019). The League was set up to encourage ‘development of skills, confidence and positive experiences for people with learning disabilities, and make a major statement about social inclusion.’ (Wigan Warriors, 2019).

Natspec colleges are featured on the BBC

Foxes Academy and National Star were each featured on BBC’s The One Show in special segments that spotlight disability employment outcomes of graduates and young people’s experiences with communication devices and finding their ‘voice’.

Foxes Academy

the one show - Foxes academyPresenter Sally Phillips visits Foxes Hotel as the U.K.’s only training hotel and college for students with learning disabilities. It’s a real hotel and that’s why it’s a success – just check out Trip Advisor says Sally.

The film shows how Foxes helps young adults who want to work in hospitality, live independently and live life to the full through the eyes of graduate Olivia, aged 26 and student Tom, aged 22 who will leave college this Summer.

In the film, Principal Tracey Clare-Gray outlines the point of Foxes Hotel: skills, qualifications and the experience necessary to work in hospitality. By teaching our students to be work ready, life ready, Foxes saves taxpayer £1m per student over their lifetime in costs. You can watch the episode here.

National Star

Four National Star students appeared on BBC’s The One Show in their quest for their own ‘voice’ for their communication devices.

Comedian Lost Voice Guy, who also uses a communication device, visited National Star in Cheltenham to talk to the four about the challenges they face.

Ted Barnard-Edwards, Nathan Groves, Talia McDowell and Jack Smith, all want regional accents to reflect where they live but there are very few age-appropriate regional voices for communication devices.

They all attend National Star, a specialist college for young people with complex disabilities, at Ullenwood, near Cheltenham.

A customised voice costs around £500 which most families cannot afford. National Star speech and language therapists have been searching the country for age-appropriate regional accents and have discovered they are not being “banked”.

Jack, 21, said: “I sound boring and not like my family. I am from Wolverhampton – the black country.”

The One Show found a voice donor for Jack who is now proudly using his Black Country accent on his AAC device. The One Show has appealed for voice donors for the other three students. Scores of people responded, and plans are underway to choose the remaining voice donors.

Specialist physiotherapy manager wins a national award in recognition of work

physiotherapist manager from national starNational Star’s Physiotherapy Manager has won a national award in recognition of her work with young people with Acquired Brain Injuries.

In addition to her work as a Physiotherapist, Verity Fisher launched, and for the past four years has organised, therapeutic and learning ski experiences to Andorra for National Star students.

More than 50 students have been skiing in this time using the experiences as an integral part of their physiotherapy programme throughout the year.

Verity received the United Kingdom Acquired Brain Injury Forum (UKABIF) Stephen McAleese Award for Inspiration. The Award was announced by John and Susan McAleese at UKABIF’s 10th Annual and 20th Anniversary Conference in London.

Read more here.

Natspec college newly becomes Beacon Award commended college

QAC spark campaignQAC were delighted to announce that they had met the 2018/19 AoC Beacon Standard and are now recognised as a Beacon Award commended college!

This commendation comes as a result of the great work by SPARK, the College’s LGBTQ+ alliance, providing a safe place for students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning to meet and talk with others about things that matter to them and promote acceptance

The AoC Beacon Awards celebrates the best and most innovative practice among UK further education (FE) colleges. The ‘Support for Students Award’, supported by RCU and AoC, seeks to celebrate outstanding examples of student support provided by a College for a significant group, across a whole provision or college-wide approach.

QAC is a national specialist residential college for people with disabilities based in Birmingham. The College provides education, training and routes to independent living and employment.

For more information about QAC please visit or call 0121 428 5050.

Hearing impaired learner navigates the world of work through a supported internship programme

declan student from exeterIn 2018, Exeter Deaf Academy became one of the first Deaf education providers to offer Supported Internships, a programme which helps to prepare Post-16 students for working life and facilitates their progression to paid employment.

Students like Declan, pictured here, bring a huge range of benefits to an employer, and Supported Internships allow both employers and students to explore the world of work from a Deaf perspective.

Declan, who is 18 years old and profoundly deaf, has been working for a major supermarket chain on a weekly basis for ten consecutive months. Declan spends 3 days a week in-store, sharing his time on the shop floor at two busy supermarket branches in Exeter city. His work includes stock replenishment and customer care, learning the day-to-day skills needed in a retail environment. He also attends education at Exeter Deaf Academy, studying Maths, English, British Sign Language and Independent Living Skills.

Declan says:

‘I was nervous about starting my placement, but now I really enjoy it. The staff have been really welcoming and friendly. I have been teaching them a few signs, which they are now using when they talk to me. The Managers in both branches are very helpful and are relaxed in conversations with me. They have helped me to learn each new part of the roles I have been given and that has helped to boost my confidence. I am enjoying working on the tills and this is helping me learn more about money management and handling cash within the work setting.’

New Garden School to open in May

clervaux garden at ruskin mill trustRuskin Mill Trust’s latest provision is set to open in May 2019. Clervaux Garden School opens its doors to students with additional needs who are looking to learn and grow within a holistic educational framework. Based at the Clow Beck Centre in Croft-on-Tees, Darlington the new Garden school will provide an opportunity for young people with a range of SEN between 10-19 years of age.

The curriculum at Clervaux Garden School will offer a balance of academic, artistic, and practical activities which engage the heads, hands and hearts of pupils. At the heart of the Trust is the belief that education should develop the whole person on an intellectual, social and emotional level, encouraging the students’ innate curiosity, resulting in a love of learning.

Applications accepted all year round. Residential placements to commence from September 2019. For more information regarding the Clervaux Garden School please contact the Admissions team on 01453 837 502 or at

Last spots left – Natspec National Conference 2019

1 month to go until Natspec’s National Conference – Book now, limited spots left!

The Natspec 2019 conference is a must-attend event for Further Education professionals who specialise in working with students with learning difficulties and disabilities, particularly those funded through the High Needs funding system. At a new venue for 2019, it will be the largest ever high needs FE conference. The two-day event will bring you the very best practice in SEND in FE, celebrating achievements and showcasing the latest in cutting-edge research.

You will hear from national specialists and experts, with workshops and keynote sessions covering Ofsted’s new Education Inspection Framework, SEND and the law, strategic planning with LAs, maximising employment outcomes, governance, learner voice, developing and maintaining staff expertise, physical activity and wellbeing, inclusive strategies for challenging behaviours, and a range of topics to support curriculum planning and delivery.

Book your place.