These girls can!

Sport England recently relaunched ‘This Girl Can’, a campaign to encourage more girls and women to be more active.

To support the work, Natspec and AoC Sport worked with Portland College to host a national This Girl Can festival on 14 March.

The festival was a great success and saw female students from several Natspec colleges and local schools take part in a range of fun activities including Zumba, boccia, wheelchair basketball, archery and woodland walks.

Alongside the activities there was a marketplace promoting the benefits of exercise and healthy eating and the event was attended by Paralympians Charlotte Henshaw and Mel Clarke.

Rebecca Derbyshire, from Portland College, said: “All the young people involved loved it, and we were getting lots of positive comments from staff who attend.

“Charlotte Henshaw and Mel Clarke both took part in activities and Charlotte gave an inspiring talk to the girls. In total 134 people attend the event.  We hope that everyone who came enjoyed the day and found it inspirational.”

Paralympian joins conference

Paralympian medalist David Smith MBE made a guest appearance at the 2017 Natspec conference and talked about how his experience at specialist college helped his sporting career.

David has won two gold medals and is the joint most successful British boccia player in the sports history. He was the special guest at the Natspec Conference held in Birmingham.

A former student of Treloar College in Hampshire, David said specialist colleges often provide more opportunities for young people with disabilities than mainstream colleges.

“The one thing that stands out about my time at Treloar’s was that it gave me the opportunity to compete and to perform. You don’t get that in mainstream. The reason is that they don’t have similar peers,” he told delegates.

“In mainstream PE teachers don’t know anything about boccia.

“At Treloar’s I had physiotherapy and occupational therapy on tap. It was part of my programme. I had a chair that was designed for me. I wouldn’t have had any of that in mainstream college.

“Specialist college gives people a chance to go into the world with confidence, to strive for more.”

More than 150 delegates attended the two-day Natspec conference. The 2017 conference focussed on how providers and partner organisations have been working to make improvements through staff expertise, high quality resources, and a multi-disciplinary approach.

Speakers included Ian Ashman, President of the Association of Colleges, Nigel Evans, Inspector for Ofsted, John Hogg, Deputy Further Education Commissioner, Jane McConnell, Tribunal Judge, SEND Tribunal and Benedict Coffin, Policy Lead, Department for Education.

Workshops on Maths and English and Prevent were among the most popular with the delegates.

Clare Howard, Natspec CEO, said:”This year’s conference was fully booked and it was wonderful to see so many of our members getting involved.

“The programme focussed on exploring ways of working for the future and we are grateful to all the speakers for some thought provoking sessions.”

Positive and forward looking atmosphere at conference this year with content that supported this. Lots of fresh faces – evidence of changes in the sector.

Natspec Conference delegate

Maths Week winners announced


Wargrave House - Joint winners

Wargrave House – Joint Winners


Coleg Elidyr - Joint winners

Coleg Elidyr – Joint Winners


The games created by students for Natspec’s Maths Week 2017 were so creative that there were two joint winners. Coleg Elidyr, in Rhandirmwyn, Llandovery, and Wargrave House, in Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside, pipped 41 other entries to win the competition.

Maths Week is now an annual event, which is organised by Natspec to find creative and innovative ways to excite and motivate students with maths.

The theme of this year’s competition was Maths: Games On and 128 students from 11 colleges took part. The winners were announced by Paralympic David Smith, OBE.  The former Treloar’s student, won gold in Boccia in Rio and was the special guest at the Natspec Conference.

The students from Wargrave House won for their Tens and Ones Café – a race to spend all your money by selecting the correct coins for certain items.

Coleg Elidyr students created a simple board game, called Race to the Farm, played by two to four players using dice and player pieces with a lucky dip element thrown in for added spice.

The purpose of the week is to put the spotlight on maths, an area of the curriculum that can be challenging for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.

Maths Week gives students the chance to work together and share ideas about effective practice, while having fun at the same time.

The competition was judged by our partner, National Numeracy and the winners announced at the Natspec Conference.

The six finalists in the competition were: Wargrave House, Coleg Elidyr, two teams from Henshaw’s, Blackburn College and St John’s College.

There was a wide range of games and equipment, from obstacle course to games of chance to parachutes and dice.

The games involved a wide range of Maths including counting, positional vocabulary and shape, weight and height, basic probability, money, time, and estimation. The overall standard was very high and there was so much variety that it was hard to come up with a shortlist.

Technology project launched

Natspec has launched TechAbility, a new assistive technology and information technology (AT/IT) project.

It is in partnership with Jisc, the UK higher education, further education and skills sectors’ organisation for digital services and solutions. The service will be made available to all providers across the FE sector and aims to improve both IT systems and Assistive Technology to enable access to learning for all students with SEND. The ideas and service will support professionals and young people in all aspects of SEND provision: assessment, writing effective outcomes, planning programmes of study, helping students manage their work and record progress, collection of data, and giving young people the access to learning and communication that they need.

TechAbility brochure

Download a brochure about TechAbility


Brochure pdf,

Your views wanted

Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families Edward Timpson has asked Dame Christine Lenehan to conduct an independent review looking at the outcomes and experiences of children and young people attending residential special schools and colleges. A call for evidence was launched today (23 January) to seek views on the experiences of children and young people attending residential education.  If you work at a residential college, or have attended as a student or are a parent or supporter of a student, please submit your views to questions such as the quality of the experience, how and why the young person gained a place at a residential specialist college, and the pattern of provision across the country. Natspec will be submitting evidence based on staff and student stories, and videos and evidence from student campaigns.

Making work experience count

Jordan, from Portland College, was such a star in his work placement that the company offered him an apprenticeship.

Jordan started at Portland College as a very amenable and chatty young man who was academically bright. His disability meant he liked structured routines, could struggle with social interaction and tended to dislike busy or crowded places.

He could also get easily frustrated and struggle to concentrate on set tasks or any activity that was ad-hoc in nature.

As a priority Jordan needed to develop his social skills to help him establish friendships and make useful links. Jordan was keen to continue his education but had primary goals which leant towards developing confidence, improving social skills and moving into paid employment.

Jordan commenced his first work experience opportunity in the Student Shop at Portland College whilst at the same time working towards a retail qualification.

During this time he took significant strides in improving his social interaction and communication skills as well as finding out about the retail trade.

While looking at external work placement opportunities Jordan undertook a work focussed visit to County Battery (Kirkby in Ashfield) where he found he liked the type of work carried out in the warehouse. He began a work placement attending one day per week. Initially he was supported by a job coach and then supervised directly by County Battery employees who had received specialist autism training from Portland College.

Within two weeks Jordan progressed to working two days per week. Jordan’s primary role was preparing and dispatching orders linked to internet sales.

As they were nearing the end of the placement managers at County Battery recognised that bringing it to an end would leave an ‘employment hole’ within the organisation.

Jordan has started an apprenticeship through the company which will be based around his role in warehouse distribution.

Phil Dobson, sales director at County Battery, says: “County Battery has introduced a lean culture into the business and hold daily meetings, where each staff member chairs /runs the meeting, Jordan is working towards holding one of these meetings in the future which is a sure sign of his development and what work experience can do for young people.

“If you get an opportunity like Jordan did grab it, don’t make excuses, don’t have fear, embrace the opportunity and have a go, like Jordan did.”

I loved working in a hotel

Geor-Dan, from Foxes Academy in Somerset, wants to work in a hotel kitchen after her positive work experience.

“It was really good and I really enjoyed it. All the kitchen staff were really nice and good fun and made me laugh.

“I tried hard to do all the jobs well after the staff had shown me what to do. Some of the jobs were like I do in the kitchen at Foxes but had to make food for a lot more people and there was a lot more kitchens and they were really big, so it took me a little while to find my way around. We had to make hundreds of wraps I had never seen so many.

“Paul the Head Chef was nice and made sure all the staff shown me how to do jobs so I knew what to do.

“I can’t wait to go back to work there again because I really enjoyed it and hope I will work well enough to get a job in the kitchen there. That would be really good. It’s a good place to work.”

The staff at Birmingham Metropole Hilton said Geor-Dan has settled in well with the team.

“She was quiet on day 1 but since then her confidence has grown and she has become more chatty and interactive with everyone.

“Once she has understood what is required of a particular task she has picked this up well and been able to continue on her own. She has taken on board everything that has been shown to her and has had no difficulty in being part of the team to complete tasks.

“When asked she has told us that she is really enjoying herself, and we do not think any other support would be necessary or required for her.”

‘The confidence to keep going’

Matthew organises and manages summer school holiday clubs for children in the Warwickshire area.

He says couldn’t have followed his dream without the support of Hereward College.

Matthew left Hereward with BTEC level 3 in Sports (A level equivalent) – having progressed from level 1 when he first started at college.

He works with his brother running sports clubs for children and organises and manages active summer school holiday clubs in the Warwickshire area which include a range of sports from table tennis to football.

Matthew also gained some work experience during his time at Hereward and is delighted to have recently secured a permanent contract at Homebase – working part-time hours to fit around his sports coaching.

Matthew says: “If it wasn’t for the staff at Hereward who taught me the coaching experience, I wouldn’t be where I am now. They have given me the encouragement and confidence to keep going.”