The Natspec Awards aim recognise and celebrate excellent practice in the specialist further education sector. We want to promote innovation, ensure continuous improvement, and raise standards across the sector. As specialist colleges strive to carry on supporting their learners despite the uncertainties and challenges presented by COVID-19, we aim to celebrate the hard work they do.
Nigel Evans, chair of the Natspec Awards judging panel, said:
It was a privilege to once again be part of the panel judging the Natspec Awards for 2021. The standard of the submissions was very high and demonstrates the innovation, expertise and creativity within the specialist further education sector, it was a challenging task for all the judges to single out individual winners in each category and I thank my fellow panel members for the time and care they put into the decisions they made. One of the encouraging themes running through this year’s submissions was the level and quality of partnership working undertaken by specialist colleges. The partnerships all added value to the projects, brought in additional expertise, technical skills or broadened the scope of the project. The panel were delighted to see the number of projects aimed at students with the most severe and profound disabilities, these projects all have the potential to enhance the lives of these young people and enable them to have more control over their lives. I would like to thank the staff and students of all the organisations who contributed to the submissions, all of the projects will make a difference to the lives of the young people you work with.
Beechwood College Embedding use of IT to increase student engagement in learning
Integrating the use of personal iPads for students into the daily curriculum, adapting teaching methods and improving engagement
Bridge College The Integration of the QT Robot
The introduction of a QT Humanoid Social Robot, supplementing existing teaching methods to enhance the social interactions, communication skills, levels of engagement and mental wellbeing of learners’ with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Orchard Hill College Adapting Alexa
Adapting Alexa to be used as assistive tech, in class and at home, providing functions such as a communication outlet or the ability to control their immediate environment
Winner: Bridge College
Our judge, Rohan Slaughter, said: The use of the QT Robot at Bridge College is genuinely innovative and is clearly effective in both the project elements described.
Hive College Live Study Programme
A programme focusing on preparing learners for employment; providing careers appointments, establishing aspirations and setting realistic future goals in order to get work placements.
LEAP College Supporting student aspirations and goals
Inspiring and preparing young people for the world of work through taster opportunities, work experience, independent travel training, and access to leavers who act as role models.
St John’s St. John’s / The Bevy Community Work Experience Project
An innovative work scheme for students working in partnership with a local community-owned pub, and a professional chef trainer, delivering high quality work experience, industry standard skills, certificates and qualifications.
Winner: LEAP College
Our judge, Jane Hatton, said: Love the variety of opportunities, giving young adults choice about their careers. Loved the post-16 coffee mornings, offering ongoing peer support. Loved that students were involved in fund-raising. This programme seemed really empowering of the young people involved, with real thought as to how each person was able to contribute according to their ability and aspirations.
Beechwood College Inclusion of nonverbal students in student voice activities
Ensuring that all learners have an equitable say in what happens at the college
Coleg Elidyr Our Online Forum
Adapting the well-established Student Forum during the pandemic by running weekly online student meetings.
Sense College Cross-College (multi-site) Learner Forum
Addressing complex communication challenges to achieve collaborative success in the area of learner voice.
Winner: Sense College
Our judge, Alex Johnson, said: Alex was particularly impressed by the video the college produced and how he felt it captured something special. He liked its use of colour, how it was clear that technology was being used to support the student voice and how the feeling came across that this was a real group effort.
Alex felt that the video showed how all students were encouraged to be involved and that this is vital – particularly for a specialist college. Alex liked how the students in the video used signing.
Alex felt that the activities were student-led and that the video was well-rounded from a student point of view and he didn’t feel like the students were being told what to do.
Aurora Boveridge College Wellbeing and Mental Health Wheel
A bespoke holistic self-assessment, designed with students, for use during 1:1 tutor meetings.
Eat That Frog Community Wellbeing programme
A holistically-tailored online course using simple modules on various aspects of wellbeing that can be used by anyone.
Winner: Eat That Frog
Our judge, Liz Maudslay said: I really liked the range of individual activities that these students engaged in and the way they were so targeted to their own individual interests and needs. The enthusiasm with which staff and students entered into the activities was very evident and I was also impressed with the very real and meaningful links that were made with the community, especially the way in which the project recognised that one of the key aspects of improved mental health is doing things with and for others – something that often doesn’t happen with SEND students who are so often ‘done to’. It was a little harder to see how much the real improvements in students’ mental health had been evidenced but this is something which could be worked on in a future year.
Communication Specialist College Doncaster Introducing smILE Therapy
Introducing a recognised communication programme that teaches students the skills of communicating independently in a variety of settings out in the community.
Linkage College LEGO®-based therapy at Linkage College
Piloting, embedding and reinforcing LEGO®-based therapy that has now been used successfully in a variety of ways across the four campuses
Portland College PBS/Zones of Regulation/Be Healthy, Active and Courageous
A series of linked initiatives that have the learner at the centre with a focus on health and well-being
Winner: Portland College
Our judge, Lorraine Mulroney, said: Portland College interdisciplinary staff and students should be proud champions of their PBS/Zones of Regulation/Be Healthy, Active and Courageous initiative. This is an excellent example of working together across disciplines for the benefit of students and their families not only in college, but in every part of their everyday lives.
HBVC HBVC & Edgbaston Priory Club Partnership
A thriving partnership providing a solid springboard to successful supported internships and first-rate preparation for moving into employment.
Henshaws Specialist College Henshaws joins forces with Harrogate Fair Trade
Helping to establish a new e-commerce platform with student responsibilities ranging from producing catalogue information to upload products onto the e-commerce platform, to organising stock and preparing orders ready for collection.
Linkage College Boultham Park-Linkage Lincoln Campus Project
An innovative partnership creating community facilities, restoring heritage, and developing work related learning and employment opportunities for learners and local people
Winner: Linkage College
Our judge, Yolande Burgess, said: A whole-area approach to partnership – the college and partners are strategic stakeholders in the community. Through this project, they have demonstrated leadership and a clear commitment to ensuring that everyone in the local community has the chance to live, work, enjoy and thrive.
Bridge College Integration of therapy within the curriculum
Extensive curriculum improvements were designed and implemented enabling learners to make exceptional progress towards fulfilling aspirations, employment and independence
Linkage College The Linkage Curriculum – Flexible, Engaging and Innovative
A review of how additional skills were embedded into other curriculum areas to establish a learning framework that strengthened learning and personal development; socially, economically and environmentally
Orchard Hill College RESET, RECOVER, RECONNECT!
The creation and implementation of the recovery curriculum, assisting students to transition back into education. Providing students with holistic support, tackling/addressing anxieties and worries before moving onto their learning objectives.
Sheiling College The Resilience Curriculum and Assessment Tool
A creative approach to meeting some of the most important needs of 19-25-year olds with complex SEN, targeting educational programmes to increase specific skills, awareness, knowledge and resilience.
Winner: Orchard Hill College
Our judge, Nigel Evans, said: The RESET, RECOVER, RECONNECT! project successfully helps students return to classroom based learning after extended periods of absence, in particular it responded to students returning to college following the disruption caused by COVID-19. The project identified the importance of rebuilding routines, managing friendships and getting used to being a student again. The project had a strong impact on students’ social, emotional and physical well-being. The model developed can easily be used in other situations e.g. returning to college after long absence or joining a course after other students had started.
Ambitious College Ambitious College Home Learning Provision
Using an innovative and combined approach to home teaching to ensure students were still engaged with daily learning
Foxes Academy Learning through Lockdown
Using a revised curriculum to continue to prepare students to become ‘Work Ready, Life Ready.’
Sheiling College Home Learning – A Self Audit Tool
The creation of a self-audit tool to address the foundations, delivery and implementation of home learning processes
Winner: Ambitious College
Our judge, Helen Brooks, said: Ambitious College’s wide variety of approaches and materials which they drew on to create a tailored programme for each student makes them worthy winners of this award. They took a “silver lining” approach to home-learning, capitalising on students’ improved ICT skills and their ability to transfer practical skills such as laundry and cooking outside of the college environment. Their wealth of materials included Zones of Regulation to help students regulate their mood, bright and clear instructions (e.g. for making tortilla wraps at home) and Occupational Therapy TV, among other resources. All of the options were combined under a personalised approach for each individual, and was very impressive indeed.
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