Welcome to Natspec’s April Highlights! It’s a busy time here at Natspec. We’re having our Natspec Conference and CPD week currently, sharing some great practice and having excellent conversations amongst our membership. And on Thursday we’ll be announcing the winners of our Natspec Awards – please check out the shortlisted colleges if you haven’t already. There’s some brilliant stories in this month’s edition, from across the sector, with community participation, new things opening, awards success and some wonderful student success stories!
- Learners celebrate after being awarded contract from Natspec!
- The Deaf Academy shortlisted at the Tes FE Awards 2021
- The Walk of Freedom: Completed
- Ben’s story: Specialist education is worth the distance
- Learners with high needs are punching their way to fitness and independence
- National Star helps develop accessible history
- Former QAC Performing Arts student makes screen appearance in BBC drama ‘Doctors’
- Condover College’s Soundabout Moveabout Challenge
- Talent Show Winner at WESC Foundation
- Derwen College opens on-site charity shop
- Hidden Disabilities Awareness Day at Sense College Loughborough
- Hereward College opens new Birmingham base
Learners celebrate after being awarded contract from Natspec!
Learners Ashley, George and Tricia from Portland College have been celebrating after Natspec chose their proposal to design and make the trophies for the Natspec Awards 2021!
Each handmade trophy will be sent to each award winner following the ceremony later in the year and is a fantastic commission to win for the group of learners, they’ll be given £50 per trophy by Natspec for the materials.
The group had to create a design idea following a brief provided by Natspec which was submitted in March.
Ruth Perry at Natspec said of the learner’s brief; “We really enjoyed your design idea and loved the learner involvement that has already gone into every part of the process, even at this early stage.”
The Deaf Academy shortlisted at the Tes FE Awards 2021
The Deaf Academy has been recognised for its outstanding use of technology in delivering remote teaching and learning in a national education award.
The Exmouth-based academy has been shortlisted in the TES FE Awards for 2021, and as the only SEN provision shortlisted in this category, it has set the standards of what is possible for Deaf providers all across the country.
During the first lockdown, the Deaf Academy developed a successful Online Academy to support its students learning from home. Launched in April 2020, every student was given a tablet and full access to their education, with blended live learning and video lessons, all with interpretation to ensure complete accessibility for British Sign Language users.
The Academy implemented an innovative online learning programme that met the varied, and complex needs of every student It considered their language acquisition, additional needs including visual impairments and autism, along with the heightened levels of anxiety due to the covid pandemic. At its core the Academy created a platform that offered community, connection and learning.
Jane Shann, Assistant Principal for Education at the Deaf Academy, stated: “We’re absolutely thrilled that our dedication to student learning and wellbeing has been acknowledged as outstanding on a national level. Every attention to detail has paid off. We’re very proud of our Online Academy and its capabilities to support children of all complexities. Absolutely everything was delivered virtually, from speech and language therapy, physio packs, bespoke learning, and even Friday assemblies for families. None of this would have been possible without the sheer determination and dedication from our key workers.”
Wellbeing and support was a significant part of the Online Academy. Students were provided supervised ‘hang out’ Zoom sessions at break times to ensure friendships could continue and no child was left isolated. ‘No screen Wednesdays’ were initiated to combat screen fatigue. This enabled students to explore their creativity and independent learning skills. They were given tasks each week or given the choice to explore their own interests to develop their sense of self.
Julia Belgutay, Head of FE at Tes, said: “Further education providers have excelled in what has been a truly challenging year, and the amazing individuals, teams and institutions on our Tes FE Awards shortlist showcase that. Our judges were highly impressed with the calibre of entries and I want to congratulate everyone who has made the shortlist – it is a brilliant achievement.”
Derwen College were also shortlisted for specialist provider of the year award.
The Walk of Freedom: Completed
As mentioned in the last Natspec highlights, Homefield College students Ethan and Janvee set up the ‘The Walk of Freedom’ challenge to get students active and outside at a time when it was easy to fall into a slump and lose all motivation during the lockdown days.
Across the 4 weeks, Ethan and Janvee challenged Homefield students to get out and about as much as they could when at college, after college and at weekends.
They had an amazing uptake – the College has awarded 5 bronze medals, 7 silver medals and 8 gold medals, with students racking up a grand total of 510 miles. That’s roughly the distance it takes if you walked from London to Aberdeen in Scotland!
We’re particularly impressed with students Ayesha (40.5 miles), Chelsea (46 miles) and Katie (63 miles) for their commitment and dedication to the challenge.
Fantastic effort by all!
Ben’s story: Specialist education is worth the distance
We have a new student success story to share with you, now available on our website!
Ben Ramshaw, aged 21, has travelled more than 200 miles from home to take a level 3 ITQ course at Communication Specialist College Doncaster (CSCD).
The student, who has been studying at CSCD for one and a half years, chose the residential college in Doncaster because of its tailored timetable and its specialist provision.
Travelling from Meopham in Gravesend, Kent, to study was a big move for Ben but one that he’s not looked back from.
Ben said: “I picked to come here because it offered the higher-level course I was looking for in IT & Media with the level of BSL and other support I needed to help me, and because it also offered Maths and English as well, it had all of the vocational courses I wanted to focus on, as well as the classes aimed at improving my independence.
“I like how the people here talk to me and support me everywhere. I like how BSL is used to help me understand things clearer and this allows me to do more and explore more options.
“I like the range in options in my IT class, there’s lot of software and topics I can pick from and I get to select how I combine my topics to create my on units, the course is shaped around my interests which keeps me a lot more interested.”
To learn more about Ben and the course he’s on, read the full article here, including a video of Ben speaking about his work.
Learners with high needs are punching their way to fitness and independence
Young adults with high needs in Knowsley have been given a huge boost through weekly sessions with former boxing champion Derry Mathews.
Learners from Flourish Further Education have been attending boxercise sessions at Derry Mathews’ Gym. The programme is backed by the Maverick Stars Trust charity, which gives people the opportunity to shine through sport.
Flourish aims to develop learners’ independence and ultimately prepare them for adult life in the local community.
Lexley, Josh’s mum, said:
“This has given Josh a lot of confidence. Young people with SEN are usually highly protected and take part in so many activities that are catered / altered for them so that they are safe. It is amazing to see Josh and the others take part in something that is perceived as a ‘mainstream’ activity just like anyone else.
“They are learning so many life skills – preparation for the session starts at Flourish – visual reminders, risk assessments, getting in the car and travelling safely to the Gym. Josh is also exposed to different environments and building on his independence and self-help skills.”
Joe Scanlon, Tutor at Flourish FE, commented:
“Our learners really look forward to the classes and when they go home, they are telling their parents all about it. It’s great to hear that they’re enjoying them.
“The classes are perfect for our learners, as they improve their physical fitness and wellbeing, along with exposing them to different environments and progressing their independence and self-help skills. The learners will also gain an accredited qualification from Boxing Awards and will receive medals and certificates to recognise their achievements.”
Derry Mathews, retired professional boxer, said:
“I decided to run this session as I really enjoy working with young adults, watching them progress and learn new skills. The aim of this course is to improve their physical fitness, wellbeing and getting them familiar to a new facility in their community. After eight session the participants will receive a Preliminary Award from Boxing Awards.”
National Star helps develop accessible history
A group of National Star students are helping the Museum of Gloucester develop their education resources.
The Museum team asked the students to ‘test drive’ their history loan boxes and to advise them on how to make them more engaging and accessible for young people with disabilities.
Loans boxes are currently being redeveloped at the museum using money from the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) #HereForCulture.
The students explored boxes that covered the Victorians, Tudors, Romans and Pre-History. The project enabled them to use their functional skills such as reading and maths as well as to evaluate and produce feedback.
For student Tilly, her favourite box was the Victorian school box and her favourite activity writing using a quill.
Student Hannah said “My favourite thing was learning about what each item was used for and how it has changed.”
Among the students’ recommendations are more sensory items to smell or touch and recorded sounds. It is hoped that students will also contribute stories to be included in the boxes.
On behalf of the museum, Philip Walker, Head of Cultural Services at Gloucester City Council said: “We’re so excited to hear what the National Star students thought and to include their ideas and stories into the new loan boxes that will be available later in the year.”
Paul Tarling, National Star’s Enrichment and Community Engagement Coordinator, hopes the project is beginning of a new partnership with the Museum of Gloucester.
“This is the start of a fact finding and fun collaboration with the Museum of Gloucester,” says Paul. “We’re looking forward to more project work, sensory exploration and access to our past in the months to come – creating a little of our own history on the way.”
Former QAC Performing Arts student makes screen appearance in BBC drama ‘Doctors’
Former Queen Alexandra College (QAC) performing arts student Calum recently featured in an episode of BBC drama series ‘Doctors’ which aired on Monday 15 March 2021.
Calum, who joined the College as a Preparation for Life (PFL) student before moving on to study Performing Arts with QAC between 2014 and 2017, starred as Wayne ‘Wayneboy’ Jackson in the episode.
Calum had a great time filming and the TV crew and director gave him a big cheer and a round of applause when he completed his last take.
On completion of his performing arts programme at QAC, Calum studied acting at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in connection with Access All Areas Theatre Company.
Calum hopes to get more TV and Film work in the future through VisABLE People agency, who specialise in representing disabled actors.
Condover College’s Soundabout Moveabout Challenge
CCL recently took part in the Soundabout Moveabout Challenge. The aim of the challenge was to complete 600 KM in January, February and March through any form of movement, including walking, cycling, dancing, Zumba and so on.
Soundabout is a charity that believes everybody deserves to have a voice. Rather than focusing on what people can’t do, they want to emphasize what they can do. They believe that people with severe and profound learning disabilities, including autism should have a life full of expression, passion and enjoyment. To enable this to happen Soundabout aim to educate, support and empower through both training and supporting those in the community. That’s why Soundabout use music to enable people with learning disabilities to express themselves, connect with others, and feel the warmth of music.
Many of CCL’s learners and residents took part, with Grafton College accumulating a total of 303.5km. In total, including some office workers, CCL reached an astonishing total of 2847.21km and so far have raised a total of £135.
Talent Show Winner at WESC Foundation
WESC Foundation held the annual ‘WESC’s Got Talent’ event just before the end of the Spring term. It’s usually a lively celebration for the whole community, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, the event took place a little differently this year.
Rather than hosting the talent show live in the main hall, the young people (and staff!) were asked to send in pre-recorded entries. Although it was a shame not to be able to get everyone together in person to enjoy the performances it did mean that lots of young people were able to take part. There were many extremely talented entries, particularly in the ‘solo singing’ category.
College student, Ioan, blew the judges away with his fantastic rendition of Ed Sheeran’s song, Perfect. Ioan joined the WESC Foundation’s specialist college just last November. As everyone would be, Ioan was nervous to join a new college and meet so many new people when he first came to WESC Foundation, not to mention as he did so during COVID-19. Despite challenges, Ioan has settled in brilliantly at WESC and has made many friends. He has a wonderful sense of humour and loves sharing jokes with his peers.
Ioan recorded his entry for WESC’s Got Talent in front of his peers and it was remarkable to witness just how much his confidence had grown over a short space of time. His pitch-perfect performance was enjoyed live by the rest of his college bubble and later across the whole of the campus over Microsoft Teams. Ioan received a medal for his talented performance and WESC Foundation are very proud of him and how much his confidence has grown as he has settled into college life. Excellent work Ioan!
Derwen College opens on-site charity shop
Derwen College, near Oswestry, has opened a new charity shop offering pre-loved bargains to shoppers, and work experience to students with special educational needs and disabilities.
The Vintage Advantage at Derwen College, in Gobowen, has opened its doors to the public selling a range of quality second-hand clothing, accessories, homeware and books.
Students on the specialist college’s Retail and Enterprise pathway have supported staff in sorting, pricing and displaying goods, and are looking forward to practising their sales and marketing skills with customers.
The shop was opened thanks to support from Steve Morgan Foundation, and additional funds were donated by The Community Foundation for Staffordshire and Shropshire.
Staff and students have spent months on the project, preparing stock and filling up the shelves.
Fundraiser Anna Evans said: “We have been touched by the amount of beautiful donations we received from staff, the local community and families of students.
“The shop looks great. It has provided a fantastic work experience provision for students during the Covid pandemic, and will continue to provide an important retail training provision for many students in the years to come.”
Hidden Disabilities Awareness Day at Sense College Loughborough
On Monday 19 April the students at Sense College Loughborough held a Hidden Disabilities Awareness Day. This was organised by the students in the Vocational bubble as part of their Award in Employability Skills qualification. The students worked together as a team to plan, organise and run the event. The event included a film made by the students about the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Scheme and demonstrated the benefits of wearing the sunflower lanyard.
Students also decorated the College reception with an assortment or individually handcrafted sunflowers, giving the students an opportunity to show off their creative skills. The students also made all the sunflower themed cakes and sunflower badges.
For the event each bubble had their own pre-made pack that included cakes, sunflower badges, lanyards, sunflower bookmarks and sunflower plants, as well as sunflower arts and craft that they could try during the event. All students were able to have a cake and a drink for a £1 donation and they also received a Sunflower Scheme lanyard if they wanted one.
The event was a great success and all the students and staff in each bubble enjoyed the cakes and different crafts. The College raised £50 which will be donated to the ChildLine charity, as decided by the Vocational Students.
Hereward College opens new Birmingham base
Hereward College in Coventry has opened an outreach centre in Birmingham to serve students and employers in the region.
A college for young people with disabilities and additional needs, Hereward manages work programmes with local employers to support young people who need extra help to move into employment. The college also provides an independent assessment service for UK students who are eligible for the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA).
Based at the Custard Factory in Digbeth, young people and employers in the area will have the opportunity to access the college’s employment and assessment services more easily.
Hereward College currently delivers supported internships to Birmingham based residents through a very successful partnership with West Midlands Police. The supported interns take on a number of office-based roles resulting in permanent positions at the end of the programme.
Anthony Burnett, Assistant Director Diversity and Inclusion at West Midlands Police said: “It’s really important that we represent the communities we serve. Our partnership with the college helps us achieve that as well as tapping into students with amazing talent.”
Paul Cook, Principal & Chief Executive at Hereward College said: “We are delighted to be able to have a centre from which to support our Birmingham based students and partners. Through inclusive practice West Midlands Police have been able to bring the skills and expertise of our students to the fore.
“I would like to encourage more employers in the region to come on board and get involved in offering young people the opportunities they deserve.”
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