The weather’s finally warming up, the days are growing longer, and after a break for March we’re back bringing you highlights from across our membership.
It’s been a busy couple of months for Natspec. The SEND Green Paper was finally released, and we’ve been looking at the details and consulting with our members to shape our response to it. The Natspec Conference will shortly be upon us, and we’re busy making sure everything is prepared! Summer term training for both Transform and TechAbility is underway, with great opportunities on offer to enhance your practice.
Natspec’s member colleges have been just as busy. In this edition of the Highlights, we’re bringing you news of wonderful student achievements, fundraisers and campaigns. There’s an award for one college, and a celebration from another over their 150th anniversary. Visits to theatres, and a great inclusive sporting event. Read all about it below!
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Lights, Camera, Successful Employer Encounter
This piece was written by student Finola, studying at Homefield College.
On Wednesday the 6th of April 2022, I had the pleasure of being able to meet Nicola, who works as an Audience Development & Access Officer at Curve Theatre in Leicester.
During a very enjoyable hour, I found out lots of valuable information all about the different routes into Marketing, what skills and qualities are needed (creativity, organisation, strong time management skills, good written ability and diligence) as well as being privy to what exactly sparked Nicola’s interest in the industry originally!
After our in-depth discussion, I was then lucky enough to be given an exclusive tour of some of the offices at Curve – to get a feel for what it would be like to work there. I was very impressed by the open plan nature of all the spaces, which allows for maximum collaboration opportunities!!
By the time I had reached the end of my employer encounter, my eyes were well and truly opened. After speaking to Nicola, I began to think differently about the prospect of working at a place like Curve.
So, who knows, I may be the next creative mind behind a hit show campaign or viral social media post in a few years time!
Watch this space!
Team Domenica opens a new Café Domenica at Jubilee Library, staffed by young people with learning disabilities
Working in partnership with Brighton & Hove libraries, Team Domenica is opening a brand-new Café Domenica at Jubilee Library in Brighton centre.
Their cafés (Café Domenica), located at Hove Library, Preston Circus and Plus X on Lewes Road, are an essential part of their programme, providing work-based training for their candidates. The cafés help build candidate confidence in a real-world environment and support their training by introducing them to work in hospitality. Candidates don’t just learn technical skills like food preparation, hygiene, and barista skills, but they also gain transferrable skills like punctuality and customer service that they can take on to any paid employment.
The latest Café Domenica in Jubilee Library, situated in Jubilee square in the centre of Brighton, will be serving a variety of delicious breakfasts, lunches and cakes; not to mention Café Domenica’s speciality coffee, roasted and packaged in Kemp Town by the candidates themselves.
Café Area Manager, Bekki Lindores, said: “Being part of this community hub is really exciting for Team Domenica and we’re delighted to take our partnership with Brighton & Hove Libraries to the next level. Jubliee Library is a great environment to relax with a book, a slice of cake and a coffee. The children’s section is particularly impressive and we look forward to offering a child-friendly menu.”
“It means so much to Team Domenica and to our candidates,” adds Jo Gracie, Team Domenica Executive Director. “Working in Jubilee Library represents a wonderful opportunity for young people with learning disabilities to engage with the central Brighton community, and show that they are skilled, capable and confident young people with an appetite for work.”
The spacious Jubilee Library, built in 2005, has extensive IT facilities, a large LGBTQ+ literature collection and various social and community activities to enjoy. Exhibition pieces around the library lift the atmosphere even higher than its three-storey-high ceiling. The building has been described as one of the most energy-efficient structures in England—its carbon footprint is half that of a traditional public building of comparable size, and natural energy is used throughout.
Libraries Development Manager, Louise Sugden, said “We are very happy to be working in partnership with Café Domenica at both Hove and Jubilee libraries. Their presence at Hove Library has been welcomed by patrons and I have no doubt that they will bring a new energy to Jubilee. We can’t wait for them to open in April so our visitors can benefit from their varied menu and unique service. It is important to us that we are supporting Team Domenica candidates in their work-based training and absolutely right that, by working with Team Domenica, Brighton & Hove Libraries are helping young people with learning disabilities into paid employment.”
Café Domenica will be opening in Jubilee Library in early May 2022, Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm.
College student band perform live at Birmingham Symphony Hall
Talented students at Queen Alexandra College (QAC) enjoyed the opportunity to perform at the B:Music Birmingham Symphony Hall, more specifically the Jennifer Blackwell Performance Space!
The College’s very own music group ‘QAC Collective’ blew the audience away with some absolutely incredible displays of vocal and musical ability and group coordination, making for an overall amazing experience for all those in attendance.
QAC’s ongoing relationship with B:Music made this opportunity possible, and we look forward to working together again in the future to drive this initiative forward.
The students and staff at QAC worked extremely hard to make sure the performances were a success, and they certainly did not disappoint.
Achieving More Together – New Lyme & Wood Learning Hub
Students and staff from the Post 16 provision at Wargrave House School & College were delighted when the Mayor of St Helens officially opened their new Lyme & Wood Learning Hub on Friday 4 March 2022.
Students from the 16-25 provision will now have access to the learning hub to enable work on upcycling, construction, horticulture, alongside Maths / English / ICT functional skills.
Cllr Sue Murphy, Mayor of St Helens, commented after the event, “I was thrilled to open Lyme and Wood Learning Hub. It was wonderful meeting the young people and seeing their enthusiasm for learning new skills that will assist them in their future working life. The care and support shown by the staff is outstanding.”
The Lyme and Wood Learning Hub will provide positive partnership working, enabling students to experiment and prioritise, accepting each other’s challenges and supporting initiatives to enhance the community. Inclusive learning environments will be created maintaining community wellbeing, and positive outcomes for all.
The Royal National College for the Blind Celebrates 150th Anniversary
One of our member college is celebrating its landmark 150th anniversary throughout 2022.
The Royal National College for the Blind (RNC) which has been leading the way in education for the visually impaired since 1872, was founded when Victorian philanthropist, Dr Thomas Rhodes Armitage, met like-minded American visionary, Francis Joseph Campbell.
Both men were visually impaired and resolved to create a ground-breaking college focusing on offering blind students an education which would lead them into worthwhile employment.
The Royal National College for the Blind was born on 1 March 1872, based in London – firstly Crystal Palace and then Upper Norwood. Staff and students were evacuated during the Second World War and several homes followed in Kent, Buckinghamshire and Shropshire before finally settling in Hereford in 1978.
Armitage and Campbell were remarkable men and offered a curriculum that was liberal and advanced for its day, and designed to prepare its students for employment in a sighted world. Physical education was enthusiastically promoted, and the atmosphere was full of life and excitingly experimental.
Alongside academic studies, students were encouraged to take part in many and varied activities. From roller-skating to cooking, from rowing to music and from cycling to sewing – nothing was out of bounds and this ethos remains the focus today.
Over the years many students have competed in national, international and Paralympic competition, with RNC’s public leisure facility, thePoint4, also hosting many international tournaments such as the Blind Football World Championships.
Braille continues to thrive as a means of communication for the visually impaired with RNC still very much an advocate of teaching and learning Braille, whilst also embracing newer assistive technologies which help with communication, navigation and independence.
Applying the principles set out by the College’s founding fathers to modern day, it is important that RNC students develop their IT skills. Students are encouraged to learn or update their skills in a range of accessible technologies, including screen reading and magnifying software, which helps with accessing emails, searching the Internet and presenting work using industry standard software such as Microsoft Office. Equipping students with these skills helps with transition into the workplace and to university.
Brandon Hulcoop, completed his studies at RNC in 2021 and was soon offered an Admin Assistant role in his hometown of Plymouth. Brandon said:
“I never thought I would walk straight out of education into a job. RNC has been the best part of my life so far and without it I wouldn’t be the person I am. I wouldn’t be able to cook, I used to hate computers and no way would I have a job!”
RNC focuses on independent learning and living and empowers students to overcome barriers and develop skills and confidence in order to live their best lives. In fact, student, Abdul Eneser, who also left RNC in 2021, and is now reading Law at the University of Strathclyde, said:
“On my first weekend at RNC, I was given my first long cane and shown around the campus. Two weeks later, I challenged myself to complete my first independent travel journey on the train from Hereford to Manchester alone. I genuinely believe that I would not have been able to do that without support and encouragement from a brilliant Independent Living Skills (ILS) team at the College.”
The College runs a varied programme of A Level/Level 3 courses with many students progressing to university and, in recent years, two students have made it to Oxbridge. A suite of vocational programmes also offer students a gateway to employment in audio media production, business and administration, massage and complementary therapies, IT, and sports coaching and instruction. Students are taught to use standard equipment, with very little adaptation, to ensure they can apply their skills in any work setting from an office to a gym.
Tash Mead finished at RNC during the height of the pandemic in 2020. Unfortunately, given the timing, her dream of setting up a massage business was thwarted. However, the skills she learned and the work experience she undertook at RNC made her really resourceful when applying for jobs. Tash is now working as a Health Care Assistant at Mount Gould Hospital in Plymouth. She said:
“The Transitions Team at RNC are brilliant. They gave me a lot of good tips and techniques for interviews and filling out application forms and they helped me tweak my CV. I will probably revisit massage at some point but I’ve just bought my own flat and this job has given me the money and the opportunity to do that.”
Lucy Proctor, Executive Principal, said:
“The College is a national asset and has a fantastic history and legacy of providing top quality education, training and life skills. RNC alumni have, and continue to, make a very distinctive mark on the world including Paralympians, politicians, actors, teachers, entrepreneurs and musicians.
This milestone anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate RNC’s unique contribution and heritage and over the course of this 150th year, a variety of celebratory and commemorative events and activities will take place as a tribute to current and former staff, students and volunteers, reflecting on the many areas of interest, achievement and influence the College has fostered over the decades.”
Fairfield Farm College Students Raise Over £4000 for Good Causes
It’s been an incredibly busy month for students at Fairfield Farm College, a specialist college based in Dilton Marsh. Students have been actively fundraising for two very important causes, and whether it’s been helping organise donations for Ukraine or dancing their way around Dilton Marsh for Comic Relief, they’ve managed to raise an enormous £4368 and counting.
The Fairfield Farm College Student Council immediately jumped into action as the terrible events happening in Ukraine unfolded, and wanted to help whatever way they could. They started working with Daykin Estates in Westbury to organise and collect donations for refugees in Ukraine and beyond. It became apparent that there was a huge support from the college and surrounding community, so students spent several days helping to organise and pack the donations with the team at Daykin Estates.
As there had been so many donations, the Ukraine Crisis Appeal said they didn’t require any further clothing, so the college was able to donate the remaining clothes to Bag2School. They then work with charities across the world to distribute clothing to those who need it. Holly Worts, Senior Education Manager at Fairfield Farm College said, “We were able to pass these clothes on to Bag2School, and then donate the money we received back to the Ukraine Crisis Appeal, so nothing went to waste.”
Students also planned and took part in a range of events to help raise money for Comic Relief 2022. The main activity of was a ‘Sponsored Music Marathon’, as well as raffles and other activities. Groups of students were each given a music genre, they then walked, jogged, or ran a route around Dilton Marsh wearing fancy dress from the same genre. The total raised for Comic Relief was a massive £1280.00, the most students have ever raised for Comic Relief at the college.
Derwen College wins Queen’s Award for Enterprise
Derwen College is over the moon to have been honoured with a top business award endorsed by Her Majesty the Queen. The College has been honoured with a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Promoting Opportunity.
The College operates several businesses at its on-site ‘Marketplace’. Students learn work skills in a garden centre, café, restaurant, print shop, charity shop and a small hotel developed in conjunction with Premier Inn. They are then supported to progress to external work placements where appropriate.
Additionally, the College embraces technology, such as developing a CV Builder app which allows students to showcase their work skills to potential employers in an accessible way.
The College currently supports 143 students and interns with SEND to achieve their aspirations. Derwen College is proud to achieve outcomes that exceed the national average for people with SEND – including progression into paid employment, voluntary work, further training, increased independence and supported living.
Derwen College is one of 226 organisations nationally to be recognised with a prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise.
Now in its 56th year, the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise are the most prestigious business awards in the country, with winning businesses able to use the esteemed Queen’s Awards Emblem for the next five years.
In a formal letter, a spokesman for the Queen’s Awards said:
“I am delighted to inform you that Her Majesty the Queen has approved the Prime Minister’s recommendation that your company should receive a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the Promoting Opportunity category this year.
“It has been an exceptionally hard few years for businesses and this achievement is testament to the resilience you and your staff have shown through these unprecedented times.
The award will be presented to the College by Queen’s representative Shropshire Lord Lieutenant Anna Turner.
Derwen College Principal Meryl Green is invited to attend a Reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by HRH the Prince of Wales on 12 July.
The College has won and been shortlisted for many awards for 2021 and 2022. In the last year, the College has won Specialist College of the Year in the TES FE Awards and a NASEN (National Association for Special Educational Needs) Award.
Meryl Green said: “Derwen College is having an exceptional year for awards; for our educational and care provision, and for our business ‘Marketplace’. To receive this very special award, endorsed by the Queen, during her Platinum Jubilee’ really is the icing on the cake. We are very proud to receive this distinguished award, and would like to thank all our staff, students, families, and the community who support our College, our Charity and our Marketplace.”
Bringing together the cross-sector expertise of partners in the arts, social care and education sectors
Artists Laura and Mei Yuk from The Turnpike gallery have been working with a group of students every Thursday as part of the Making of Us project at Bridge College. Since January, the group has been meeting every week and have gained huge mutual respect and learned a lot from each other.
“Making of Us is a professional development programme supporting 16 mid-career socially engaged artists who live and work in Greater Manchester. Bringing together the cross-sector expertise of partners in the arts, social care and education sectors, Making of Us has initiated mutual learning opportunities and new ways of collaborating with a focus on artists engaging young people.”
Mei Yuk says, “I am an artist and writer. I was born in Hong Kong and have lived in Manchester for over twenty years. I believe art and wellbeing go together. I like to use art and words to express my thoughts, things that are important to me and the wider world. I use different things to make art, including newspapers, felt, chalk, wood, metal, or recycled materials. It all depends on the themes, the audience, and the venue. I also write poetry, short fiction and plays. My work has been shown in the UK and overseas.”
Laura says, “I am a Manchester-based ceramicist, specialising in pottery for mental health and wellbeing. I bring a playful, experimental approach to the material process and often integrate traditional ceramic practice with new techniques.
“Currently, I am undertaking a ‘creative share’ residency, working with a group of ceramicists at Pure Innovations to share ideas and processes. I am the ceramics coordinator at arts, and wellbeing charity Start Inspiring Minds and lecture on the arts and wellbeing program at Manchester Metropolitan University.”
The project has been student-led, which was brilliant, and everyone’s ideas were taken on board throughout the sessions. At the beginning of the project, students designed and made a plate from clay based on the theme, ‘hopes and dreams for 2022’. Learners have also been working with knitting yarn and other natural materials to inspire them to create. Everyone involved has really enjoyed taking part.
Mei Yuk says, “They haven’t just been learning artistic skills, they’ve been learning life skills as well.”
Student, Hussein said he really liked the project and liked working with clay.
Tutor Elizabeth says, “This is a fantastic learning opportunity for students to work with artists on such a creative project using materials and equipment that they haven’t used before.”
An exhibition is taking place in college to display the variety of artwork created.
Two Deaf young people deliver Deaf awareness for explorer scouts
Two Deaf young people from Doncaster Deaf social club have been teaching Pegasus explorer scouts in Doncaster the basics of British Sign Language (BSL) and given a valuable insight into life as a Deaf person.
Barry, a student at Communication Specialist College Doncaster and Megan, who works at Little Learners Day Nursery, both attend Doncaster Deaf Social Club and have been working to teach the explorer scout group Deaf Awareness.
Megan shared with them her cochlear implant and explained how it felt to be Deaf. The explorers learnt basic BSL greetings, as well as how to sign family members, the alphabet and numbers. The training finished with a fun game of BSL bingo.
Barry said: “It was great to share our knowledge with the explorers where I attend, and we hope that what we have taught them will help them to communicate better with Deaf people.
“We want to say a huge thank you to the Explorer Scout Group for inviting us to provide the Deaf awareness training.
“As it is Deaf Awareness Week, we want to remind everyone how important being Deaf Aware is, and it means more people in the community will be able to relate to, and communicate with Deaf people.
“Anyone over the age of 16 who is deaf or hearing impaired and would like to attend a social club to meet new people and enjoy a range of activities can come along to our Deaf Social Club. We meet each week on a Thursday between 6pm and 9pm in The Blues bar at Doncaster Deaf Trust.
“You also could have the opportunity to make a difference in your community by supporting others to be Deaf Aware. Most weeks we enjoy socialising, playing sports, going out on various trips – all free of charge.”
Doncaster Deaf Trust also offers a free online Level 1 British Sign Language course covering basic signs including greetings, numbers, addressing people, travel and transport and hobbies.
Student puts a welcoming face on careers fair
Students at Trinity Post 16 Solutions recently attended a careers fair, hosted by Employment Engagement officer Sarah Butler. The learners had a full day engaging with different tasks and challenges, whilst meeting employers.
Special mention must go to Aaron, who was the student tasked with being the first point of contact for visiting employers. With great professionalism, Aaron greeted them at reception, showed them to their table and offered hospitality to the guests.
Aaron showed how much progress he has made since joining Trinity Post 16 Solutions and everyone at the college is very proud of him.
Lifeworks inclusive sport event hailed a success
Lifeworks events exist not only so that the young people they work with can take part whatever the sport may be, but so they can do so with their families and peers.
Over 60 young people with learning disabilities and their families enjoyed a packed day of activities in the Saturday sun at the Lifeworks Free Family fun Day at the Torbay Leisure Centre & Velopark.
Due to Covid the event had been put on hold for 2 years, but it was well worth the wait. As Mark Thorneywork, one of the Lifeworks Community programme officers and host for the event said: “We’ve waited over 2 years to come back together for this event. On Saturday the Gods were kind, the weather was with us and all of you held the space beautifully. It was great to see so many people come along and to give out some long overdue certificates to some of our amazing young people.”
The event, organised by Lifeworks, consisted of a number of multi-disciplinary inclusive sports, including cycling, archery, rugby, football, boccia, basketball and much more. With the event run in partnership with many other local charities including Play Torbay, Premier Education, PHAB Club Torquay, ACTIVE DEVON, Freetrike Disability Cycling, The Velopark Veterans, Lift-the-Lid and Lex Leisure who all came together to celebrate children and young people with learning disabilities from across Devon and Torbay in being active.
Many of the young people we all support have been able to access Lifeworks provision free of charge in the holidays thanks to Torbay Council’s Healthy Holidays Programme and Devon County Council’s Holiday Activity and Food Programme.
Sarah-Jane Lowson, Lifeworks Community Projects Development Manager said of the event,
“Thank you to everyone who came and helped this year. It was lovely to be able to connect with families with disabled children and with our local community sports facilities as well as to celebrate young people with learning disabilities who have kept active during the Pandemic; have learnt new skills, and have helped in their community. These activity events exist not only so that the young people we work with can take part whatever the sport may be, but so they can do so with their families and peers. Being able to be active with siblings ‘on equal terms’ is relatively rare and special. It strengthens bonds between family members taking part. For the young people with a learning disability, taking part isn’t about wanting the extraordinary. It is about living an ordinary life.”
Lifeworks Community Projects activities give young people with learning disabilities the chance to make and meet up with friends, improve their health, try new activities and support to achieve their best futures. From short breaks to inclusive sports and our Extraordinary Young People project, we offer opportunities which open up possibilities, whilst promoting accessible sport & physical activity in the Local Community
One parent commented, “It was such a brilliant day, thank you so much to all the organisers,” with another parent adding, “Elliot had such an enjoyable day, he said it was the best day ever!”
Students from Lifeworks also participated in creating an amazing performance of one of the hits from The Greatest Showman, ‘This is Me’.
Action-packed performances at Orpheus
Students at Orpheus have had a very busy couple of months, taking part in performances, fundraisers and more.
In early March, Orpheus held an action packed fundraiser called Repeat the Beat, held in memory of Orpheus student and talented drummer Lucy. Students and staff took part in a very noisy 10 hour drummathon with music workshops, solo performances and drumming all around the centre. Songwriter and college founder Sir Richard Stilgoe even popped in to compose a brand new song with the students in honour of Lucy.
In mid-March, Orpheus students gave a surprise performance at the All England Dance AGM held at Folkington Manor in East Sussex. Their appearance at the event was aimed at sparking discussions around inclusivity at future All England Dance festivals. The students’ performance and the audience’s reaction was very emotional with a standing ovation.
Orpheus was also please to hold their busy Next Stage event. They welcomed 13 different organisations and businesses to meet and help students consider their options and plan their futures after they leave Orpheus. The college’s own enterprise company Butterfly Catering prepared and served all the refreshments and the Reel Deal film group interviewed guests and made a video about the day.
Orpheus alumni and ambassador, Angus put on an incredible singing performance after being invited to perform alongside the London Welsh Rugby Club Choir in April. The event was in support of the RNLI and also included a collection for Orpheus.
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