The start of the new year has already brought new challenges for specialist colleges, with a third lockdown in England and further restrictions in Wales. Specialist colleges are doing their utmost to provide on-site learning to all learners who want a place, and providing opportunities for learning at home for learners to access when they would be safer there.
This edition of the highlights rounds up the best stories from our colleges from the end of the autumn term, highlighting Christmas celebrations, student achievements and new projects.
We would also like to extend our congratulations to Emma Cobley, principal at Foxes Academy, who was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list.
- RNC Student Strongman Ends Fundraising Challenge on a High Taking Fourth Place at the ‘World’s Strongest Disabled Man 2020’ Competition
- In-house enterprise underway at HBVC
- Fundraising during a pandemic at Sense College Loughborough
- Project Search Intern from Newfriars College helps save life
- More than 14000 people join online British Sign Language course
- Stunning designs created by Derwen’s Hospitality Students
- QAC student has poem published in Young Writers book
- Condover College’s Virtual Christmas Party Via Zoom!
- ESPA College moves to new home with new facilities!
- Portland College’s Generous Gifts Help Spread Christmas Cheer
RNC Student Strongman Ends Fundraising Challenge on a High Taking Fourth Place at the ‘World’s Strongest Disabled Man 2020’ Competition
Strongman competitor Chris Colbert, a student with The Royal National College for the Blind (RNC), used the first lockdown to keep up an impressive weight training regime at home.
His success at this prompted Chris to take on the challenge of training for three strongman competitions whilst raising funds for a vital upgrade to RNC’s on-site student gym. The gym is specially adapted for use by visually impaired (VI) students at the College for their general fitness as well as those studying for sports and personal trainer qualifications.
Despite the pandemic and a back injury, Chris powered through and his efforts paid off. In September 2020, he picked up a trophy, placing second in the ‘West Yorkshire Strongest Man and Woman’ competition.
In October, he was back in action at ‘England’s Most Powerful 2020’. His day didn’t quite go to plan when a back injury struck during the competition. Although suffering, Chris completed all events and came in at a very creditable 15th place in a field of 30 competitors.
Following some well-deserved rest and recuperation, Chris was back in training for the third and final competition – The World’s Strongest Disabled Man 2020.
This took place on 27 December and RNC are thrilled to report that Chris placed fourth overall in the international competition and third among the UK competitors.
On completion of this epic strongman challenge, Chris said:
“I feel great, it’ a really good feeling to have taken part in all three competitions – I really didn’t think we’d pull it off given the many ups and downs over the last year but, I’m thrilled to have taken part and picked up some trophies along the way. I’d really like to thank my trainer back in Doncaster, Andrew Lumley of ‘Viking Power & Strength’ for his support and encouragement and to Aaron Rees, my teacher at RNC.”
Chris is now looking forward to UK competitions in Suffolk and Doncaster in 2021 and there’s a possibility he might get to attend the ‘Arnold Classic’ in the USA.
In-house enterprise underway at HBVC
The Employability department have collaborated with HBVC’s Pathway to Employment Group B to secure £6060 of Lotto funding for an in-house enterprise project. The students will be starting their own enterprise by making face masks and exemption badges for those most in need within the local community. The masks and badges will be distributed for free with the option of a charitable donation towards HBVC’s connections with local foodbanks and care homes.
The project will be of great benefit to the local community, and as the masks are re-usable it will hopefully mean less waste from single use masks being sent to landfill or littered around the local area. The aim is to provide the students with an opportunity to partake in a meaningful enterprise / work placement within our COVID-19 secure college, whilst giving them the chance to engage with the community during these challenging times. They will be learning a wide range of skills from manufacturing and packaging to ICT and functional skills.
The students have already started practicing their sewing skills and will be purchasing their start up materials online using pre-paid cards. This will give them an opportunity to build skills around online shopping and how to safely make card payments online. We are all very excited to see the end products!
Thanks to National Lottery players for making the project possible. HBVC are making a huge difference to the lives of local people thanks to National Lottery funding.
Fundraising during a pandemic at Sense College Loughborough
Like a lot of other places up and down the country, Sense College Loughborough has had to make changes this year due to the pandemic. They have introduced staggered start and finish times for our students, extra staff rooms have been created to allow social distancing, and become very familiar with an all too common word: bubbles!
One thing that hasn’t changed is their desire to raise funds and awareness for some really worthwhile causes. Usually, the College comes together to enjoy a number of fundraising events throughout the year. Students and staff can take part in all sorts of activities and, more often than not, treat themselves to a yummy cake or two (alternative healthy options also available). In previous years, the College would set a fundraising target for the academic year, aiming to raise more money than the year before.
Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to join together as usual since returning to College in September, but the College Office have worked hard to make sure that everyone can still have a little fun while raising some money. So far this year, the College has already raised an amazing £243 for Children in Need and Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day, as well as a fantastic effort to collect donations for a local foodbank.
For Children in Need in November, staff and students were treated to cakes and squash in each of their bubbles, and donned their Pudsey ears, pyjamas and fancy dress. As some of the students were learning at home on the day of the fundraiser, they were sent recipes for Pudsey cupcakes and Children in Need bunting that could be printed and cut out at home.
For Christmas Jumper Day in December, those in College could again enjoy sweet treats in their bubbles, were encouraged to come in dressed in their most festive outfits, and could take part in our ‘Design your own Christmas Jumper’ display. Those who were at home were also sent Christmas bunting and another recipe for cupcakes, so that they could take part in the activities.
As well as raising money, the College has also collected donations of food, toiletries and Christmas treats for Shepshed Food Bank. The food bank were very grateful for all of the generous donations that were delivered by a group of students just before Christmas.
Project Search Intern from Newfriars College helps save life
Project Search intern from Newfriars College has been recognised for his life-saving work whilst working as a porter at Royal Stoke University Hospital.
A visitor to the hospital suffered a cardiac arrest in a lift. William Nock – one of the hospitals youngest porters – heard a thud in the lift and went to investigate. His quick thinking meant that a medical team was quickly alerted to get them care as quickly as possible.
Louise Durose, Portering Manager at Royal Stoke, said: “William just happened to be passing by a lift when he heard a bit of a thud and went to investigate. When he realised the person was in trouble he sprung into action.
“I really am proud of both William and Liam, they work so hard. People don’t always realise what a skilled job portering is, but it involves a lot of mental and emotional intelligence as well as physical strength and resilience.”
Because of their quick action, the visitor was transferred for care and had a dignified passing with their family able to be there.
William and Liam have been given the Chief Executive’s Award in recognition of the significant difference they made to the patient and their family.
More than 14000 people join online British Sign Language course
The online course, launched at the end of March, was developed thanks to National Lottery Funding and has seen thousands sign up to take part to learn Level One BSL.
Alexis Johnson, executive principal of Doncaster Deaf Trust said: “We are thrilled to have seen such a positive response to our free resource, enabling people to learn a new skill.
“Sign Language is a great communication tool for people to learn and we know that there are many campaigns to have British Sign Language taught in schools.
“This course will teach families, young people and business people the basics of communicating using sign.”
The course covers basic signs including greetings, numbers, addressing people, travel and transport and hobbies.
Ten organisations in Doncaster have pledged to get their staff signing as part of Doncaster Deaf Trust’s mission to encourage more people to learn to sign.
Teams from Business Doncaster, CAST, Doncaster Culture and Leisure Trust, Club Doncaster, Doncaster Sheffield Airport, Ellgia Waste Management and Recycling Limited, Hilton Garden Inn, Lakeside Village Shopping Outlet, Orb Recruitment and Venatu Recruitment have joined the online learning.
Alexis added: “It is great to see the progress that some of our Super 10 businesses are making and we are looking forward to seeing more videos of them signing in 2021.
“It is simple to sign up and you can run through the course at your own pace, doing a little each day and practicing as often as you can.
“Huge thanks to Natalie Pollard who is the course designer and one of the signers, Mike Beslin, the eLearning course producer from the Trust and our signers who have worked tirelessly to make this happen. Without the Lottery Funding this would not have been possible, so a big thank you goes out to them too.
“We are looking forward to seeing lots of people sign up to the course and develop a new skill that will help them to communicate with the Deaf community.
“Anyone wanting to share videos or photos of them practicing their new skills should tag Doncaster Deaf Trust Facebook page in their posts.”
Stunning designs created by Derwen’s Hospitality Students
Derwen College Hospitality and Housekeeping students took part in their in-house themed Christmas table laying competition, creating three stunning table designs that any restaurant would be proud of.
The competition, which saw three entries by first, second and third year students, was judged via internet link by Derwen College industry champion Stephen Conroy from Moreton Hall School.
The winning table was created by students Joseph Glaze, Isabel McFall and William Chapple.
Hospitality and Housekeeping lead Alison Adams said:
“I was extremely proud of all three entries. The students did not have long to prepare, and yet the finished results would have looked beautiful in any restaurant or home during the festive period. Thank you to the teachers and the students for all their hard work, it was a great way to finish off this term.”
Judge Stephen Conroy said: “It was a great competition, and it was great to see some of the students again. Well done to all of those that took part!
“When I showed some of my colleagues they were very impressed. My assistant, who has spent years in the wedding trade, helped me pick the winner. She was very impressed by the level of detail; the amount of care, coordination of colours and styles was second to none.
The competition was good work experience practice and preparation for the college’s national Skills Live competitions which takes place from 1st to 5th March 2021 to coincide with Careers Week.
QAC student has poem published in Young Writers book
QAC are delighted to announce that Abdullah, QAC Health and Social Care student, has completed an amazing piece of writing that has been published in a book produced by Young Writers called ‘Write To Unite – Uplifting Words’.
Abdullah entered a writing competition organised by Young Writers, submitting a piece about Covid to help uplift people during these unprecedented times.
Young Writers was founded in 1991 with the aim of getting children and young adults to fall in love with reading and creative writing.
You can find out more information about Young Writers and purchase Abdullah’s book on their website. Congratulations Abdullah!
Condover College’s Virtual Christmas Party Via Zoom!
Due to COVID-19, Condover College were forced to alter their Christmas party. This year it was held on Wednesday 9 December with all houses, Grafton, the Opportunities programme & Longbow celebrating together via Zoom. It started with each house performing part of the nativity, followed by Christmas songs and dancing – Oliver’s dancing was particularly phenomenal! Grafton then played a video of all the festive activities they had partaken in and showed us a beautiful cover of Sam singing Silent Night, which brought a tear to many people’s eyes! As if this wasn’t lovely enough, they then surprised our residents with videos of their families giving them and their house team Christmas well wishes.
As they were unable to meet in one venue, the food was supplied by Jenny’s Catering, who did a fantastic job at providing a three course Christmas Dinner for 250 people, in 23 different ‘bubbles’ and over 15 schemes. The food was delivered on time to everyone and was delicious.
After our delightful Christmas Dinner, all schemes continued to enjoy their parties! Although it was a different way of doing things, everyone made the most of it and it was still a wonderful day filled with festivities.
ESPA College moves to new home with new facilities!
In September ESPA College’s provision in Teesside moved home from Middlesbrough to Stockton. They were based in MyPlace in Middlesbrough since the service opened in January 2016. In that time they had outgrown that space and needed to find new premises with enough space to meet their current learner needs.
After a long time of searching for a suitable building, they found Tithebarn House, located next to North Tees Hospital in Stockton. ESPA’s Ware Street service used Tithebarn as their home for a time, while Ware Street was being renovated.
With Ware Street moving out of Tithebarn, ESPA College was ready to make Tithebarn the new home for ESPA’s Teesside College provision.
It was a hectic moving day, but they managed to get everything moved for the start of term in September. If you hate moving house, try moving a college!
All of the learners have given positive feedback on their new college building, even though that the change in venue did not come easy. The learners and staff are working hard to make our new building their new home.
Portland College’s Generous Gifts Help Spread Christmas Cheer
After a tough year for so many people, Portland College wanted to help spread a little festive joy to those most in need in their community.
So, they teamed up with the ATTFE College Let’s All Eat Foodbank, whose tremendous work helps hundreds of people locally who are struggling to afford food.
After supporting their ‘Let’s All Eat’ initiative throughout the year by donating over 3,000 sandwiches, Portland wanted to help further by supporting their vital Christmas effort that provides a lifeline for so many people.
Staff at Portland set to work in a bid to collect funds as well as food, toys, clothes and gifts, and the amount of donations we collected was incredible.
Portland College gave its staff a £10 Love2Shop voucher each as a Christmas gift, and lots of staff chose to donate these to the cause too, raising £300, which meant 50 Christmas treat bags could be created.
Thanks to the generosity of staff and their families and friends, Portland were able to deliver a huge range of gifts today that were distributed to people in time for Christmas.
Edward Johnstone, Assistant Principal, Development at Portland College said. “Let’s All Eat Foodbank provides a vital service that makes a huge difference to so many people’s lives locally. The impact is huge and that’s why we’ve chosen them as our Charity of the Year. We will continue to help them in any way we can, and we’re proud to support their efforts to stamp out food poverty in our area. Thank you to everyone who has donated this Christmas.”
Linda Smith, from ATTFE’s Let’s All Eat initiative commented, “The support and generosity of the staff from Portland College has been truly amazing. During these challenging and uncertain times, the food and toys will go a long way in bringing happiness to those families who are struggling at Christmas time. From everyone associated with our food bank, we thank you all for your ongoing support and kindness”.
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