Welcome to December 2021’s Natspec Highlights. Colleges were busy throughout December, both with festive activities and seeing long term projects come to fruition. Whilst the pandemic continues to bring difficulties and prevented some festive activities from going quite as planned, there was still a lot on display.
Here at Natspec, we’re preparing for what we’re sure will be a busy year ahead, kicking off with our Peer Exchange Week in January as an opportunity for our members to share advice and practice. And you can, of course, see more upcoming events over on our events calendar.
For now, please enjoy this round up of good news from across the Specialist FE Sector!
- Former QAC Hospitality student served up an award!
- Reflecting on the Autumn Term at Homefield
- Portland Pathways Receives National Recognition
- Linkage College participates in a short film for Tesco’s Food Collection campaign
- Festive treats at Treloar College
- The Green Shop at Sense College Loughborough
- Best-selling Author opens new student common room
- Staff and students brave the cold to raise funds for enterprise project in Doncaster 10k
- Outdoor Christmas Market for LEAP College
- Double recognition for incredible teacher at Derwen College
Former QAC Hospitality student served up an award!
OCS Foodhouse recently presented a Star Award to current volunteer and former Queen Alexandra College (QAC) residential student Jim for his amazing service since he joined the team in 2015.
On completion of his Hospitality programme at QAC, Jim successfully secured a voluntary role with OCS Foodhouse 3 days a week following a work placement opportunity with them as part of his studies. Jim also progressed onto QAC’s supported living provision, Independence Plus.
During his time with OCS Jim has continued to develop his knowledge and skills in the Hospitality industry – Jim regularly supports with cleaning, washing up, food preparation and College break and lunch service.
Mike Holmes, OCS Foodhouse Manager, commented: “Jim gets on well with everyone and never fails to put a smile on our faces. He’s an absolute pleasure to have around!”
QAC is a national residential College and Charity that supports a diverse range of student abilities and needs. Based in Birmingham, the College provides education, training and routes to independent living and employment.
OCS Foodhouse and QAC have a longstanding relationship built over many years providing a great selection of healthy, nutritious and delicious hot and cold meals using well-sourced ingredients for college staff and students.
Reflecting on the Autumn Term at Homefield
The first term of the academic year has not been without its challenges, but despite the continued pandemic, students at Homefield are settling in well. It was great to see so many students attend the Welcome Party at Thorpe Farm, enjoying the bbq, disco and art exhibition, and the Welcome Fayre where they learnt more about opportunities available to them as Homefield students.
Students have been enjoying a range of vocational experiences, including the College’s new Hair, Grooming & Beauty session which has proved very popular across all learning pathways. Pathway 1 students are integrating more with other learning pathways and accessing more sessions such as Performing Arts, Woodwork and Horticulture to be able to learn from their peers. The other students on these sessions are providing great role models, as well as helping each other to complete tasks and recognising each person’s strengths and weaknesses.
Students have enjoyed many Focus Weeks throughout the term, with particular highlights being the visit from Leicestershire Fire Service for Health & Safety Focus Week, and riding on adaptive bikes with Wheels For All for Road Safety Focus Week. These have been great opportunities to take important topics and consider how to embed them into sessions throughout the week. Students also took part in Remembrance Services at Sileby and Mountsorrel, including student readings of In Flanders Field and laying of the wreaths, with activities across the week about the importance of Remembrance Day, what the poppies stand for, and how to honour those who gave their lives for our today.
So far this term students have been on many work placements and internships, including Waitrose, Morrisons, Sileby Library, Kelly Guy Equestrian and Barnardo’s. At the Nuneaton campus, one student has also secured a Supported Internship with Timpson’s, furthering his interest in working with watches. The college has also made the most of volunteering opportunities and skills competitions, including writing cards to elderly care home residents in the local community and entering the annual corporate Christmas card competition.
At the Nuneaton site, students enjoyed a visit from tutor Kate’s pet, a tortoise, after reading Roald Dahl’s ‘Esio Trot’. They then created a beautiful display, decorating a picture of a tortoise with what they like about college. Students at this site have also continued with their daily mile, implemented last year to help boost wellbeing and fitness levels.
Enterprises Barrow of Treats (BOT) and Breward’s Coffee Shop have kept students busy preparing food and serving customers. Students at BOT cooked a Diwali feast for students, staff and customers to enjoy, with the coconut Barfi being a particular favourite. Breward’s students have been batch-preparing cookies, cakes and warm meals for customers to eat in or take away, keeping a steady supply of scones for the locals.
December saw the Performing Arts Christmas Showcase, the annual Christmas meals and the Festive Sponsored Stroll. Students walked through Bradgate Park raising money for Leicester Hospitals Charity, and the College is pleased to report students have raised £182 in cash so far for this worthy cause, with cheques yet to be counted. Woodwork, Forestry (Enstruct) & Motor Vehicle (TECK) students also made Christmas decorations for Mountsorrel’s Christmas Tree Festival.
Portland Pathways Receives National Recognition
In December Portland Pathways were excited to be invited to the British Chambers of Commerce Annual Awards Ceremony as national finalists of the Equality Trailblazer Award.
The virtual awards ceremony recognised and promoted the best of British businesses, and while we didn’t win the award, being a national finalist is a huge achievement.
Portland Pathways opened in 2017 with a focus on bridging the disability employment gap locally.
With hubs in Mansfield and Sutton in Ashfield, the programmes and 1:1 support help people with disabilities and mental health challenges to develop skills and prepare for and find employment.
In partnership with the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Recovery College courses help to improve mental health, and 1:1 counselling sessions enable people to overcome barriers to employment.
Since opening, the service has already received 4 prestigious awards in recognition of the community impact. The Pathways service has received nearly 900 referrals, secured over 200 jobs for their customers and enrolled 431 people onto Recovery College courses.
They are expanding further across the county so more people can benefit from the unique service, with a hub opening in Worksop in the new year and plans to open in Kirkby in Ashfield in Spring.
Tim Richmond OBE, Chair of Governors commented, “We are extremely proud of the national recognition Portland Pathways received as finalists in the British Chambers of Commerce Awards. The team have worked hard to create and grow the Pathways initiative which provides vital, life-changing services to hundreds of vulnerable people each year. In its short four years, it has already achieved so much and we have exciting plans to further increase its impact across the county next year.”
Dr Mark Dale, Principal and CEO added, “As part of the Portland Charity Group, Portland Pathways supports our vision of providing a lifetime of opportunity for people with disabilities. Mental Health issues and disability unemployment are national challenges. Pathways aims to tackle these challenges locally by providing courses to improve people’s mental health and well-being and supporting disabled people to find long-term work. The huge impact the team have already had is clear and this national recognition is a wonderful way to celebrate their achievements so far.”
Linkage College participates in a short film for Tesco’s Food Collection campaign
In November, Linkage College was approached by Tesco to feature in a short film for the Tesco Food Collection campaign. Learners at Weelsby campus receive food from the local Tesco stores as part of the FareShare scheme which sees good quality surplus food from the food industry redistributed to frontline charities and community groups.
Hospitality learners use the food to create healthy and hearty meals which are then take to a local drop-in centre for the homeless or those on low incomes.
The project combines vocational learning with social action, providing learners with meaningful and enriching opportunities to: develop the required skills for their course, get involved with their local community and build on transferrable skills for the workplace, further education and more independent adult life. The benefits are wide ranging for both learners and the local community so Tesco wanted to create a case study to encourage the public to donate food.
You can watch the resulting short film on Tesco’s twitter feed:
Festive treats at Treloar College
Students at Treloar’s have had a bit of a topsy turvy year, but have adapted to each challenge put in their way. From lockdowns, to vaccinations, to virtual learning, the students have embraced each stage and kept staff smiling throughout. Despite the challenges the staff are so proud of everything our students have achieved this term at college with the support of our team. Students have been out on work experience, working on enterprise projects, attending the local Christmas market and collecting donations for community hampers.
Sing and sign Christmas party
At college, the entry, sensory and interactive classes have been working really hard making Christmas videos for the Makaton sing & sign party this week. College tutor Denise organized a hybrid party with some College students gathering in the newly renovated performance hall, and some students joining via Zoom to sing along to Christmas party tunes and classics. The event included Makaton Christmas bingo to help reinforce the learning that takes place alongside the tunes. You can join in and watch Treloar’s sing and sign films on YouTube
College class collect donations for hampers for the elderly
As part of students’ holistic learning, Treloar’s encourages their involvement in local community initiatives that help others. This also links into the work experience programme where students can get involved by taking part in fundraising activities, volunteering or even campaigning for charities of interest.
Spotlight UK was set up in 2009 to help vulnerable and disadvantaged people to build confidence, self-esteem, and resilience. Spotlight UK provides support through mentoring, emergency food/clothes bank, sports classes, dance classes, family treats and so much more.
Charlotte’s college tutor group collected donations of chocolates, biscuits, toiletries, socks, and scarves, and created Christmas gift bags for the elderly and Christmas food hampers for families. Ben, Caris and Amos are pictured with their class donations.
Alton Christmas Market
On a bright but chilly Saturday morning, Ben supported by his tutor Charlotte, worked at Treloar’s stall at the local Christmas Market. He was busy selling gifts his tutor group had made and getting stuck into the Christmas spirit. Looking after a market stall is great practice for community skills, there’s lots of opportunity to practice communication and money handling skills. It was great to be back out in the community representing Treloar’s.
Christmas bake off!
Flossie’s domestic independence classes have been getting creative with their Christmas cake designs this year. Using their best communication and functional skills, working together as a team, cakes were made and decorated over a couple of weeks in November. The students researched ideas for decorating their cakes on the internet. Each one is very individual.
The Green Shop at Sense College Loughborough
Students at Sense College Loughborough have been hard at work in the lead up to Christmas to reopen the college’s shop, with a brand new name!
The Green Shop, as the students have chosen to call it, has been reinvented with an environmentally-friendly ethos. The shop will only be selling eco-friendly and sustainable products, such as handmade soaps and candles, fresh produce from a local farm, plants and herbs grown by people on the college’s social care programme, and reusable cotton pads. The shop also has a refill station, where customers can bring in their own bottles and stock up on hand soap, laundry detergent and fabric conditioner, to reduce the amount of plastic we use.
The shop is being run by students from the Vocational Pathway who are setting up and running the shop as part of a qualification in employability skills! They have been interviewing students for roles within the business, painting and decorating the shop, installing new shelves, and setting up the till and card machine. The students have also been working in the Media Hub to create a new logo for the shop and designing packaging options for their products.
The Green Shop will provide a great opportunity for students across the College to develop their skills in customer service, numeracy and teamwork, while gaining experience in a retail environment, and learning about sustainability and eco-friendly alternatives to everyday products.
Best-selling Author opens new student common room
Alison Weir, a best-selling author and public historian and her husband Rankin Weir opened a new student common room at Orchard Hill College in memory of their son John Weir who worked at the college for many years and sadly passed away in March 2020.
In his memory, a donation was made to the college to fund equipment for the common room, including a PlayStation and games, sensory equipment and a 3D printer. Students and staff gathered to officially open the common room and shared fond memories of John and a plaque was unveiled in his honour.
Alison Weir also presented students with their Bronze and Silver Duke of Edinburgh Awards. John Brown, a College Member, who also presented the awards said “All the students have been working very hard completing their expeditions and voluntary work, despite all the restrictions. Achieving these awards has been life changing for many of them and a significant achievement for everyone in the group.”
Staff and students brave the cold to raise funds for enterprise project in Doncaster 10k
A team of 50 students from Communication Specialist College Doncaster walked 10k as part of the Trust’s Doncaster 10k fundraising.
In addition, 18 members of staff took part in this year’s Doncaster 10k run to raise money for a student enterprise project at Doncaster Deaf Trust.
This year’s race took place on Sunday 28 November at Doncaster Racecourse and thanks to the Trust once again being named as a chosen charity, other runners were able to help to support their fundraising campaign.
Alexis Johnson, executive principal of Doncaster Deaf Trust said: “What can I say, we were absolutely overwhelmed by the support we got from staff and students for this year’s Doncaster 10k.
“It was amazing to see our students complete the walk ahead of the big race and to see so many members of staff putting on their running shoes and joining us for the 10k run.
“In 2020 I took part in the Doncaster 10k but due to covid restrictions I ran the race alone around our school field. This year was such a different experience to be there with so many other runner and colleagues.
“We were pleased to be joined on the day by Katy Bailey from Irwin Michell, Sheffield, who was a much welcome last-minute addition to our team.
“Our thanks go to everyone who took part and those who ran to raise money for this project, it will make a huge difference.”
The Enterprise team at Communication Specialist College Doncaster, part of Doncaster Deaf Trust, are fundraising to create a new café and shop area on site for the students to run. All money raised for the Trust via this event will go towards the project.
Outdoor Christmas Market for LEAP College
Thanks to fantastic planning by LEAP College’s Post 16 staff and student team everyone was able to enjoy a COVID safe festive and cheerful outdoor Christmas market event complete with a seasonal café. The students worked very hard making gifts, such as, wooden snowmen, personalise letters to Santa, hot chocolate goodie bags and a raffle for a luxury Chocolate hamper.
The Cosy Corner Café offered Christmas treats and everyone was entertained by the college band ‘Electric Stars’ who sang a Christmas song they had written themselves and carols, this was followed by the school Makaton choir. It was a wonderful morning of joy and happiness for the children and young people to share some Christmas spirit.
Between the market stalls and a raffle an amazing amount of £488.25 was raised! The funds raised will go towards experiential learning opportunities for LEAP’s 16-25 students, especially those who are involved in event planning and hospitality accredited learning. The stalls included Nicky’s stall, a student who fundraised at his stall for the RSPCA where he’s working on his Supported Internship. Nicky raised an amazing £138. The following Monday, he took the money to the centre and received a certificate to say thank you for his excellent charity work.
Double recognition for incredible teacher at Derwen College
An inspirational teacher at Shropshire’s Derwen College, has been rewarded for his passion and commitment to providing sports and leisure activities suitable for all students.
Steve Evans, who is Sports & Leisure Coordinator, and leads the College’s Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards programme, has been recognised twice for his determination to make health, fitness and fun, part of every student’s timetable.
He has been named as one of the nation’s most inspirational educators at a prestigious awards ceremony. Selected from thousands of nominations, Stephen Evans won a Gold Award in the Pearson National Teaching Awards for Excellence in Special Needs Education.
Judges praised Steve’s tireless commitment to bringing sport and leisure into the lives of students with a wide variety of complex special educational needs and disabilities, including many who arrive at college believing that sport isn’t for them. They described his impact on these students as ‘life-changing’, and were struck by his determination to offer a huge range of inclusive activities ensuring that everyone could benefit from regular exercise.
Steve is also one of just 100 people across the world to receive a specially-commissioned commemorative Duke of Edinburgh coin. He was chosen as one of the 50 recipients in the UK to be awarded a £5 Crown coin in recognition of work for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards.
His passion and drive have been instrumental in bringing the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards to the College, giving students the opportunity, motivation and self-belief to get involved with these challenging awards, encouraging them to strive and attain goals beyond their expectations.
Ashley Williams, Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards Operations Officer for Telford and Wrekin and Shropshire, and Centenary Youth Ambassador Project Manager, said he was proud to put Steve’s name forward for the honour.
He said: “Steve is an incredible ambassador for the Award and goes above and beyond on a daily basis, to give every student who wants to take part at Derwen College, the opportunity to do so. His passion and determination to support students through each of the sections of their awards is unrivalled.
“It is clear to see the positive impact that taking part in DofE has on the students at Derwen, as each time I visit the College, I am given the opportunity to speak to the students and their faces light up talking about DofE, the fun they have and the memories they have made. They all love Steve, and value the opportunities he facilitates for them.
Steve said he was surprised and honoured to receive both the Gold Pearson award and the Duke of Edinburgh’s silver coin on behalf of the College
He said: “To be recognised in this way is a proud moment for me. We are always looking to create better opportunities for our students, and we believe a healthy and happy young person will go on to achieve great things in life. It’s an inspirational journey to be part of.
“My colleagues and I all want to make a difference to our young people. These awards are a real team effort. It’s such a powerful thing to have a positive impact on a student, and to do this work every day is more of a passion than a profession. I feel very honoured.”
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