Natspec Highlights February 2020

A monthly roundup of stories from the specialist sector

Natspec Highlights February 2020

4th March 2020

Welcome to February’s edition of the Natspec Highlights! Bringing you news and great stories from across our membership, we’re delighted to share just some of what they’ve been up to with you!

This month features news about a smashing fundraising event, multiple successes with supported internships, and a focus on careers – just in time for National Careers Week! Read on for all this and more.


  1. Rising stars at Derwen College
  2. Landmarks film highlights supported internships
  3. Local partnership grants opportunities to scores of Portland College students
  4. New College Worcester focuses on careers
  5. Emily’s story: from college to paid employment
  6. ‘Food for Thought’ Event Highlights Disability Employment and Raises Over £14k
  7. Student brings history to life for museum visitors
  8. Fairfield Farm College Students Work With University Of West Of England On Robotics Project
  9. Student shines at Newfriars
  10. Crafting Connections

Rising stars at Derwen College

There was no loafing about for industrious students at Derwen College as Real Bread Week arrived.

Two students in the kitchen with their loaves of uncooked bread

They were busier than ever kneading, proving and baking home-made bread to support the week. For students on Hospitality and Housekeeping programmes, bread making is one of the catering skills they learn in preparation for employment.

Fresh loaves and rolls are also sold by Retail students at the college’s on-site Garden Centre Shop. Every Wednesday, they also sell them on a weekly market stall at Bailey Head, in Oswestry. From producing and baking bread, to labelling up and selling, the story of Derwen’s bread is an ideal example of how the college brings learning to life.

Teacher Paula Hampson supports students through their catering and bakery skills. She emphasises that there is a lot for students to learn on many different levels. As a teacher, Paula likes to get creative with bread. She experiments with different grains and shapes to support students’ learning.

She says: “The bread-making process is adapted for a range of students with different learning difficulties and disabilities. All can benefit from the process in some way, whether for their independence skills or for future employment.

“It is a pleasure to see students’ progress and link their learning to baking for a commercial setting. Students can take pride in their produce being sold to customers in our shop or at the local market.”

Hospitality student Carys Williams said: “I really enjoy bread baking, especially the kneading, you have to put a lot of effort into it. I like the shaping as well, as you can be creative. Today is the first time I have tried to make a plaited loaf, and it’s turned out quite well.”

Volunteer Week

Community-spirited Derwen students have also been doing their bit for national Student Volunteering Week. Learners have packed shopping bags, taken part in garden maintenance and raised funds for Derwen College Charity.

Sioned Davies, pathway lead for retail and horticulture, said that students and staff were pleased to take part in Student Volunteering Week.

A derwen student helping pack bags in Morrisons

She said: “Community is vital for us at Derwen College. We rely on the local community to support Derwen in offering valuable work placements and work experience to our students. People from the community also visit our on-site restaurant, cafe, Garden Centre and Shop, print shop and Hotel 751, and it’s important that we give back to the community that supports us.

She continued: “Volunteering helps students to develop their employability skills, contributes to the wider and local community life and increases students’ self-confidence and wellbeing. Volunteering is a big part of all our students’ learning every week, so it’s been great to be a part of national Student Volunteering Week.”

Landmarks film highlights supported internships

Landmarks have worked with over 30 Interns since 2016. During this time, they have supported many to achieve their dream of employment. Below is a short video about Internships at Landmarks. It highlights some particular learners who have achieved their goals, including Lewis, previously featured as a success story on the Natspec site, and Ryan, who turned his mechanical interest into employment.

Local partnership grants opportunities to scores of Portland College students

A student using a pitchfork to turn soil

Two Portland College learners undertook a Supported Internship with local company Matrix Properties last year. Both of them achieved paid employment at the end of it. This academic year, two more learners are currently undertaking a Supported Internship with the same company. In addition, Matrix Properties have also given several learners access to short term placements. All the staff at Matrix Properties have been welcoming and accommodating, and have made the process very easy.

The learners are having a great time working with Matrix Properties. They’ve helped the team to keep the grounds neat and tidy and made it a healthy habitat for the plants and wildlife. They have learnt how to perform various gardening and grounds maintenance task and can now confidently use many hand tools independently. The garden is evolving as the seasons change, and the learners all enjoy watching it. Their contributions have made a big difference to the lovely space!

Matrix Properties enthuse about how these placements have benefitted them as a company. “Students with learning difficulties have proven to us to make excellent employees. At Matrix Properties, we couldn’t have been happier with the results. What started out for us as an opportunity to benefit from additional resource from students, as well as provide them with a platform to develop skills, build confidence and enhance their employability, has actually resulted in a successful recruitment process for us, saving us time and money finding and trialling the right people.”

New College Worcester focuses on careers

In December, New College Worcester held its first ever Success in Employment event. A whole school day focussed on just careers!

Fortis Living, HOW College, Fujitsu and The Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce were some of employers who took part in the day. As part of it, they offered invaluable advice and information to NCW students.

A student talks to a man who is explaining something as part of the careers fair

The day was packed full of opportunities for students of all ages. It began with an inspiring welcome speech from vision impaired careers expert Seema Flower, Founder and Managing Director of Blind Ambition. Seema is someone who has overcome much adversity in her life whilst launching her own successful consultancy business.

Students split off into groups to experience a variety of careers and work-based activities throughout the day. These included:

  • CV writing workshops
  • mock interviews
  • accessing support
  • how to dress for work
  • the opportunity to talk to a number of former students who have gone on to achieve successful professions.

A big hit with many students was the Careers Fair which took place in the morning. It allowed them to meet with a variety of employers to gather information, advice and guidance on what to do after leaving school.

Describing his experience of the day, Year 13 student Alex said: “I really enjoyed having the chance to speak to so many different businesses and organisations. I’m hoping to go in to IT after leaving NCW, so making contact with companies such as Dolphin Interconnect Solutions and Fujitsu was really motivating for me and has made me think more about what I’d like to do within the IT sector.”

Emily’s story: from college to paid employment

Emily holding a drink behind the bar and smiling

There’s a new student story up on the blog! Emily really enjoyed her time at QAC and successfully completed a Hospitality programme. The College provided the support that she needed and offered her the opportunity to complete an external work placement with The Birmingham Repertory Theatre as part of her course.

Read more about how Emily’s getting on.

‘Food for Thought’ Event Highlights Disability Employment and Raises Over £14k

In February, a spectacular event for over 100 guests took place at stunning Clevedon Hall near Bristol. The hospitality students of Foxes Academy teamed up with top chefs to highlight the benefits of employing young people with learning disabilities in the industry. The evening raised over £14,000 for The Springboard Charity, who help unemployed people of all abilities and backgrounds to find employment in the Hospitality Industry.

Tom makes cocktails behind the barGuests enjoyed cocktails made by former Foxes student Tom Hawkins, who worked alongside Massimiliano Terrile from The Waldorf Hilton. Julie Baker from the Hilton gave a speech sharing the inspiring stories of Foxes students now employed in their hotels. Foxes students worked with special guest chefs including Briony May, Josh Eggleton, Liam Finnegan, Dez Turland, Jamie Coleman, Alex Thompson, and Chris Cleghorn. Clevedon Hall’s talented team supported the students serving five courses to the highest standards.

The dinner was hosted by Foxes Academy, The Springboard Charity and Clevedon Hall. Chefs and the three organisers generously donated their time, resources and talent free of charge. The overall sponsor of the event was, and food sponsors included The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, Arthur David, Martin Frobisher’s, Kingfisher Brixham, Step and Stone, Town and Country Fine Foods and Wickwar Wessex Brewery.

Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said: “Foxes Academy is leading the way in supporting young people with learning disabilities to gain the necessary skills and confidence to secure paid work. I am especially impressed to see that 85 per cent of their 2019 graduates have gone on to enter employment.”

“Our Disability Confident scheme, which Foxes Academy is signed up, helps employers to recruit and retain disabled people in the workplace. And I’d encourage other employers to join and realise the benefits of having a diverse workforce.”

Student brings history to life for museum visitors

National Star student Piyush is impressing people with his history knowledge after landing his dream work experience placement at the National Museum Cardiff.

Piyush, or Mr P as he is affectionately known by the team at National Star in Wales, uses his communication device to share interesting facts about a range of artefacts when he works as a gallery assistant at the museum.

He spends time at college each week undertaking his own research about the items on display. He then prepares a short presentation for visitors, which is programmed into his communication device.

Sharing a passion for history

National Star Teaching Assistant Hannah Bernard said: “Mr P was really keen to learn about local Welsh history which motivated him to work with his tutor to secure a work placement at the National Museum Cardiff.”

“He’s so passionate about this opportunity that he’ll conduct research at home to extend his learning and then input what he has prepared into his AAC device.”

“Not only is Mr P using his voice to share his passion for history, but he is also becoming much stronger and more confident about controlling his communication device with his feet. He knows that the information he is delivering will be heard by a range of visitors, from primary school children to adults and foreign tourists, and so what he says is clear, informative and full of fun facts.”

“I’m really enjoying my role of speaking to children and interacting with groups of people during my placement role at the National Museum Cardiff,” said Mr P.

“I enjoy working alongside Dave and I love to learn from him! My favourite exhibit is the volcano exhibit and I have learnt a lot about volcanoes from the experience of being on my placement. I’m excited that I have helped groups of school children learn whilst being able to have fun!”

An Ambassador for the college and museum

David Enright, from the National Museum Cardiff, said Mr P has had a hugely positive impact at the museum. He’s helped to bring exhibits to life with his presentations, and has also improved awareness about the talents of disabled people.

“Our skills development placements at the National Museum Cardiff are designed to help people like Mr P develop a range of transferable skills that will make them more employable,” said David. “He is already having a positive impact on our visitor experience.”

“Mr P is not fazed by talking to large groups of schoolchildren or family groups. He is a fantastic ambassador for National Star and the National Museum Cardiff, challenging any preconceptions that our visitors may have about the abilities of people with disabilities.”

“In the short time that he has been sharing his knowledge of our artefacts using his communication device, he has become more fluid and needs less help. The gaps between his talks are shorter and he is growing in confidence.”

There are plans to take Mr P behind the scenes at the museum for an exclusive look at some of their lesser known exhibits, including a Sumatran tiger.

Mr P’s work placement is the start of a growing partnership between National Star and the National Museum Cardiff. In time, more National Star students will work with the museum to gain valuable experience to help them improve their communication, teamwork and employability skills.

Fairfield Farm College Students Work With University Of West Of England On Robotics Project

a group of students interacting with peppa the robot

Five students at Fairfield Farm College recently visited the University of West of England to take part in an exciting robotics project nicknamed “Peppa”. The aim of the project is to look at the future of technology. How could it support children and adults with disabilities now, and will that change in the future?

Students joined the co-production research team to explore available technology. The aim was to understand how technology can impact on the lives of people with disabilities. Society is changing quickly and the students were quick to seize on the opportunities they might have because of it.

Students experienced some of the technology available, including an interactive robot, to see how it could help with the future needs of children and adults with disabilities. They also spent time in the robotics lab, which they all enjoyed.

Student shines at Newfriars

Marshall assembling camera equipmentSince joining Newfriars College, Marshall has gone from strength to strength. He has experienced some hard times but has come out of the other side a bright, sharp, well focussed student.

Marshall is one of their highest achieving students, achieving his BTEC Level 2 in performing arts & Level 2 distinction following the English Speaking Board qualification.

As a media student, Marshall continues to wow audiences with his fantastic artwork, props, scenery and theatrical make up. Back in September 2019 Newfriars offered Marshall an internal supported internship to work alongside the three departments he enjoys the most. Marshall now has a day working in performing and visual arts, a day supporting the ICT manager and a day supporting the arts department.

Crafting Connections

‘Crafting Connections’ is the third annual collaboration between Ruskin Mill Trust and Hay Festival exploring neurodiversity in an atmosphere of creativity, social inclusion, research and cultural exchange. Speakers at this year’s event include:

  • the brilliant and charismatic Steve Silberman, award-winning author of NeuroTribes
  • performer and writer Kate Fox
  • Dara McAnulty, the 16-year old activist and author of Diary of a Young Naturalist’.

Participants can book on to one or both days of the conference at £35 per day which includes all refreshments, lunch, and the evening event, as well as the opportunity to take part in craft workshops.

This year’s event takes place at Ruskin Mill College in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire. Full details and tickets are available on the Ruskin Mill Land Trust website.