Welcome to February’s edition of the Natspec Highlights! This month, we bring you stories from across the specialist sector, including how colleges are continuing to adapt to a blended learning approach and tackling the challenges of the current situation to secure work placements. We have news of awards, for a college and for a student, as well as some fantastic student success stories.
- From wellbeing to cooking and music to exercise students at CSC Doncaster have blended learning cracked!
- Outstanding apprentice at WESC Foundation is recognised for excellence
- Henshaws College Wins Praise for Pandemic Protocols
- Walk of Freedom challenge at Homefield College gets students moving
- Wargrave House School and College overjoyed after winning at the Educate Awards
- Gaining confidence at Landmarks
- Students to benefit from an onsite Yurt at Queen Alexandra College
- Making opportunities out of challenges at HBVC
- CCL’s Adaptation to the #YouCanCare Week
- Slice of life at Derwen College
From wellbeing to cooking and music to exercise students at CSC Doncaster have blended learning cracked!
Communication Specialist College Doncaster has remained open to students throughout the lockdown periods in 2020 and 2021. Some students have had to isolate at home due to being Clinically Extremely Vulnerable and that has meant that the college has provided a blended learning approach.
Stacey Betts, assistant principal at the college said: “With some students in college and some learning from home we’ve worked hard to ensure that none of our students have missed out on their learning or just as importantly the social side of being at college.
“For our Orange Hub students this has meant exercise and wellbeing sessions for all with learners using tins of beans and water bottles as weights if they are at home. Our chair aerobics sessions have been a real hit.
“They have also worked on a group meal. The task is set and they all have a go at cooking and then feedback how it has gone. The focus at the moment has been on eggs and its safe to say that our students have got this cracked!
“Our music sessions have gone so well that the students have formed their own zoom band and they have been practising while incorporating listening and following instruction skills.”
The Green Hub celebrated their pre-Christmas success with a Christmas party and one of the home learners joined in with karaoke and pass the parcel – it just shows that you can make anything work if you put your mind to it.
Stacey added: “It has been fantastic to get feedback from parents, especially about how the fun elements have helped to lift the students spirits as we all know that this is very difficult for our students.
“We have also received wonderful evidence from students remote learning which has allowed us to celebrate learning as well as sign off targets!”
The Blue Hub students are really enjoying the weekly Wellbeing sessions that we are running, and they are taking part from college and home and look forward to receiving the link to join in via zoom every Wednesday.
“We’ve also been running one to one sessions with staff who can support our students with the work they have been set and help to ensure that they know what they need to do.
“Our Yellow Hub students took part in a great cooking class with one student cooking at home and one cooking in college. They both made a cottage pie and worked alongside each other, virtually, through the stages. This was organised in advance with the family, and the student at home ate it with her family and sent through her evaluation of it the next day. The students sat through break together and discussed at the end what had gone well,” added Stacey.
The social side of college has been maintained with students at home join in at lunch times online, this has involved sometimes just chatting with staff and students, or joining in Kahoot quizzes, where they answer questions using their mobile phones whilst they are on zoom and can see the others.
Home leaners join tutor groups on zoom, but now also have a home learners group which helps them to still feel a part of college life.
Alexis Johnson, executive principal of Doncaster Deaf Trust, who manage the college, said: “None of us expected to be setting up virtual wellbeing and cooking sessions while trying to navigate home learning and on site learning for our students.
“We’ve been very proud to have remained open throughout and to have delivered home learning for those who’ve needed it. Our teams have worked so hard to make sure that everyone is getting the best possible learning experience they can, and our huge thanks go to them, to the parents and to the students – we couldn’t do it without you!”
Outstanding apprentice at WESC Foundation is recognised for excellence.
A vision-impaired apprentice at WESC Foundation has been voted Outstanding Apprentice of the year following a county-wide competition.
Jacob Towner won the competition’s public vote this week, after weeks of nominations from employers and training providers had been narrowed down to three finalists.
He is registered blind (Severely Sight Impaired) and a former student at the WESC Foundation’s specialist college in Exeter. The 21 year old also has Cerebral Palsy, and over the years has developed his own ways of overcoming some of the barriers that might get in his way. Following an internship after college he has returned to the charity’s staff team as a paid apprentice in customer service in partnership with PGL Training.
Jacob was surprised to hear the news announced on local radio station Radio Exe. He said:
“I would like to thank all of the people who voted for me. It was a shock for me to hear that I had won apprentice of the year, but I really love my work, and I’m really proud that people think I’m doing a really good job”.
Linda Stafford, Employability and Work Placement Coordinator at WESC Foundation, said:
“I’m so pleased for Jacob to have been recognised for his outstanding work in his apprenticeship. So many of our past and present students have to go the extra mile to meet their own individual challenges.”
Dean Matthews, Operations and Work Based Learning Manager at PGL Training, said:
“Jacob is a shining example for all apprentices and what they can achieve in the work place. He’s right to be proud of everything he has achieved so far on this programme, and with his employment at WESC Foundation.”
Henshaws College Wins Praise for Pandemic Protocols
Henshaws Specialist College in Harrogate was inspected by James Tapster of the NHS’s Deep Cleaning and Advisory Service who described the College’s protocols, procedures and management of the pandemic as “second to none”.
College Principal Adrian Sugden said the praise was testament to the fantastic work of the whole College team. The College which works with students aged from 16 to 25 with special education needs and disabilities, has been able to remain open for some students throughout all three lockdowns.
In an email to the College, Mr Tapster said: “Firstly, let me congratulate you on what a fantastic school, building and set up you have here. I have visited many schools in recent months, however your protocols, procedures and management of the pandemic is genuinely second to none! It is very clear in every aspect how much time you and your team have dedicated to achieving such a brilliant result in having Henshaws ‘Covid Secure’.”
He said that everything was, in his view, impressive and well executed, including lateral flow test arrangements, cleanliness, including disinfecting, social distancing, PPE stations, risk assessments and Henshaws’ own track and trace system.
Adrian Sugden said: “Lockdown has been even harder for our students and their families than for most and I am immensely proud that we have been able to remain open under very challenging circumstances to help ease that burden while safeguarding our students and staff.”
Walk of Freedom challenge at Homefield College gets students moving
Students Janvee and Ethan from Homefield College have collaborated with sports tutor Tom to develop the walk of freedom challenge. Janvee and Ethan want to help students keep healthy, fit and motivated to do more exercise, whether at home or at college, especially during the pandemic.
Starting from February half-term, Homefield students have been challenged to see how far they can walk in 4 weeks. Students have the chance to earn a bronze, silver or gold medal depending on how far they walk, with a certificate for all who take part.
Speaking about the challenge, Student Council Vice-President Ethan says: “The walk will help students’ wellbeing by getting outside and some fresh air. The walk side to the challenge is to help with the current situation, it is hard to go outside for more than an hour so the challenge we are setting will help students be more active.”
First year student Janvee started work experience as a teaching assistant, supporting tutor Tom in delivering health and fitness lessons to students in other learning pathways. She’s been developing lesson plans, demonstrating activities and providing peer support to students on session.
So far Janvee and Ethan have signed up 41 students to the walk of freedom challenge and we look forward to reporting back on how many bronze, silver and gold medals are achieved – excellent work Janvee, Ethan & Tom!
Wargrave House School and College overjoyed after winning at the Educate Awards
The staff who work in the post-16 provision at Wargrave House School and College are overjoyed at winning the Most Inspirational 16-18 Educational Provider award.
Andrew Cooper, school and college account manager at Liverpool John Moores University, Educate Awards category sponsor, rightly stated that ‘students have gone through so much this year’ and this award means they have been recognised for the way that they have adapted to the dynamic changes with a positive attitude at all times.
The staff in the post-16 provision are highly trained autism specialists, dedicated and always thinking dynamically as to how they can implement a creative, experiential and interesting curriculum. They all have a ‘can do’, ‘will do’ approach to life’s problems and uncertainties which encourages their young adults to feel safe and take managed risks.
Its philosophy is to share the students’ learning journey with the local and wider community. They do this through many different successful partnership working activities, from the student managed Cosy Corner Café and events planning which hosted a spectacular coffee morning for local businesses, councillors, local MP, the Mayor and friends of Wargrave House, right through to supporting the local Rotary Club to design a sensory garden for Earlestown Cricket Club.
In addition, the school and college was thrilled to be named as runner up in the Community Partnership Award – a true reflection of the dedication of staff to building relationships to further develop young adults’ communication, social interaction and theory of mind skills.
Such success wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible hard work and commitment that staff deliver day to day to each and every student tirelessly. The staff in the post 16 provision at Wargrave House School and College understand students’ needs, complexities and anxieties. With empathy, support and guidance, the staff build the students’ resilience and strength, believing in them and championing everything they strive for.
Its curricula offers a blend of accredited learning alongside preparation for adulthood themes with a ‘just right challenge’ running through it. They pride themselves on its tailored and bespoke pathways which range from an Entry 1 – Entry 2 Foundation Curriculum, An Entry 1 – Level 2 Foundation Curriculum, An Access to HE Level 3 pathway and a Supported Internship offer.
Julliet Doherty, head of post 16 learning, said: “I am inspired every day by the staff who work in the two colleges I manage. They are amazing and have boundless energy which provides our students with the very best opportunities available. It is an honour and privilege to work with such a talented team of people who go above and beyond as if it’s the norm. This is a team like no other, truly a Dream Team!
“Winning the Most Inspirational 16 – 18 Educational Provider award has filled us all with pride as well as inspired us to further identify new and exciting journeys to travel along with our outstanding young people.”
Gaining confidence at Landmarks
Landmarks have shared two excellent student success stories this month. The first is about Matthew, who joined Landmarks with the desire to secure paid work. Working on his skills and confidence, he took shifts in the college pub, the Archer, which led to an interest in working in a pub environment. He secured a work placement in a city centre bar, and now in the pandemic when pubs are closed, he is now working in a local special school maintaining the hygiene regime.
The second is about John, who was out of a learning environment for an extended period of time but developed at Landmarks, showing off his social and academic skills. He’s now aiming to work in gaming!
Students to benefit from an onsite Yurt at Queen Alexandra College
An exciting new onsite addition at Queen Alexandra College (QAC) will be a permanent yurt, situated at the top of its campus.
The yurt will be fully accessible and complete with heating and lighting. It will be used to deliver a range of holistic sessions for students to access, including sensory, yoga and mindfulness activities.
The nearby path will be widened and a landscaped garden area created to complement the yurt, providing green fingered student groups somewhere to focus their gardening skills.
Making opportunities out of challenges at HBVC
A new year has introduced new ways of working at HBVC. One of their Supported Interns has started as a Junior Content Editor, working remotely for Inclusive Sports Academy. For the past month, the intern has been working with the support of his Employability Coach via Microsoft Teams. Taking part in virtual meetings with his manager and other members of the team he has settled in quickly. Not only has he made a big impression on his manager, but they are all really pleased with his progress so far. Inclusive Sports Academy really have demonstrated just how inclusive they are.
The Employability Coach at HBVC said “It has been a privilege to work with this student and watch him first hand offer brilliant ideas and suggestions to improve the Company’s online presence. Our student was asked if he could edit the sales and instructional videos for the Sports equipment. Not only did he edit them independently he also brought great ideas to the table such as breaking the videos down into smaller segments to aid understanding and adding text and social media platform details for extra information. His passion, enthusiasm and fresh ideas have been nothing short of outstanding. In such difficult times it is fantastic that the College have been able to support our student in finding an Internship and he has grabbed the opportunity with both hands. We are very proud of all that he is achieving.”
CCL’s Adaptation to the #YouCanCare Week
#YouCanCare week was 22-28 February. #YouCanCare highlights how rewarding it is to work in the care sector, and that anyone with a warm heart can enter the profession. As part of the ‘You Can Care’ week, Condover College wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate employees who have moved into the care sector from a different industry, and now care for their residential learners. They also incorporated the governments campaign ‘Care for others. Make a difference’. Although these campaigns are not targeted at education, they are relevant to many specialist colleges who are also registered care homes.
Sophie Hunt, Support Worker
Sophie is pictured with Amy enjoying a water fight in the garden! Sophie is a Support Worker at Walford Lodge and started at CCL 1 year and 3 months ago. Prior to working at CCL, Sophie worked in the hospitality industry as a supervisor of a restaurant. Sophie decided she wanted to change career paths. She knew she wanted to help people and make them smile, so working in care caught her eye.
When asking Sophie what she loves about working as a Support Worker, she said “I love going into work knowing I’ve helped people, making their days as fun as possible! I definitely feel like I made the right career move!”
Bev Leah, Registered Manager
Pictured is Bev with Matthew. Bev is the Registered Manager of Condover’s High Ridges scheme. Bev started at CCL as a Support Worker 8 years ago and has progressed significantly. Before Bev entered the Care Sector and started her career at CCL, she was a hairdresser. She decided she wanted to change career path into a role where she could really make a difference and help others. Suffice to say, she began working at CCL and hasn’t looked back since!
When speaking to Bev about her role at CCL, you can hear in her voice how much she adores what she does, and when we asked what she loves about it she replied:
“Everything! I love helping the guys, making them smile and giving back! They give so much back to me by just making me smile too! I just love everything about it!”
Slice of life at Derwen College
There was no loafing about for students at Derwen College who marked national Real Bread Week with a variety of delicious bakes.
Students at the specialist further education college, in Gobowen, near Oswestry, were busy kneading, proving and baking home-made bread to support the annual event which runs from 20-28 February.
For students on the college’s Hospitality and Housekeeping pathway, bread making is one of the catering skills that they learn in preparation for employment. Baking, cooking and nutrition are also an important part of all students’ Independence, Health and Wellbeing learning.
Teacher Paula Hampson said: “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.”
Sadly, the college’s commercial premises were closed to visitors during Real Bread Week, which meant that the loaves and rolls could not be sold to the public. However, the Hospitality & Housekeeping team opened a pop-up stall to sell their wares to staff and students. They also took the opportunity to conduct a survey of customers’ favourite breads.
Derwen College has had to think creatively about adapting work experience placements for students during the pandemic. For example, the college-run Orangery Restaurant is currently closed to the public and providing a new TipTop Takeout service for staff and students.
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