Here at Natspec we got January started with a bang! We announced the return of our National Conference, taking place in Leicestershire on June 21 and 22. We held our first Peer Exchange Week, inviting colleges from across our membership to share best practice with each other. We opened the 2022 Natspec Awards for applications. Plus we’re getting underway with our first training and member support events of the year.
From this bumper edition of the Highlights, it’s clear that colleges have got off to a similar start! Read on for several stories about how students have been returning to work placements initially disrupted by Covid, with great success, as well as several fabulous initiatives.
- It’s all work, work, work at Waitrose for a New College Worcester student
- Blooming brilliant Doncaster students take home golds in horticulture competition
- Supported Intern impresses employer to secure paid employment
- Thomas’s Story: communication leads to confidence
- Young people with learning disabilities are finding employment in post-pandemic Brighton & Hove
- Exeter Chiefs Community Coaches at InFocus College
- Work experience successes continue at Hive College
- Derwen College – spotlight on star of stage and screen
- Bridge College students making a positive impact locally
- Work Experience During the Pandemic
- British Values at Sense College Loughborough
- Lancaster college commended by National Autistic Society
- National Citizenship at Chadsgrove Specialist College
It’s all work, work, work at Waitrose for a New College Worcester student
New College Worcester student Sonali is a Year 13 student who has a vision impairment; she is currently undergoing a work placement at the local Waitrose supermarket. The aims of this type of placement is aimed to help with the transition between college and the world of work, build confidence and learn new skills. This particular placement is matched for Somali’s plans for the future and will see her developing her skills in communication, teamwork and organisation.
Sonali is doing a multitude of jobs whilst on her placement with Waitrose including working on tills, stacking shelves and helping customers. Alongside her main jobs Sonali is also working independently on a sustainability project that will not only help the company but will also help Sonali with her future career plans and is something she can take into the world. Sonali’s sustainability project is aimed at making Waitrose even more environmentally friendly and raising awareness to what the company is already doing as well as future sustainability plans for the company.
Sonali said “Working at Waitrose has given me more independence when I go shopping. It has enabled me to be able to locate items in the shop more easily, learn more about food products and given me more confidence when asking for assistance.” She is travelling independently from the College to work and she feels that the experience has given her the confidence she needs to prepare for transition into the world and given her a clearer idea of what she would like to do in the future.
(This article was written by Sixth Form student Amy, as part of her own work experience with the Marketing team at NCW.)
Blooming brilliant Doncaster students take home golds in horticulture competition
Green-fingered students from Communication Specialist College Doncaster have had their impressive gardening skills recognised with triple gold in the Doncaster in Bloom competition.
The annual horticultural and gardening contest, open to individuals, groups and businesses in Doncaster, tasks entrants with enhancing their environment through horticultural skills. Entries take into account creativity, colour and originality.
The college took home gold medals in the categories of Best School/College Garden, Best Wildlife/Sustainable Garden and Most Unusual Container.
It marks seven years of continuous success in the contest for the specialist college, which is run by Doncaster Deaf Trust.
Mark Ogden, Horticultural tutor at the Trust, who himself won the gold medal for Best Private Garden Residence and Best Private Garden Display, said: “Three gold medals is a fantastic result for our students and just reward for their hard work.
“Our students and staff were committed to entering the competition from January, when we selected and ordered seeds and plug plants. The students nurtured the young plants until judging in July, learning valuable new skills while at the same time studying for their Level 1 and 2 horticulture qualifications.”
Supported Intern impresses employer to secure paid employment
This term has been a real high for Ian who is one of the Supported Interns at HBVC. Ian has successfully managed to secure paid employment only two months into his Hospitality and Catering Internship with Edgbaston Priory Club (EPC).
EPC management were so impressed with Ian’s talent, dedication, and clear passion for Customer Service that they simply could not wait until the end of his Internship for him to become a paid member of their team.
Sarah-Lee Byrant, HR Manager at EPC had the following to say about Ian’s Journey:
“Ian is a lovely person, with a great attitude to work. He smiles throughout his work and brightens all our days! Members and staff have embraced Ian into the club, and we are so pleased to have been able to offer him a paid role starting in January. We feel Ian will be a great asset to Edgbaston Priory. We look forward to working with him and with the continued support from the College he will flourish. Thank you to HBVC for introducing Ian to us and for the wonderful working relationship we have.”
By working together HBVC and EPC continue to create outstanding opportunities that result in positive outcomes for both the students and employer. A fantastic example of one of their wonderful partnership programmes.
Thomas’s Story: communication leads to confidence
This month we have a new student story to share with you! Thomas came to Landmarks in 2019 hoping to overcome communication barriers and find a way into employment. Thomas found it difficult to recognise his strengths and lacked in confidence, requiring lots of reassurance.
Thomas began to form friendships in college, centred around sports and playing Pool at break times. This allowed Thomas to naturally develop his communication and allowed him to feel part of a wider community. This also enabled Thomas to be more talkative with the staff, resulting in building professional relationships as well as his personal ones.
As Thomas began to feel more confident, he trialled a work placement at Sainsburys, working in the café. Here, Thomas’ role involved serving food, clearing tables and washing and drying the pots so that they could be reused. Thomas demonstrated his ability to succeed in this role, however still needed reassurance to recognise that his initiative and instinct were correct. From here, Thomas would be questioned on how he felt the job should be done, and then put that into practice – supporting him to identify his own ability.
Young people with learning disabilities are finding employment in post-pandemic Brighton & Hove
After some rough times throughout the pandemic, young people supported by Team Domenica are finding their feet again. The ‘candidates’ – so called to reflect their readiness for employment – are all back on their work placements.
In fact, several Team Domenica candidates who had their internships put on hold due to the pandemic, have defied all odds. They have been offered permanent paid positions at their placements just a few weeks after returning to work.
Team Domenica candidate, Bradley was welcomed warmly by The Grand Hotel in Brighton in October 2019 to begin his placement, but like all of the Team Domenica candidates, his placement was put on hold indefinitely due to COVID-19 and the series of lockdowns. In July this year, Bradley restarted his placement and was offered a paid role just 3 months after returning – a real testament to his work ethic and to The Grand Hotel who have supported and employed many young people with learning disabilities.
Boogie, Bradley’s line manager, said: “I think Bradley has a fantastic personality, he’s really communicative and open. He has certainly grown in confidence since when he started working here with us. It’s really great having him in our team.”
Bradley said: “I am very happy to have paid work at the Grand. I like working here, the hours are great and I think my colleagues are funny!”
Ashley returned back to his role at The Hummingbird in May this year. Just three weeks later he was offered paid work! Not only does this highlight the amazing work ethic of Ashley himself, but it also highlights the success in communication and partnership between Team Domenica and The Hummingbird.
Paul, Restaurant Manager at the Hummingbird, said: “Ashley has shown so much enthusiasm and ability to work hard during his time at The Hummingbird Restaurant and so we are delighted to offer him paid work. Team Domenica gives young people with learning disabilities a chance and we really support that.”
Katie showed rapid progress at British Airways i360 when she started her placement in June and was offered a paid position shortly after. British Airways i360 are a big part of Team Domenica’s success, having already employed two young people with learning disabilities and they have now taken on their fourth Team Domenica candidate this year.
Katie said: “I love having a paid job so that I can earn money and feel part of a team. I don’t think I would have got a job without the support of Team Domenica. They have helped my confidence and made me feel that I could do a job. Working in the cafe helped me get used to dealing with the public. Having a job coach helped the staff at the i360 understand my needs a bit more and helped me know that I could ask for help if I really needed it. I’m really happy that I am at the i360 and the staff are really friendly and helpful. I am really enjoying working there.”
Unable to return to her previous position when lockdown ended, Polly started a new role at the Redroaster Café in Kemp Town. She has taken on this role with a positive attitude and great enthusiasm and, as a result, has been recently offered a paid position within the team.
Jill, Polly’s Team Domenica job coach, said: “I have enjoyed seeing Polly develop into a confident young person who uses her initiative, always working to the best of her abilities and achieving her targets and goals. Polly has now become a valuable member of a working team who makes a positive contribution to the environment in which she is now a paid employee. Well done Polly!”
Red Roaster is a well-loved partner of Team Domenica, supporting them in the set up of their latest endeavour – the UK’s first coffee roastery where young people with learning disabilities roast and package the coffee.
Team Domenica has four cafés across Brighton & Hove where young people with learning disabilities can develop skills in the hospitality industry and transferrable skills for other work. Tyler has loved learning in these cafés and was grateful to start a fresh supported internship at the East Sussex National Resort this year, pursuing his interest in working in a professional kitchen. Within just four months of starting his placement, he was offered paid work.
Tyler said: “Being in paid work is great, and my colleagues are lovely – you can have a laugh with them.”
Team Domenica has gone above and beyond this past year and a half to ensure both our candidates and partnered employers have remained supported throughout the pandemic. Working extra hours and making all adjustments necessary, the team strived to ensure the candidates would have the best chances of success within the programme. The hard work has paid off.
Exeter Chiefs Community Coaches at InFocus College
This term InFocus College are working with the Exeter Chiefs community rugby team to deliver adapted rugby sessions for young people at the specialist College.
Coaches Tom and Aron were at InFocus College last week for the first of six sessions. They spent time with three of the student groups, including a session in the InFocus water therapy centre, where some of the students have much greater freedom of movement in the water and can get more involved with the activities.
It wasn’t the first trip to InFocus for Tom and Aron, who both visited last year to find out more about InFocus College so they could better tailor some adaptive rugby sessions for the students. They experienced some therapy sessions and learnt more about what life with a vision impairment might be like for some of the young people that InFocus support.
Thanks to the Community Chiefs brilliant adaptive rugby sessions, the young people at InFocus have been loving trying new ways of engaging with sport. Using special rugby balls with bells inside so those with a vision impairment can determine where the ball is, the students have been practicing throwing, catching and kicking the ball. For some, these sessions are great for developing low vision strategies and co-ordination skills, and for others, it’s great to get active and encourage social participation.
Work experience successes continue at Hive College
Despite the challenges caused by the pandemic Hive College have continued to succeed in supporting students into paid job opportunities.
Foyes excelled on his Supported Internship as a Warehouse Assistant with Special Kids Company and impressed his boss so much that he was offered a paid job within just 6 months! With the support of our job coach who worked with the Managing Director and staff team to break down his tasks one step at a time, he was able to grow in confidence and master all tasks to ensure orders were fulfilled in a timely and accurate manner. At his contract signing he was even given a bag of pot noodles (his favourite lunchtime snack) by his colleagues to welcome him into the company!
In September, Anthony began an exciting work placement with the Commonwealth Games, supported by college staff. He was tasked with supporting the running of their volunteer recruitment at Birmingham Library. The role involved greeting prospective volunteers, running a cinema room and inputting photos and data onto the computer system. Anthony’s confidence grew significantly through this placement following which he felt ready to take the next brave step of leaving college to begin an apprenticeship in retail. He is now working towards a Customer Service qualification whilst gaining vital work experience and most importantly – earning his first wage packet.
In response to the Natspec Student Parliament that was held in November of 2021, our student voice team are continuing their hard work in an effort to make all voices heard at our College. We now have an elected chair of the student voice who is running the meetings and giving students the opportunity to voice their opinions on College matters.
One of these things was to set up a better recycling system in the College and so multiple bins were bought into college to promote recycling. Students in our Live and Thrive programmes are collecting the recycling and using them to make sensory items, scarecrows for the college gardens and also creating artwork too.
Derwen College – spotlight on star of stage and screen
Soap star Sam Retford left behind the cobbles of Coronation Street to visit a Shropshire specialist college this week.
Performing Arts students at Derwen College were visited by actor Sam, who recently left the Weatherfield-based ITV soap in December following a dramatic storyline.
Actor Sam came to talk to students at the specialist further education college in Gobowen, to share his stories and acting tips with the budding performers.
Sam is best known for playing troubled Curtis, who left Coronation Street in a dramatic exit over Christmas. He has also worked on popular television shows including Hollyoaks, Casualty, Ackley Bridge and Death in Paradise.
The talented 22-year-old has also worked in theatre, film and more recently turned his hand to directing and production as co-founder of Collective Media Company.
Sam was a charming speaker, who engaged students with an animated question and answer session where he shared anecdotes and tips. There was much laughter in response to some hilarious stories, and lots of inspirational advice.
He confessed to a disaster on his first day on the Hollyoaks set.
“On the very first day of filming, I was meant to throw a basketball at another boy. However, I’m not very good at sport! I missed the boy completely and the ball bounced across the set smashing some very expensive lighting.”
Despite a disastrous start, Sam made a good impression, and many more acting roles followed including, ironically, more sporty scenes in comedy drama Ackley Bridge.
Sam is a strong advocate for more inclusivity and diversity in the acting industry, and encouraged students to work hard to find their place in the competitive performance world. His brother Max has cerebral palsy and autism, and is his biggest fan. Sam uses Makaton sign language to help communicate with Max.
Sam has also earned plaudits playing opposite actor and presenter George Webster in short film entitled ‘SAM’. The film stars Sam and George – who has been in the news as the first children’s presenter with Down’s Syndrome on CBeebies. The film sees two teenage boys with very different lives, become friends and fall in love.
Sam encouraged the College’s Performing Arts students to forge their own path, and be heard in the world of film, television and theatre.
He said: “It’s a fantastic time to get into the industry. There are so many more opportunities, and some great companies and initiatives working to become a lot more inclusive. There are agents who specialise in working with actors with learning difficulties. We are also changing the way we work on set, to be more inclusive.
“All actors have needs and requirements which make their lives easier. Personally, I’m a slow reader, and find it difficult if lines are changed at the last minute. We need to tell people in the entertainment industry what would make our working day better. People aren’t mind readers and won’t know what we need unless we tell them. We all need to embrace our inner drama queen, and be more diva! It’s down to us to educate the industry, and change it for the better. Your voices can make all the difference.”
Derwen College Performing Arts lead Jessie Vaughan said:
“It was a pleasure for students and staff to meet such an experienced actor, and to learn so much from him. Sam was an inspirational guest who truly engaged our students.
“Anna, one of our wonderful Performing Arts students put me in contact with Sam and worked alongside me to arrange the talk. His charm, character and stories kept us all engaged, inspired and laughing for the entire afternoon!
“I was also very impressed with his Makaton signing. We can’t thank Sam enough for giving our aspiring performers a true insight of the industry and we hope to work with him again in the future.”
Performing Arts student Anna Redding said:
“I enjoyed the experience so much. I was so happy and excited. I enjoyed having to get him from reception with Jessie. What I got out of the talk was to never give up on your dreams. Don’t be nervous be excited when performing with other actors. And I learnt all the differences about working in TV acting and stage acting. Sam was lovely and really funny, and so inspiring.”
Bridge College students making a positive impact locally
Work experience at Bridge College is a great way for students to gain invaluable skills that they can use in the future.
There are lots of ways students benefit from work experience, they:
- Learn new skills valued by employers to improve your CV.
- Feel more confident and pick up new knowledge.
- Meet and work with new people – some of these may become new friends!
- Improve your health and wellbeing.
- Improve your communication and social skills.
- Become more independent by learning travel training.
Students, Tom and Charles, currently have a placement working at The Bread and Butter Thing. They have been there for 12 weeks since August 2021 and have made such an impression already.
The Bread and Butter Thing redistribute food and everyday essentials at a fraction of the price to make life more affordable, reduce food waste and strengthen communities.
“[Tom and Charles] have been an asset to the team and helped out a lot!”
Both have been offered the opportunity to carry on with their placements after their 12-week review, which is amazing! Well done Charles and Tom!
Tom and Charles are food bank assistants. Their main roles are packing the parcels and containers with food to be sent out. They organise the crates including, breaking down the cardboard boxes and disposing of them. Other jobs include packing bags, organising stock, keeping the warehouse tidy and helping to load the vans. Bridge College are extremely proud of Tom and Charles and the hard work they have put into their work experience placement.
Looking forward, students are hoping to start their placements at a local radio station, local cafes and The Manchester Football Museum!
Work Experience During the Pandemic
At the Grafton Centre, Condover College’s education provision, work experience is a fundamental part of the Employability Pathway. The Employability Pathway is for students whose main aspirations include getting into voluntary or paid work, as well as developing greater independent living skills. For those who succeed on this pathway there is an option to undertake a supported internship in the final year.
During the pandemic, our Job Coaches have adapted our work experience programme to make it safer for students to continue completing placements. Pete, our Caretaker has been assisting our learners in conducting vehicle checks. We have also had some learners helping with recycling at the local Recycling Centre.
At CCL, our learner’s safety is our priority, so we have aired on the side of caution when it comes to external placements. Now that restrictions are easing and life is slowly returning to some form of normality (whatever that may be), our Job Coaches and Employability Pathway students have been enquiring about various placements that will teach them invaluable life-skills, including the local theatre, charity shops and a charity ran café. We look forward to seeing and sharing their progress with you.
British Values at Sense College Loughborough
Students hard at work in the College Office have been reflecting on how they learn about British Values at college. College Office Services Team (COST) is one of the enterprises at Sense College Loughborough, where students can develop their skills in a work-based environment.
While working in COST, students have an opportunity to learn about working in an office-based or administrative role, while also developing their skills in Maths, English, IT, teamwork, communication and independence. Students in COST regularly carry out jobs for college staff, organise college-wide fundraisers, and sometimes complete external job requests. More recently, COST have been collating feedback from all areas of the college regarding how they promote British Values.
Across all areas of the college, students shared how they followed rules and instructions to keep everyone safe, gave examples of activities they had voted on, listed examples of choices they were making during sessions, and showed that they had learnt about events and celebrations from different faiths and beliefs. Students even described how Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and Safeguarding were promoted throughout the college.
Lancaster college commended by National Autistic Society
Beaumont College in Lancaster has been awarded a commendation by the National Autistic Society for its recent art project and students’ participation in the Duke of Edinburgh scheme.
The National Autistic Society’s Autism Accreditation Programme is the UK’s only autism-specific quality assurance programme of support and development for those providing services to autistic people.
Achieving accreditation proves that an organisation is committed to understanding autism and setting the standard for best practice.
Enhanced practice commendations are only awarded to the few services which exceed the autism accreditation criteria in a particular area in supporting autistic people.
The assessor’s report stated that: “The art project is embedded in the curriculum and shows good community links and partnership work. Engagement in the Duke of Edinburgh Award provides a range of opportunities which develop wellbeing, resilience, confidence and self-esteem.
“The panel commend the college for being ambitious for their autistic students and focusing on what they can achieve rather on perceived limitations.”
In the past 18 months, four students from Beaumont College won prizes at a national art competition and seven students completed the highly coveted Gold Duke of Edinburgh Expedition.
Acting principal of Beaumont College, Chris Lowcock, said: “I am incredibly proud of all the staff and students at Beaumont College for all their hard work, which has been recognised by this commendation from the National Autistic Society.
“Our students are fearless, creative and love to learn, and the team go above and beyond to make sure their individual needs are catered for so we can get the best out of them.
“I’m delighted that such a prestigious, specialist external body has given us such high praise and identified we’re doing a great job. We’re going to keep it up and make sure every student receives a fantastic education.
“Thank you to everyone at Beaumont College. You’re amazing.”
John Godden MBE, CEO of Salutem Care and Education, said: “Thank you to Chris, Rachel, David and all the team for their hard work. This is a huge honour and you should be incredibly proud.”
National Citizenship at Chadsgrove Specialist College
Three of Chadsgrove Specialist College’s Seeker pathway students took part in and completed the National Citizenship Service award. The project was a joint one with Chadsgrove’s school community and students worked together with class 13US and the NCS leaders over a two-week period.
The activities were based around developing new skills, becoming an active citizen and increasing self-confidence and self-esteem for adulthood. There were a mixture of offsite and onsite experiences and activities that took place, including animal encounters, circus and performance skills, self-expression and confidence workshops.
Students also planned and created a magnificent interactive board for the well-being room at college. All the students had a wonderful time building social skills, new friendships and relationships and challenging themselves to try new things.
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