It’s been a busy academic year, and we’re now at its end. Congratulations to all the staff and students at specialist colleges for all the hard work you’ve put in this year – we know it’s not been easy! This is the last edition of the Natspec Highlights for the academic year, and therefore we’re celebrating all the achievements of staff and students over the year!
Below are stories of celebration from just some of our colleges, of students who have completed their Duke of Edinburgh awards, finished up a Supported Internship and moved onto work, or just had an exceptional and noteworthy year. We also recognise a teacher who was rewarded for their exceptional contributions. Regardless of whether you’re represented below or now, we’d like to extend a huge round of applause to everyone.
- Going for Bronze, Silver and Gold at Derwen College
- Homefield Champion of the Year announced at Virtual Summer Celebration
- Celebrating success with prize day at Communication Specialist College Doncaster
- Portland’s David Receives National Accolade!
- 2021 graduation at Fairfield Farm College
- Condover College’s Celebration Day 2021
- End of term celebrations at Dilston College
- Students at LEAP College celebrate a year of awards and achievements!
Going for Bronze, Silver and Gold at Derwen College
Students at Derwen College, in Shropshire, were able to celebrate remarkable achievements when they were awarded with Bronze, Silver and Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) Awards in an end-of-term celebration.
A grand total of 65 awards were presented to students at the award-winning residential and day student college, near Oswestry. Their achievements were made even more impressive as students and staff had to contend with Covid restrictions on top of the usual DofE challenges.
Families and supporters weren’t able to attend the celebration in person this year due to ongoing restrictions. However, many families and friends joined the event live online. It was wonderful to be able to reward students – dressed up for the occasion – for all their hard work.
The Gold celebration was particularly emotional, as the College’s annual Kirstin Royle Trust award was collected on behalf of an incredible student who never let anything stand in the way of achieving her goals. The award was collected on behalf of Performing Arts student Caitlin Kelly, who sadly passed away this year. Caitlin was on course to finish her Gold award this year. It was accepted by her good friend Isobel Smith on behalf of Caitlin’s family.
Derwen College is incredibly proud of the number of students with complex special educational needs and disabilities who challenge themselves to go outside of their comfort zones to achieve these demanding awards. Derwen College was one of the first specialist colleges to embark on Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards, back in 2014, and continues to develop its DofE programme.
During lockdown the college’s main campus has been busy developing a dedicated Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards base. Students have been busy clearing the woodland site and painting and refurbishing outbuildings as part of the Volunteering section of their awards.
The college is also proud that day students at two satellite sites have been able to join the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards this year. Thirteen students from the College’s Walford and Craven Arms satellites took part in Bronze and Silver awards.
Duke of Edinburgh’s Award leader Steve Evans said:
“To achieve a DofE award through a global pandemic shows resilience, determination and commitment.
“We have worked hard to tackle DofE with a difference, and were over-the-moon to finally be able to take part in walking and canoeing expeditions over the summer term. This is when students really shine!”
“Our 65 students who gained awards through a challenging two years deserved this celebration more than ever before. Sadly, families and supporters weren’t able to attend but we were honoured that so many joined us for the occasion online. We are incredibly proud of all of students who are now enjoying a welcome summer break, and hope to see our returning students signed up DofE again next year.”
Homefield Champion of the Year announced at Virtual Summer Celebration
Each year, Homefield College announce their Students of the Year including a student per learning pathway and English & Maths champions. Whilst the standards have been exceptionally high, there could only be one overall winner as Homefield Champion 20/21.
Announced during the (yet again virtual) summer celebration, in between dancing to great tunes from DJ Dan Blaze, the Homefield Champion of the Year award went to a student who has helped across the whole college community. The winner has been a key player in improving the wellbeing of students through weekly activities and getting everyone involved in challenges (which has been especially important during the pandemic, keeping up fitness and boosting student & staff morale).
The winner, Janvee H, is kind and caring, and has been a great friend to many already in her first year at college. The main academic focus for Janvee this year has been on gaining experience of supporting healthy living sessions, with the aim to apply this learning in a supported internship next academic year at other employment settings to support her continual development and goal to be a personal trainer.
At the beginning of the year, Janvee’s confidence hindered her coaching of others and the ability to share / make her knowledge known, but over the year she has gained the skills, confidence and understanding of her peers to know how best to coach and communicate with them. She is part of three very different health & fitness sessions, requiring her to use her learnt skills to adapt her support to her peers’ needs within these groups.
In Janvee’s own words, this is what she’s been doing at Homefield in her first year with them:
“Over the year I have been promoting students’ wellbeing, physical activity and to make them feel healthier.
I have been doing the exercise of week so doing step-by-step instructions on how to do the exercise and I have been putting pictures on to show how to do it and I do that every Wednesday morning and send it out to tutors and students.
I have been doing the fun fitness exercise on a Thursday so doing a different range of exercises and then leading it and showing how to do the exercise on a Thursday lunchtime on Teams.
I have also done the walk of freedom challenge so I planned what we were going to do then I put a poster together and sent it out on email so tutors and students knew all the information about the walking challenge.”
Everyone at Homefield is really proud of Janvee for her outstanding attitude and hard work, going above and beyond as an active member of the Homefield community. Well done!
Celebrating success with prize day at Communication Specialist College Doncaster
Different times call for different approaches and that is exactly what the team at Communication Specialist College Doncaster (CSCD) came up with for this year’s Prize Day.
In previous years, the sports hall has been turned into an event space and all students, teachers and families would gather to celebrate the student’s successes.
Due to the pandemic this was not going to work so the team at CSCD decided on a different approach.
Beckie Loosemore, assistant principal at the college explains: “Our students have been working in hubs throughout the pandemic to keep them and staff safer. The smaller groups have meant that teaching and socialising has been different, but it has also meant that they have formed strong bonds and a great sense of camaraderie.
“We decided that this year we’d celebrate our end of year success in our hubs, so we spoke to Green, Blue, Orange and Yellow hub and planned four celebrations with our students.”
Each celebration took place within the hub and the students had a fantastic time. Successes from across the year were applauded and we moved away from individual course awards – this was a year when everyone was a winner!
“To make sure that our parents and families felt involved we posted videos on our social media channels from each hub talking about the year and shared photos of each of the students.
“Whilst it wasn’t our traditional celebration the hub prize days were a huge hit with everyone and the close bond students and staff have made were evident and heart-warming, this shone through throughout the day.
“We have learnt so much over the last 16 months, we have stayed open throughout the pandemic to ensure learning, care and support continued to take place and we are hugely proud of the whole team.
“Thank to you everyone involved and most of all to our amazing staff team and students – you’ve all earned a great summer break.”
Portland’s David Receives National Accolade!
Portland College Curriculum Manager David Winter was announced as the winner of the Outstanding Individual Contribution Award at the National Special Educational Needs and Disability Awards Ceremony. The National Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Awards celebrates the most inclusive practice for young people in schools, colleges, educational settings and employment across the UK.
Dave’s career at Portland has spanned over 23 years. First starting as a part-time carer as his first paid employment, then as Care Coordinator, before moving into learning support and teaching roles and ultimately management as an excellent educator and role-model for his learners and colleagues.
During his time at the college, Dave has helped his learners to achieve many successes throughout his career and as he has developed, he has been able to have an even bigger impact on more people. After designing and introducing the first sports curriculum at Portland in 2006, learners have the opportunity to compete in local, regional and national events, and Dave has led many successes with learners representing England in Boccia squads and the Table Cricket team have won the Lord Taverner’s national title several times. Dave has also introduced a comprehensive evening enrichment programme for learners which he has opened up to others in the community.
Dave is now in the process of rolling out a new initiative at Portland; the Be Healthy, Active and Courageous project, which involves a 12-week training programme for staff to provide the knowledge tools and techniques for staff to support learners with self-awareness, self-regulation, goal setting, achievement habits, self-compassion and resilience.
All of this is alongside Dave’s busy role of managing a complex curriculum and large team of specialist staff to ensure our learning programmes are delivered to the highest quality and in line with learner aspirations.
Portland College Principal and CEO comments on Dave’s award: “Dave was one of the first people I got to know when I came to Portland nearly 15 years ago. Then he was just completing his teacher training qualification and I observed his teaching practice and watched him develop from a beginning teacher to an outstanding one. I worked directly with him on innovative projects such as our Sport England Fully Inclusive Sport training programme and the groundwork that led to the current Natspec Games. He has continued to innovate and put his heart and soul into developing young people with disabilities. It is wonderful to see Dave get this recognition and the outpouring of appreciation for a brilliant teacher.”
Dave himself comments: “I am very honoured to have received this award. I have dedicated the last 23 years of my life to Portland and the learners that have passed through our doors in that time, but I wouldn’t be where I am now without the support of my colleagues and family and for that I am extremely grateful.”
Portland College also celebrated their Annual Awards Day on a beautifully sunny July day in the woodland campus grounds. The day was full of celebrating the achievements that their learners and citizens have made over another difficult year.
The college’s outside Wedding Pagoda hosted three separate ceremonies, keeping numbers down and things Covid safe.
They welcomed Tim Richmond, the Chair of Governors, and the Guest of Honour, Councillor John Smallridge, who read out the winner in each category from the golden envelope, something new and exciting this year!
One award winner was self-isolating on the day, but due to him living in the Independent Living setting on campus, the audience were able to visit him to be able to congratulate him on his win!
2021 graduation at Fairfield Farm College
Students at Fairfield Farm College celebrated their 2021 graduation on 9 July. With 25 students graduating, it was the largest graduation event in the college’s history. The event was restricted but live streamed to a wider audience. Students were able to enjoy a motivational presentation by Paralympic Swimmer, Liz Johnson. Liz got up at 5am to Zoom in from Brazil, she spoke to students about her experiences and challenges, and how she overcame many hurdles in her career to win gold in Bejjing, Silver in Athens and Bronze in London as well as gold, sliver and bronze medals in many World and European Championships. She offered advice for students on how to stay motivated as they leave college to take up new challenges.
Students then took it in turns to enjoy their moment in the spotlight. Each student was invited to collect their certificates and a framed photo of their memories at the college. Students had completed a range of programmes from 1 to 5 years and there were many laughs, but also tears from students and staff. Many students have already secured future plans as they transition to adulthood, with some remaining in the Trust progressing to the STEPS programme, preparing them to take the next step to independent or supported living. Other students have secured supported internships, courses at mainstream colleges, employment and work placements as well as moving to their long-term homes.
Following another difficult year for everyone, students and staff will now enjoy some much-needed time off. Although the college is closed during the holidays, the Farm Shop, Café and Post Office at Fairfield will remain open. The college houses remain open for young people that reside at Fairfield as well as for short-breaks. The Hope Nature Centre in Trowbridge is also open with a café, play facilities and the extensive animal park, all providing training and work opportunities for young people and adults with learning difficulties.
Condover College’s Celebration Day 2021
Condover College hosted their Celebration Day on the 21 July. Whilst they would have loved to all celebrate together in person, with the rise in COVID cases, they did not feel it was safe enough to do so. Therefore, similar to last year, the Celebration Day was held via Zoom.
Grafton’s Celebration Day
The College held their Celebration Day at their Education Centre with all their learners and team together, and parents joining via Zoom. They started the event by sharing a video that the students and staff had created based on The Beatles Song “All Together Now” to celebrate coming back together into 1 bubble.
This was followed by a video montage and speech to describe each of the groups work and achievements over the year. The leavers from each group were also given their own video montage and speech (set to their favourite song or piece of music) to mark their graduation from college. All the students were presented with certificates of the qualifications, accreditation and awards that they achieved through the year and they were very proud of themselves.
This was rounded off by a singing and signing rendition of “Rise up” by Andra Day, which the students had been learning in Makaton Choir.
Even though it was a much smaller event than usual, there were smiles and tears aplenty as the students cheered each other on and wished their friends farewell.
After a wonderful set of presentations, the students and team at Grafton enjoyed a delicious buffet from Jenny’s Catering in their sunny garden. A truly lovely day had by all!
A huge well done to Grafton staff for organising and hosting another memorable Celebration Day at College.
End of term celebrations at Dilston College
Things have been wrapping up at Dilston College with celebrations for students for finishing the year!
Masked Ball and fancy dress day
Dilston’s celebratory ‘masked ball’ and fancy dress day was such good fun and enjoyed by everyone. Sylvia looked amazing dressed as a Pierrot and had her face painted by Lauren, one of our tutors. We had a great mix of fancy dress ranging from Frida Kahlo to Cowgirls and a Goth. Matthew who was dressed as a very cool James Bond was found ‘shaken not stirred’ in the conservatory.
Their Sports Day was also a great success. We had wonderful weather for both students and staff to enjoy being outside. There were lots of different activities and fun things to do all accompanied by the music of, DJ Wolf, AKA Keelan. There were yummy ice creams provided by Vintage Ice Creams which went down a storm as it was so warm!! The day was finished off nicely by the certificates and medal giving. Well done to everyone involved what a fantastic day.
Students at LEAP College celebrate a year of awards and achievements!
Students (and staff!) at LEAP College have been celebrating a fantastic year of achievements. They won the Natspec ‘Pathways into Employment’ Award in May, their second Natspec Award win in a row!
Evidence of their award winning practice is show in the successes of students Jack, who has completed a 6-month ILM traineeship, a local authority and college collaborative paid work placement and has gone on to achieve a part time paid placement with a specialist school in Warrington, and student Will completed their first ever Supported Internship and is applying to Wargrave House School to complete one day a week voluntary work.
Celebrating the end of term, there were more awards to hand out! Student Kovan was presented with a Nomination for the National Rotary Club Sports Hero Award. And Alicia was presented with the Young Achiever Award, an annual awards initiative from the local branch of the Rotary Club!
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