It’s been a busy month for Natspec, with us welcoming two hundred and fifty delegates, speakers and exhibitors back to Natspec’s national conference, which was held face-to-face for the first time since 2019. With inspiring keynotes and workshop sessions focussing on issues facing the sector, the conference was also a chance for guests to network and catch up. We were also delighted to celebrate our Natspec Awards winners for the first time in person!
June has also seen the return of the Natspec Games, both in in person events across the country and as virtual sessions this week, providing opportunities for young people to get involved in inclusive sport. News about one college’s inclusive sporting event is below!
This month’s edition of the Natspec Highlights also includes news of students being recognised for their personal achievements, work experience successes and even a profitable dog show organised by one college!
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Inspirational student is Rotary Young Citizen Sporting Hero award 2022
Wargrave House School & College are proud to share news that their inspirational student, Khovan Hussein, has been awarded with the Young Citizen Sporting Hero Award 2022 by Rotary International.
Khovan received his Award from BBC TV Presenter Ellie Crisell during an awards ceremony at the NEC in Birmingham on Saturday 7th May 2022. Khovan received a trophy, certificate and £300 to go to his chosen registered charity or Community Interest Company.
Khovan said: “Because I’m autistic, I had trouble socialising. Sport has helped me and I like helping people through sports because it can make anyone who’s really shy, really outgoing and confident and it’s fun to do as well. So, I wanted to help others with sport and fitness because I felt I used to be a really shy kid and I thought, you know, if it made me more sociable and more outgoing, maybe it could work on others.”
Khovan is winning medals, including gold, in Brazilian Ji-Jitsu competitions. He has completed two Wargrave House College work placements as an MMA coach and gym instructor/personal trainer respectively and he says he would like to work in these roles after completing college. He added “I feel really excited about getting the Sporting Hero Award. It means a lot and I’m very excited about it all. And I think that for the career I want to go for, it’s definitely going to help and motivate me even more.”
Julliet Doherty, Head of College said “Khovan is a remarkable young sporting hero as well as an incredible role model. He tirelessly works on his MMA and is never too busy to support others and encourage their success. An amazing friend to many of our students and a very well respected member of the Wargrave Autism Specialist School and LEAP College community. He helped his peers and teachers to maintain their fitness, despite the impact of COVID-19, including producing fitness videos during lockdown. We are very proud of his achievements, he demonstrates the true essence of resilience and commitment.”
Khovan was nominated for the Award by Newton-le-Willows Rotary. The Awards are celebrating their 15th Anniversary this year. The Rotary Young Citizen Awards were started in 2007 to celebrate the amazing achievements of inspirational young people across Great Britain and Ireland, many of whom have assumed important responsibilities at a very young age.
QAC Supported Interns secure employment with HSBC
Students enrolled on Queen Alexandra College’s Supported Internship programme, Abdullah, Charlotte and Joe, have all been offered job roles at HSBC – achieving their long-term goal of gaining paid employment!
Over the past couple of months QAC has been working on a project with HSBC, resulting in 10 students at the College having an interview for paid, full and part-time roles.
Based at the Broad Street branch in Birmingham, the three successful students will carry out a key branch-based role meeting and greeting customers. They will often be the first point of contact, answer queries, show customers how to use self-service equipment and direct them to a suitable colleague if they have a more complex enquiry.
Abdullah commented: “I never thought I’d be able to work as I have two impairments. Thank you to everyone at QAC for making my dream come true!”
Charlotte said: “I feel really happy as I never thought that I’d ever get a job. Being on the Supported Internship programme has allowed me to gain the skills I needed to do well in an interview and get a job – I can’t wait to start working at HSBC.”
Joe added: “All the staff at HSBC were very welcoming and friendly. I was greeted with big smiles by the people who interviewed us and they were understanding of our disabilities. I am really happy they have offered me a part-time job.”
On completion of their study programmes at QAC’s main campus in Harborne, Abdullah, Charlotte and Joe progressed onto the College’s Supported Internship programme to develop the skills they needed to navigate the world of work. Delivered at the College’s Pinewood Campus, the programme is designed to help prepare students for voluntary or paid employment and support is tailored to meet individual needs whilst providing valuable experience with an employer.
All three students have enjoyed successful work placements whilst on the programme, supported by knowledgeable QAC Job Coaches. The College’s Employment Pathways Team helped to prepare them for their interviews by updating CVs, identifying how to answer potential interview questions and joining a Zoom call with HSBC – this enabled the students to know who would be meeting with them and what the building looked like in advance of interviews.
Joleen Croarkin, HSBC Project Manager, commented: “I consider myself so privileged to have been given the opportunity to lead this project. I came to this with no prior knowledge or experience of working with people with disabilities and feel so lucky to have been able to have an influence that has changed people’s lives by providing them with employment. I look forward to welcoming Abdullah, Charlotte and Joe on their first day in their new jobs!”
Fun in the Sunshine as Portland Celebrates Achievement in Inclusive Sports
Portland College proudly hosted a Jubilee Games competition in their brand new, wheelchair accessible Newstart Sports Hall.
The event was an incredible day, that was named in honour of Portland College’s Patron, Her Majesty the Queen, and was full of celebration and activity with young people from around the region who competed in a range of inclusive sports.
Five teams from visiting specialist schools and colleges from Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire joined teams from Portland College and Portland Day Service in a football and Boccia competition. They were two very closely fought competitions, but in the end the Portland Day Service team came away with the Boccia trophy, and the Portland College Purple team won the football tournament!
Communication Specialist College Doncaster was one of the teams that attended the Jubilee Games; “It is a brilliant experience to get the students out here and involved, meeting other students from other colleges and just having the opportunity to take part in some competitive sports.”
Nottinghamshire Badminton Association, Badminton England, Notts County Cricket Super 1’s supported the event through skills challenges and have a go activities outside on Portland’s fully accessible multi-use games area.
Mark Dale, Portland Principal and CEO commented “The Jubilee Games was a real celebration of sport and inclusivity, it was wonderful to see so many smiling, happy faces enjoying the sport and the sunshine!
“The day was the perfect platform to raise the profile of Disability Sports which was helped with coverage on BBC East Midlands Today. We’re hoping to make this event an annual occurrence as sport and physical activity are crucial to improving the health and well-being for all.”
Learners go for bronze at Condover College
On 9 June seven learners from the Grafton Centre, Condover College, took part in their Duke of Edinburgh Expedition, the last section to complete before achieving their Bronze award. Learners took part in an overnight stay at a campsite near the Long Mynd.
On the weeks running up to the expedition all learners helped to prepare, plan and train for every element of the trip. This included meal planning, pitching tents and practicing weekly walks to increase their stamina!
On arrival at the site all of the learners helped to unload the transport, pitch the tents and pump up the air beds (they even did this in the rain and it didn’t stop any of them!). They all worked exceptionally hard!
Learners were eager to put on their waterproofs, rucksacks and walking boots to get ready to explore! Everyone enjoyed the outdoor pursuits and worked very hard towards their award.
Well done to everyone that took part it was a fantastic success.
Activate’s hydropool and spa makes a big splash!
The BIG Spa plan has finally been made into a reality at Activate. For students with hydrotherapy listed in their EHCPs, Activate have created an ideal opportunity for them to enjoy the therapeutic benefits during the college day, whilst developing their motor and communication skills, in the onsite Spa.
The plan was always to ensure that the facility design was as far from a clinical setting as possible, so that students felt like they were experiencing a luxurious spa session, rather than just therapeutic intervention.
Activate have created a beautiful reception area where students are initially greeted as clients and taken care of with soft, white towels and robes etc. Trained staff assist and lead the hydrotherapy sessions in a pool with relaxing, warm temperatures, sensory lighting, and peaceful music. The team can already see the difference in students unwinding and enjoying their time in here.
There are many additional benefits to this design choice and some students have also been able to access work experience opportunities through the spa. Activate have created spa assistant roles to take care of daily running of the new facility and even a beauty therapist role, offering hand massages and nail painting to staff and peers by appointment. It’s so important that students can benefit from the spa as much as possible and that they can have an experience as similar as possible to the hotel spa.
Activate are impressed with and grateful for their new facility and feedback has all been positive so far. They look forward to more students benefitting from this in the future.
Fairfield Farm College students win big at Westbury Young People Awards 2022
Students at Fairfield Farm College have won the Student Council Award at Westbury Young People Awards 2022. The event, hosted at Matravers School saw the students from the Student Council pick up the accolade for their hard work and commitment to their roles. From fundraising efforts to supporting their peers during the pandemic, the Student Council have shown great strength, determination and have always represented to the student voice at the college.
“For the past 3 years, I have had the pleasure of working with and supporting the Student Council. They have brought the thoughts and ideas of the college community to life. A huge congratulations to Josh, Lucy, Brook, Kyle, and Elliott on their well-deserved win.” said Lindsay Elkins, the Fairfield Farm College Student Council Lead.
Another award was won by Ann, who picked up the ‘Young Leader and Community Spirit’ accolade. For the last 3 years, Ann has worked tirelessly with the Student Council and led her peers to collect countless boxes of food and essential items for the local food bank in Westbury. Her compassion and generosity toward others are amazing, even thinking of Christmas and Easter saying “everyone deserves a bit of chocolate.”
Community Based Work Experience at Thornbeck
Thornbeck College strive to make links will local employers to support learners to access meaningful community-based work experience.
At college Will is following the Preparation for Work pathway with catering being his identified vocational area of interest in relation to employment. Will is currently working towards a Level 1 accredited qualification in catering and hospitality. This term Will is attending work experience at the RSPB on a weekly basis, working in the café completing a range of tasks including:
- Pot washing
- Clearing and cleaning tables
- Serving customers including taking payments and giving change
- Making a range of hot and cold drinks
- Interacting with customers to check if they are satisfied with their purchases
The work experience placement is providing Will the opportunity to apply the theoretical knowledge he is gaining while completing his qualification to real life situations, developing his employability skills and promoting community and social inclusion.
Percy Hedley opens pop-up shop
Over the past month students at Percy Hedley have opened a shop in the heart of Manor Walks Shopping Centre situated in Cramlington. The shop is stocked with hand crafted items made by students from Hedleys College and Hedleys Horizons day service. The aim of the shop is to offer work experience opportunities to students and service users within the foundation along with paid work on weekends. Students and service users have taken the lead in making items, packaging items, stocking the shop, dealing with the financial aspect of shop work and serving customers. This has given them an insight into what shopwork entails which has been hugely beneficial for their confidence and work ethic.
The shop was only going to be open for one month as a pilot, but because of the opportunities it has brought for students and service users, Percy Hedley have extended this for an additional month.
Landmarks awards best in show for four-legged friends
In May, Landmarks saw the return of its Dog Show. Where 300 dog owners came from far and wide to support the event at their farm site in Apperknowle.
The Dog Show saw learners participate in music performances and Farm Skill demonstrations. Other learners ran enterprise stalls and raffles & games, while Hospitality & Catering learners provided food and drinks.
Of course, the highlight of the day was the Dog Show itself. Four-legged friends competed for rosettes across 11 categories, including Waggiest Tail, Scruffiest, Best Rescue, Golden Oldie and Fancy Dress. With a Best in Show champion crowned at the end.
This latest fun event raised an impressive £2536.85 on the day.
Heartstopper Sensory Story at Bridge College
Naomi Hewerdine, Speech and Language Therapist, at Bridge College, uses sensory stories to tell an immersive story to learners. She explains how they’re designed to support communication and language development:
To tell a sensory story you need to use a range of different sensory experiences e.g. vision, smell, taste, touch and sound in a structured way so that the story is a multi-sensory experience.
If anyone has been around teenagers the last few weeks they will have heard of “Heartstopper”. The show, based on graphic novels by Alice Oseman, aired on Netflix in April. It is about two high school boys Charlie and Nick, who meet, become friends, and fall in love.
At Bridge College, we felt that it was important to give our Sensory Learners access to this type of story. Many people still wrongly assume that the whole area of sexuality and relationships is irrelevant if you have a learning disability – it isn’t. In fact, autistic people are statistically more likely to be LGBTQ+ than Neuro-Typical people, so the themes in Heartstopper are even more relevant to our students.
So how do you go about presenting a story that is a graphic novel and a TV show into a Sensory Story?
We followed the advice from Mencap and Sensory Projects and summarised part of the story into about a dozen sentences. Our story is book one, or episodes one to four. Pages from the graphic novels and stills from the show were projected on a screen using PowerPoint.
We focussed on the two main characters, Charlie and Nick. They were represented with clothing, smells, and sounds. We incorporated switch work into the part of the story where Nick invites Charlie to a party, and the students turned on the disco lights. We used songs from the soundtrack such as Baby Queen’s “Colours of You” to move the story along.
Students who use Communication Devices were able to narrate parts of the story, others could join in with single phrases or a doorbell sound on Big Macs (accessible switches that learners can press).
We even recreated the iconic rain umbrella scene by borrowing a watering can from horticulture!
The students have been really engaged and are loving getting to know the characters. As staff, we have loved telling it, though we have got achy shoulders from wafting the multicoloured parachute. We will carry on telling Heartstopper in our Citizenship lessons, and during Pride Month, because whatever your ability or orientation, everyone needs the opportunity to love and be loved.
All the right moves in street dance competition
A street dance crew from Derwen College earned medals and trophies galore at a dance competition in Wolverhampton against 19 other dance schools.
Derwen Dance Crew (DDC) entered the Audacity dance competition in Cannock. The team performed as a group and with individual performances, impressing a sold-out audience who were all on their feet enjoying the show.
The competition at Chase Leisure Centre, Cannock, on Sunday saw students Anna Redding, George Weston, Megan Probyn, Georgia Bennett-Lockey, Tom Newton-French and Nicole Williams receive individual and group trophies. DDC came second in the SEN Street Dance Crew, and the crew won many individual awards.
Megan, who was competing in her first dance competition with DDC, came first in the 18+ Contemporary Beginners and second in Freestyle Street Dance. Nicole won first in Contemporary Intermediate, Tom was first in the Street Solo Beginners and Anna was first in Street Solo Intermediate. They have now qualified for the Championship 2023.
Performing Arts teacher Opal Trevor said:
“I am incredibly proud of all of them. The comments from other dance schools and parents were phenomenal. This is what dance is all about; celebrating, equality and diversity. This was an excellent opportunity to compete in a competitive event, showcasing some brilliant performance skills!
“On the morning of competition they were told that team member Amy had Covid so couldn’t compete. As superstars, DDC changed their whole set including transitions and remembered everything when performing on stage this is pure professionalism. It was wonderful to be part of a such an inspirational event.
“This was DDC’s last time competing together as many of the dancers are now in their final year at college and will be moving on to their next chapters in life which is very exciting!”
Megan, from Stoke, loved being part of her first dance competition with DCC, supported by family who came to watch.
She said: “Since I’ve been part of DCC, I’ve built confidence, so I didn’t feel nervous. I made my parents cry. They were so proud!”
Megan’s mum, Sarah Probyn, said: “We had the most amazing day, and words cannot come close to describing how proud we are. The whole group was amazing and every student is an absolute inspiration to everyone who was in that room and lucky enough to see their performance.”
Lifeworks College Students Raise over £300 for Devon Air Ambulance
Over the past 6 months Lifeworks College Students have raised over £300 for Devon Air Ambulance through a series of fundraising activities.
As part of their Social Enterprise project, the students at Lifeworks College chose to raise money for The Devon Air Ambulance, and then came up with a plan of various fundraising activities that they could also incorporate into their learning curriculum.
At Christmas time the students made calendars using photos they had taken as part of their art programme and designed and created clay Christmas decorations. Valentine’s Day was an opportunity to sell valentine’s day cards and jewellery that the students had made. This included necklaces, bracelets and earrings. The College also held an art competition for students, staff, family and friends. Each person paid an entrance fee and a very high standard of entries was received. At Easter time students made flannel bunnies which also contained a chocolate egg.
Lifeworks Arts Teacher Michelle Skinner, who helped facilitate much of the fundraising, said “We are so very grateful to The Pavilion Café in Newton Abbot for selling our products in their community café. Also, a big thank you to staff, families and friends who have purchased and entered our competition. But the biggest thank you has to go to the students of Lifeworks College for their ideas, enthusiasm and skills in order to make the products to sell. For a small College £309 is a great achievement.”
On Monday 20 June the students were treated to a visit to the College by Nigel Lang, a critical care paramedic from Devon Air Ambulance, where the students gave a presentation talk on how they had raised the money. Nigel said, “I am so delighted and taken aback by the innovative ways in which the Lifeworks students have raised this money. To give your time is so special and we rely on fantastic people like yourselves to raise the money needed each year to keep our helicopters flying and continue to save lives.”
Nigel also gave his own presentation to the Lifework’s students about how the Devon Air Ambulance operates and the various ways in which fundraising can help Devon Air Ambulance as well as the people and roles within the organisation, and importantly, how their services help to deliver expert critical care to patients wherever they may be.
Karen Dorow, Head of Lifeworks College added, “We are all so proud of the students for the hard work that they have put into their fundraising. As a charity, we know the importance and benefits of fundraising and so it is wonderful to see our own students inspired in becoming fundraisers themselves. It really does tie into our College ethos that we continue to provide an innovative and engaging programme of personal, social and vocational learning for our students as well as being valued by their communities.”
QAC’s Annual Student Showcase event returns
Queen Alexandra College’s Annual Student Showcase returned to celebrate the richness and diversity of its students’ talents following a two year absence due to the pandemic!
Hosted at the QAC Community Services Hub, next door to the main College campus, the event included QAC’s very own band ‘QAC Collective’ performing a range of fantastic music and our Performing Arts students providing a taster of the magic of musical theatre.
Some exciting artwork produced by a number of talented artists at QAC was also on display to view and enjoy. The showcase was attended by various stakeholders, including Natspec member of staff Amanda Tribble, all of whom thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the wealth of talent the students possess.
The event was introduced by QAC’s Chair of Governors Ian Richards and closed by Principal and Chief Executive Bev Jessop. A Community Services update was also provided by Jane Morel, Director of Community Services & Enterprises. As part of its 5-year strategy (2019-2024) QAC is developing a new range of services for young people with disabilities in the community.
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