As the weather turns colder, and the challenges of life under COVID regulations continues, our colleges continue to keep themselves busy. They’ve been finding new and creative ways to provide work experience and enrichment activities for students, and achieving amazing things.
We continue to be busy at Natspec. Last week we published the findings of a new research report into High Needs in Further Education, commissioned with the Association of Colleges and the Local Government Association. The report calls for a radical shake up of the system, which is currently not working. We’ve also launched our new SEND Leadership Programme, to provide opportunities for those in the sector to develop their leadership skills.
The deadline for the Natspec Awards is also approaching. We’ve produced a video full of top tips on how to put an application together. Please also check out our latest webinar recording from one of our 2020 winners – this time from National Star, taking through Interdisciplinary Working with learners with PMLD.
- Students with severe special needs from Lancaster’s Beaumont College complete their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Expedition award
- Evelyn’s Crazy Hat and Hair Day Success
- Homefield’s new enterprise Breward’s Coffee Shop is now open to the public
- Portland Pathways Secures Another Award Win for its Impact on our Community!
- Doncaster Deaf Trust principal completes 10k to help students
- Students’ Excellent Teamwork to Decorate Sense College Loughborough
- Henshaws College partner with Harrogate Fair Trade Shop
- Diwali celebrations at Heart of Birmingham Vocational College
- Supporting Staff and Students Mental Health and Wellbeing with the Active Mile
- QAC achieves Investors in People Silver accreditation
- Reconnecting, reengaging and recovering at Trinity Multi-Academy Trust
- Enterprising CSCD students shop turn to delivery in times of Covid
- Catcote Futures’ Teacher wins most inspirational presentation
- Visiting Condover College’s Residents During Covid-19
- A Tip Top idea for students and staff
Students with severe special needs from Lancaster’s Beaumont College complete their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Expedition award
Seven students from Beaumont College have completed a gruelling four-day walking and camping challenge to complete the highly coveted Gold Duke of Edinburgh Expedition.
Four of the team have now completed their Gold Award following 18 months of hard work and ambition, which is considered an exceptional standard for any young person, particularly those with complex needs.
Pippa, Jadhaan, Liam, Marcus, Harry, Aaron and Natasha, who are the first students at the college to take part in the Gold level of the prestigious award, walked more than 26 kilometres and camped for three nights, organising themselves as a group to complete the award requirements.
The expedition had originally been planned for June, however had to be postponed and adjustments to the task made in order to comply with Covid-19 restrictions.
Jadhaan and Liam put their cooking skills into practice and prepared the substantial evening meals for the team, assisted capably by Marcus and Harry on different evenings.
Natasha had worked at planning the menu, coming up with lots of ideas of foods that would be expedition-friendly, including pasta bolognaise, vegetable noodles and sausages and mash with jelly and custard being a practical favourite.
Aaron and Marcus acted in support roles throughout, showing their caring and patient nature with others. Marcus was able to coordinate support as team members clambered over rugged terrain and boundary stiles.
Rachel Diss, Occupational Therapist at Beaumont College, said: “It has been impressive watching these young achievers develop the skills required for all elements of the expedition section of the award, but also positive to see the committed staff support team backing off and empowering the team to start to rely solely on each other. This has been a gradual process of supporting their individual needs including; physical, social and emotional wellbeing whilst building their skills and confidence in themselves and their team.
“The rain on the first night of camping was absolutely torrential, but the team were determined to see it through and didn’t let a bit of rain deter them from carrying on. They were an inspiration.
They knew it was the last opportunity they would have to achieve this as a team, and they weren’t letting anything stand in their way.
“Creating an environment of trust and learning opportunities to work as a successful team takes several months of planning and preparation, so it was wonderful to see it pay off. Members of the team have autism and learning disabilities and the support of their individual needs was key to ensuring they could all participate. As well as their learning needs, team members also had physical disabilities and challenges with carrying the required kit and covering the selected terrain and distance. They all had to commit to the challenge and work hard to get it finished together.”
Liam highlighted the team’s success and achievement and said: “I am so impressed with how well everyone has done. Well done everybody!”
Aaron, Marcus, Natasha and Jadhaan have now completed all sections within the Gold Award and their teammates will complete their remaining sections by the end of the academic year.
Evelyn’s Crazy Hat and Hair Day Success
An Orchard Hill College student has raised over £200 for Children in Need through a crazy hat and hair day.
Children in Need is a charity close to Evelyn’s heart so she wanted to do something to support the cause as well as having fun with her classmates and staff.
Evelyn took on all the organising of the event herself and on the day she sported bright red curly hair. Her Lecturer, Sarah Lucie said “Evelyn is a born organiser and we are so proud to see how well the event went and how it lifted the spirits of everyone in the college centre in Hillingdon.”
Evelyn said “It has been a difficult time for everyone recently and I wanted to do something that was fun and for a good cause. It was a great day!”
Homefield’s new enterprise Breward’s Coffee Shop is now open to the public
After a term of honing skills and learning recipes, students at Homefield College are now serving the public in their latest enterprise, Breward’s coffee shop in Mountsorrel.
Homefield took on this new venture after hearing about the uncertainty of Sorrel Youth Café’s (SYC) future. It felt fitting that the coffee shop’s first official customer was the Chairman of SYC, John Doyle, who went for a shot of the finest espresso. Students love working with the previous SYC staff member Nicci Ilett, now Assistant Manager at Breward’s Coffee Shop. Student Ethan said that Breward’s is a “friendly place where you can grab a coffee and food with your friends. I’m looking forward to creating some new recipes with Nicci”.
Starting with a tester menu that is designed to be tasty yet simple, students are developing their repertoire. The lemonade scones with freshly churned butter and blueberry jam are a particular hit, and the students are working on new recipes to make Breward’s ‘The Home of the Scone’, with ideas including a buttermilk scone, a savoury scone with bacon and sundried tomatoes, and even some flavours for the festive season.
Currently open for take-away, students are enjoying the phased nature of being able to build up their confidence – by starting with staff take-away only, to now public take-away, and soon staff eat-in followed by public eat-in services when allowed. Student Sam said “I love working in the café and serving customers. I’m looking forward to serving more customers when they come in and sit down after COVID”.
Portland Pathways Secures Another Award Win for its Impact on our Community!
Portland College are proud to announce that Portland Pathways were crowned winners of the East Midlands Chamber Community Impact Award at a prestigious online awards ceremony on 26 November.
This wonderful recognition celebrates the crucial impact that Portland Pathways continues to have on thier local communities.
Portland College launched the Pathways initiative in 2017 and so far, it has had 782 referrals, with 76% of those being people with disabilities.
Portland Pathways’ objectives are closely aligned and by bridging the disability employment gap locally, people benefit from more independent futures and better health and well-being through the positive impact of employment.
With hubs in Mansfield and Sutton in Ashfield, Portland Pathways aims to support individuals to gain employment, and to help businesses to recruit the right staff for their roles.
The service has so far supported 157 people into employment and this continues to grow as we strengthen relationships with local employers. 373 people have enrolled onto Recovery College courses and we have delivered 323 1:1 counselling hours.
Mark Dale, Principal and CEO of Portland College commented, “The Pathways team really are the best at what they do and this award confirms that.
Our vision of providing all people with disabilities with a lifetime of opportunity is not only achieved through our Further Education and care provision for young people, but in our community hubs for adults too.
With 271 referrals to Pathways in 2019/20, the impact on our community and the local economy is clear. I’m tremendously proud of the team for leading such a successful initiative and our robust plans will ensure that we continue to support employment and economic growth within the region for years to come.
With the current economic downturn and high unemployment rates forecast by the Government for 2021, the need for Portland Pathways has never been greater and the team continue to shine, securing 9 job starts for customers in November.
I also want to pay tribute local employer Linney who have backed Pathways financially for all this time and National Lotteries Community Fund.”
This prestigious award marks the third award the team have won since launching three years ago, the first award in 2018 was the Chad Business Award for Community Contribution, followed by the Mansfield and Ashfield 2020 Award for Commitment to the Community.
Doncaster Deaf Trust principal completes 10k to help students
The principal of Doncaster Deaf Trust put his running skills to the test when he ran around the school grounds to raise funds to help students, as part of this year’s virtual Doncaster 10k.
Alexis Johnson, 51, who has been executive principal of the Trust since 2019, ran 10 kilometres around the school field on 29 November, raising more than £1100 to help with residential refurbishments at the education hub.
He said: “Though the Doncaster 10k race looked a little different this year due to the pandemic, it was a pleasure to engage in this run virtually – even through it did test my fitness levels!
“It was also an opportune time to celebrate the 190th anniversary of Doncaster Deaf Trust while raising funds for refurbishments within our Darley Lodge and Greenaway residential blocks. Raising this money means that we can implement essential updates that will make such a difference to the lives of our students while they learn.”
The residential buildings need renovation in response to Covid-19 to minimise contact for our students. Help is needed to make smaller flats within the current accommodation. This is part of a long-term plan to future-proof this setting as society continues to adapt to Covid-19 measures.
The updates to accommodation include improved access points and facilities so that students can remain within bubbles if needed with swipe card access, creating a safe and comfortable environment with relevant IT measures in case students need to self isolate.
To help with this, The Trust requires support on building design and technical expertise, soft furnishings and white goods and additional funding for updates such as new doors and swipe card technology.
Jonathan Frary, from Curly’s Athletes, who run the Doncaster 10k said: “We’re thrilled to hear how well Alexis’s run went as part of this year’s virtual Doncaster 10k.
“We know that funds raised are going toward such worthwhile extensive work at The Trust so that those who are Deaf or hard of hearing can receive quality support and education as we journey through this challenging time in the world.”
Students’ Excellent Teamwork to Decorate Sense College Loughborough
Students (and staff) at Sense College Loughborough have had their creative caps on, and have been finding ways for the College to carry on celebrating together this year, despite being in separate bubbles and following social distancing guidelines.
In the College’s reception area, students and staff have set up a display which was most recently used for their Scarecrow Festival!
At the start of November, each bubble was responsible for designing, creating and displaying their very own scarecrow. From the vampire twins and the Queen of Hearts, to a skeleton and a Wizard of Oz inspired scarecrow, the creative juices have been in full flow at College.
As well as being a fun and festive activity during the autumn months, this was also a fantastic opportunity for students to work on their teamwork and communication skills, as they have worked together in small groups, sharing ideas to create their masterpieces.
For students in the Vocational Bubble, this task has been part of a Teamwork Unit which will count towards a qualification in Employability Skills, Training and Personal Development. The group of four students worked together to decide who would be responsible for different elements of their scarecrow. One of the students was chosen as the team leader to ensure the project ran smoothly, and all team members collaborated to produce their Beauty and the Beast themed scarecrow (horns and throne included!).
Now it is December, the scarecrows have come down to make way for the annual Christmas Tree Festival. Last year, the Christmas Trees formed part of the Winter Wonderland in the Arts Centre, but this year, they will be on display in reception for all to see as they come in to the building.
Students, with help from a few LSEs (Learning Support Elves), are working hard to put the finishing touches on their Christmas creations, ready for a dazzling festive display next week!
Henshaws College partner with Harrogate Fair Trade Shop
At this time of year, Henshaws Specialist College students would normally be hard at work helping Harrogate Fair Trade Shop with the Christmas rush. This year is very different, but it has not stopped the two charities from working together on something special.
The Harrogate Fair Trade shop, with the support of the College, have launched a brand new website, allowing people to order products from the comfort and safety of their own homes. And
Henshaws College students are getting involved with everything from web skills and marketing to picking and packing a selected range of stock. All without having to leave campus.
Dan White, work experience coordinator says: “Overcoming barriers and creating opportunity is a daily occurrence at college. Innovation and adaptability is at the heart of what we do to build confidence, develop independence and support achievement of our students.
“We are most proud when we can use these skills to work closely and benefit the local community and joint work with Fair Trade Shop gives us opportunity to do just that”
Diwali celebrations at Heart of Birmingham Vocational College
Students at Heart of Birmingham Vocational College celebrated Diwali by working together to create a Rangoli pattern and decorating their own Diva lamps. They also tried some Mithai (Indian sweets) such as Jalebi and ate samosas and spring rolls.
Another group of students took part in archery via a Teams video call lead by a member of Inclusive Sports. This opened opportunities for teamwork and leadership. The learners also utilised their maths skills to add their total scores and compare them to other team members.
They also looked at food hygiene and how to implement a safe hygiene practise while handling food. The learners had a go at making a sandwich where they identified different coloured breads, looked at sell-by and use-by dates for all the ingredients. The best part was eating the sandwiches of course!
Supporting Staff and Students Mental Health and Wellbeing with the Active Mile
Staff and students at Langdon College Campus’ in Manchester and London have been taking part in a daily Active Mile walk. The plan is to walk the distance between each College Campus which is 169 miles. Students record how many miles they have walked each day to track their progress, each Campus is eager to reach 169 miles first!
As well as this being a great opportunity to be active during the day, students are also looking after their mental health and well-being, spending time chatting and interacting with their peers as well as enjoying the local areas. This is also an opportunity for students to further develop their road safety skills, independence and practice social distancing when out in the community.
During one of the walks in Manchester, students found an ‘Elf Door Trail’ at Alky Woods and enjoyed following a map to find them all.
Students are asking for sponsorship for their Active Mile walks, hopefully raising money to be able to arrange to visit each other at some point next year.
QAC achieves Investors in People Silver accreditation
Investors in People (IiP) is delighted to award Birmingham based Queen Alexandra College (QAC) the ‘We invest in people’, silver accreditation. Silver is a fantastic achievement and something only 20% of the organisations assessed achieve.
It means that the right principles are in place but more than that, it means that QAC staff, managers and leaders are making proactive efforts to make sure that everyone in the organisation feels the positive effects.
QAC supports a diverse range of student and clients abilities and needs. The College and its 400 plus workforce provides education, training, support and routes to independent living and employment, helping to achieve students and clients aspirations for adult life.
Commenting on the award, Bev Jessop, QAC Principal and Chief Executive, said: “It is so easy to forget how much we have introduced, improved and committed to achieve over a relatively short time and this recognition makes it clear how far we have moved forward as a large team of staff. Thank you to everyone involved – staff were really honest, enthusiastic and confident about their experience of QAC as an employer.”
Paul Devoy, CEO of Investors in People, said: “We’d like to congratulate Queen Alexandra College. Silver accreditation on We invest in people is a remarkable effort for any organisation, and places Queen Alexandra College in fine company with a host of organisations that understand the value of people.”
Reconnecting, reengaging and recovering at Trinity Multi-Academy Trust
Students at Trinity Multi-Academy Trust are currently facing various challenges, many confounded by the recent pandemic and some newly developed though physical, emotional and environmental complexities derived from the current climate, engagement in education has become difficult. Trinity Academy Newcastle Multi Academy Trust applied a process of Reconnect, Reengage and Recovery to help our children, young people and their families to process their uncertainties and insecurities, removing these barriers to education.
A big process in the recovery curriculum for Trinity Post-16 Solutions Ltd has been to discuss emotions and the different emotions we had and can feel. Students and tutors talked about how this can make them act towards others. They explored how we don’t mean to act in certain ways, there is usually a cause. Then, they created a tree to display our discussions. The leaves are labelled with emotions and the roots show the root cause which lead to those feelings.
The Recovery curriculum has also been used in reflection and celebration and thanks. In the run up to this year’s day of remembrance, students participated in assemblies and lessons where we not only reflected on the war efforts but considered those fighting the current Coronavirus pandemic. Students researched people and their roles, painted poppies and reflected on their own loss by writing names of people they personally wanted to remember. Their work was used to create a display of ‘service and sacrifice: then and now’ and to give focus to the dignified two minutes silence which was observed on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month.
Enterprising CSCD students shop turn to delivery in times of Covid
Students at Communication Specialist College Doncaster (CSCD) are taking their Enterprise Shop on the road over the next few weeks as visitors can not currently attend site due to Covid 19 restrictions.
The woodwork and enterprise students have been busy creating their legendary Christmas reindeer for sale through their onsite and online Enterprise Shop and have received requests from customers for their products.
Stacey Betts, assistant principal of CSCD said: “Our students have created a number of Christmas products, including wine holders and wooden tree and Father Christmas decorations to raise funds this winter.
“Due to restrictions to external visitors to site the group are offering a delivery service withing a two to three -mile radius of the college on Leger Way.
“A new phone has been put into the shop, which is open Tuesday 12pm – 3pm, Wednesday 10am – 3pm and Thursday 12pm – 3pm when orders can be taken, and delivery arranged.”
The group, led by tutor Chris Dykes, run their own enterprise which is selling an ever-expanding range of items that they make in lessons.
Chris said: “Normally at this time of year we have lots of Christmas fayres booked to attend where our students sell their products, obviously this year we’re not able to do this because of the Covid-19 restrictions.
“Our students were keen to still make their popular wooden reindeers, that often sell out, and other products that make perfect Christmas gifts.
“This is a great learning experience for our students who as well as learning the skills of making the items for sale also learn how to manage money, customer service, social and independence skills by running the enterprise.
“The shop is currently only open for customers who are already on site but we are thrilled to be able to offer a local delivery service to ensure that as many people as possible can still buy our products.”
Catcote Futures’ Teacher wins most inspirational presentation
During November, Catcote Futures took part in the annual Talentino Conference which offers the opportunities to celebrate the triumphs of Special Schools and Colleges from across the country, careers leaders and practitioners both in schools and colleges and those working in careers organisations.
The conference this year was in the theme of a festival, set to support the deliverance of the Gatsby Benchmarks for career development in young people with SEND. Each of the 4 days, involved the choice of up to 20 workshops filtered through four strands of;
- Developing Career development programmes in accordance with the Gatsby Benchmarks
- Introduction to new SEND specific resources and ideas
- Enhance the understanding of how strategic partnerships with the Careers and Enterprise Company can support you with additional tools and training
- To build confidence and communication between employers and schools/colleges to deliver positive career results.
Catcote were involved in 3 separate presentations which were very well received.
This year, in memory of Alan Chapman (former CEO at Catcote Academy and Catcote Futures) a special annual award was launched for the most inspirational speaker or presentation. The recipient of this award was decided upon the votes received from the delegates of the 4 day online event.
Catcote are very proud to say this award was awarded to their very own Amanda Metcalf for her presentation on pre Supported Internships. Amanda is the Work Related Learning Lead and Enterprise Coordinator at Catcote and runs Catcote Futures dedicated employability pathway ‘STEP’s’. Her presentation touched the hearts of the delegates with the learners own personal accounts of their experience on the STEP’s programme and the real opportunities they are working towards to achieve their aspiration and goals.
Visiting Condover College’s Residents During Covid-19
The COVID-19 virus has generated unprecedented demands that have exacerbated pre-existing operational and financial pressures in the care sector. With 13 residential homes for people with profound and multiple learning difficulties and additional complex needs, Condover College Ltd (CCL) has had no exception. The Government’s ever-changing guidance and regulations during the pandemic have created logistical issues for us, requiring speedy and innovative solutions. Visiting relatives in care homes has become a topical, emotive subject and at CCL we ensure we are doing everything we can to enable safe visiting for family, whilst maintaining a Covid safe area for our residents and staff.
During the summer months, garden visits worked well, but as autumn and the poorer weather approached, we realised that we still needed a way to facilitate visits without guests entering the homes. Therefore, we contacted Alan Corfield at Jigsaw Marquees Ltd, and he has done a fantastic job at supplying garden gazebos to our homes around the county. He installed heaters, lighting, and flooring where required and when the guidance on “visiting pods” changed again recently, he quickly created a solution so visits could go ahead again. The feedback we have received from our team and resident’s families has been incredibly positive. Fortunately, this has allowed visits to continue during these difficult and unprecedented times we have all faced. We are extremely grateful to Alan and Jigsaw Marquees for their help and support.
“In what has been a very difficult year for the events industry, it’s been brilliant to assist CCL and their lovely residents with this project. It’s great to know that we’ve enabled them to continue family visits in a safe, dry and COVID secure environment.” Alan Corfield.
A Tip Top idea for students and staff
Derwen College has opened a student-run daily staff takeaway lunch service. The college’s new Tip Top TakeOut offers work experience to Hospitality and Housekeeping students, whilst treating staff to a delicious home-cooked meal or light bite.b
During lockdown, the college’s restaurant – which offers work experience to students – was closed to the public, and many of the college’s usual work placement providers were also unavailable. The college has had to think of creative new ways to provide meaningful work experience opportunities to students.
The idea for Tip Top Take Out came about over the summer, and was opened ready for business in September for the new autumn term.
The menu offers light bites such as toasted sandwiches, soup with home-made bread and jacket potato, as well as themed daily specials such as fish and chips or curry.
Pre-orders for Tip Top’s Christmas Dinner Yorkshire Pudding Wrap, complete with Pigs in Blankets, Mini Roast Potatoes and a warm mince pie with cream were sold out within days of taking orders.
Tip Top provides students with experience in catering, serving, customer service, money-handling, research, menus, pricing and marketing. They have worked in the kitchen and front of house, learning new skills such as the safe use of a gas oven and fryer, ordering of stock and packaging and labelling of food orders. Throughout their work they have efficiently carried out the latest Covid requirements, such as the wearing of face coverings, enhanced cleaning of their work areas and serving customers from behind a screen. This has truly prepared them for when they return to their external placements and is extremely relevant for today’s industry work.
Hospitality Learning Support Assistant Katie Griffiths said: “Tip Top Takeout has been a huge success. Students are learning real work skills including working in an industrial kitchen and dealing with customer by phone, email and in person, and we can tailor roles for each student depending on their targets.
“Students have really enjoyed taking responsibility for the business and have gained so many employability skills from the experience.”
Student Brandon said: “I find it fun because I get to serve customers on campus, and it’s safer. I use the till, which I’m an expert on. I collect food from the kitchen and I answer the phone.
Student Sophie said: “I work in the kitchen and I get to grate the cheese, chop vegetables, use the frier and use the dishwasher. These skills will help me to get my own house and a job one day.”
Tip Top recently sent a customer survey to all staff. The team were delighted to achieve scores of more than 9/10 for quality of food and value for money, with all respondents saying they would be likely or very likely to recommend Tip Top Takeout.
External Work Experience Coordinator Abi Baker said:
“Hospitality placements have been the most challenging to return to during the Covid pandemic. As such the Hospitality and Housekeeping pathway came up with the fabulous idea to introduce a placement called Tip Top TakeOut, a takeaway service for staff.
“This has given students an alternative opportunity to further develop and strengthen their skills in an unfamiliar environment replicating external placements in all areas of hospitality such as customer service, cooking skills and becoming covid compliant. This learning will help to build skills and prepare students when they return to their external work.”
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