Natspec Network | February 2019 Highlights

A monthly roundup of stories from the specialist sector

Natspec Network | February 2019 Highlights

28th February 2019

February has been another exciting month in SEND Further Education, and we are pleased to bring you these highlights consisting of stories from the wider sector. Highlights include TV appearances, sporting events, award nominations, new employment services and more. Read the highlights below.

  1. New Recruitment Agency launched to support learners into employment
  2. Learners are nominated for Young Citizenship awards
  3. First-of-its-kind inclusive rugby match takes place in Wigan
  4. Natspec colleges are featured on the BBC
  5. Specialist physiotherapy manager wins a national award in recognition of work
  6. Natspec college becomes Beacon Award commended college
  7. Hearing impaired learner navigates world of work through supported internship programme
  8. New Garden School to open in May
  9. Last spots left – Natspec National Conference 2019

New Recruitment Agency launched to support learners into employment

Landmarks College has announced the launch of its new supported internship and employment programme, Wayfinders Recruitment Agency.  This is dedicated to supporting people with learning difficulties and disabilities into employment and plays a key role in assisting people on the employment pathway to develop the skills needed to secure work.  Wayfinder Recruitment aims to help people with additional needs and disabilities, aged 16-24 years old, overcome barriers to employment by supporting people on the employment pathway to develop skills they need.

Read more about the programme.

Learners are nominated for Young Citizenship awards

Three students from Derwen college have been nominated for young citizenship awards for their outstanding contribution to college and community. The students were nominated for The Sheriff of Shropshire’s Outstanding Young Citizenship Award and have been invited to attend an invite only ceremony with the county’s High Sheriff where the winner will be announced.

Students Bethan Charles, Maisie Thomson and Carter Gough were put forward for the award for embracing opportunities while at the college. The trio have gone above and beyond in their efforts at college: Bethan has represented Derwen College through her work with Student Union Board and National Union of Students; Maisie has challenged herself through Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards; and Carter has pushed himself through work experience and competing in table laying at high-pressure national skills shows.

First-of-its-kind inclusive rugby match takes place in Wigan

lewisA student from Expanse Learning student took part in a first-of-its-kind inclusive Rugby match as part of the Wigan Warriors Learning Disability Rugby League (LDRL) initiative, launched in 2018. Expanse student Lewis was selected as a member of the inaugural Wigan team who played and won their first match on 19 February against St. Helens. Lewis played extremely well and thoroughly enjoyed playing in the match and being a part of a team representing his home town.

The Learning and Physical Disability Rugby Super League is a specially adapted non-competitive game, which focuses on encouraging participation and skills development.’ (Wigan Warriors, 2019). The League was set up to encourage ‘development of skills, confidence and positive experiences for people with learning disabilities, and make a major statement about social inclusion.’ (Wigan Warriors, 2019).

Natspec colleges are featured on the BBC

Foxes Academy and National Star were each featured on BBC’s The One Show in special segments that spotlight disability employment outcomes of graduates and young people’s experiences with communication devices and finding their ‘voice’.

Foxes Academy

the one show - Foxes academyPresenter Sally Phillips visits Foxes Hotel as the U.K.’s only training hotel and college for students with learning disabilities. It’s a real hotel and that’s why it’s a success – just check out Trip Advisor says Sally.

The film shows how Foxes helps young adults who want to work in hospitality, live independently and live life to the full through the eyes of graduate Olivia, aged 26 and student Tom, aged 22 who will leave college this Summer.

In the film, Principal Tracey Clare-Gray outlines the point of Foxes Hotel: skills, qualifications and the experience necessary to work in hospitality. By teaching our students to be work ready, life ready, Foxes saves taxpayer £1m per student over their lifetime in costs. You can watch the episode here.

National Star

Four National Star students appeared on BBC’s The One Show in their quest for their own ‘voice’ for their communication devices.

Comedian Lost Voice Guy, who also uses a communication device, visited National Star in Cheltenham to talk to the four about the challenges they face.

Ted Barnard-Edwards, Nathan Groves, Talia McDowell and Jack Smith, all want regional accents to reflect where they live but there are very few age-appropriate regional voices for communication devices.

They all attend National Star, a specialist college for young people with complex disabilities, at Ullenwood, near Cheltenham.

A customised voice costs around £500 which most families cannot afford. National Star speech and language therapists have been searching the country for age-appropriate regional accents and have discovered they are not being “banked”.

Jack, 21, said: “I sound boring and not like my family. I am from Wolverhampton – the black country.”

The One Show found a voice donor for Jack who is now proudly using his Black Country accent on his AAC device. The One Show has appealed for voice donors for the other three students. Scores of people responded, and plans are underway to choose the remaining voice donors.

Specialist physiotherapy manager wins a national award in recognition of work

physiotherapist manager from national starNational Star’s Physiotherapy Manager has won a national award in recognition of her work with young people with Acquired Brain Injuries.

In addition to her work as a Physiotherapist, Verity Fisher launched, and for the past four years has organised, therapeutic and learning ski experiences to Andorra for National Star students.

More than 50 students have been skiing in this time using the experiences as an integral part of their physiotherapy programme throughout the year.

Verity received the United Kingdom Acquired Brain Injury Forum (UKABIF) Stephen McAleese Award for Inspiration. The Award was announced by John and Susan McAleese at UKABIF’s 10th Annual and 20th Anniversary Conference in London.

Read more here.

Natspec college newly becomes Beacon Award commended college

QAC spark campaignQAC were delighted to announce that they had met the 2018/19 AoC Beacon Standard and are now recognised as a Beacon Award commended college!

This commendation comes as a result of the great work by SPARK, the College’s LGBTQ+ alliance, providing a safe place for students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning to meet and talk with others about things that matter to them and promote acceptance

The AoC Beacon Awards celebrates the best and most innovative practice among UK further education (FE) colleges. The ‘Support for Students Award’, supported by RCU and AoC, seeks to celebrate outstanding examples of student support provided by a College for a significant group, across a whole provision or college-wide approach.

QAC is a national specialist residential college for people with disabilities based in Birmingham. The College provides education, training and routes to independent living and employment.

For more information about QAC please visit or call 0121 428 5050.

Hearing impaired learner navigates the world of work through a supported internship programme

declan student from exeterIn 2018, Exeter Deaf Academy became one of the first Deaf education providers to offer Supported Internships, a programme which helps to prepare Post-16 students for working life and facilitates their progression to paid employment.

Students like Declan, pictured here, bring a huge range of benefits to an employer, and Supported Internships allow both employers and students to explore the world of work from a Deaf perspective.

Declan, who is 18 years old and profoundly deaf, has been working for a major supermarket chain on a weekly basis for ten consecutive months. Declan spends 3 days a week in-store, sharing his time on the shop floor at two busy supermarket branches in Exeter city. His work includes stock replenishment and customer care, learning the day-to-day skills needed in a retail environment. He also attends education at Exeter Deaf Academy, studying Maths, English, British Sign Language and Independent Living Skills.

Declan says:

‘I was nervous about starting my placement, but now I really enjoy it. The staff have been really welcoming and friendly. I have been teaching them a few signs, which they are now using when they talk to me. The Managers in both branches are very helpful and are relaxed in conversations with me. They have helped me to learn each new part of the roles I have been given and that has helped to boost my confidence. I am enjoying working on the tills and this is helping me learn more about money management and handling cash within the work setting.’

New Garden School to open in May

clervaux garden at ruskin mill trustRuskin Mill Trust’s latest provision is set to open in May 2019. Clervaux Garden School opens its doors to students with additional needs who are looking to learn and grow within a holistic educational framework. Based at the Clow Beck Centre in Croft-on-Tees, Darlington the new Garden school will provide an opportunity for young people with a range of SEN between 10-19 years of age.

The curriculum at Clervaux Garden School will offer a balance of academic, artistic, and practical activities which engage the heads, hands and hearts of pupils. At the heart of the Trust is the belief that education should develop the whole person on an intellectual, social and emotional level, encouraging the students’ innate curiosity, resulting in a love of learning.

Applications accepted all year round. Residential placements to commence from September 2019. For more information regarding the Clervaux Garden School please contact the Admissions team on 01453 837 502 or at

Last spots left – Natspec National Conference 2019

1 month to go until Natspec’s National Conference – Book now, limited spots left!

The Natspec 2019 conference is a must-attend event for Further Education professionals who specialise in working with students with learning difficulties and disabilities, particularly those funded through the High Needs funding system. At a new venue for 2019, it will be the largest ever high needs FE conference. The two-day event will bring you the very best practice in SEND in FE, celebrating achievements and showcasing the latest in cutting-edge research.

You will hear from national specialists and experts, with workshops and keynote sessions covering Ofsted’s new Education Inspection Framework, SEND and the law, strategic planning with LAs, maximising employment outcomes, governance, learner voice, developing and maintaining staff expertise, physical activity and wellbeing, inclusive strategies for challenging behaviours, and a range of topics to support curriculum planning and delivery.

Book your place.