The voice of specialist further education

Natspec Peer Exchange Week 24-27 January 2022

Welcome to Natspec’s online Peer Exchange Week where we will be sharing the wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise that exists across the Natspec membership.

Members often tell us that the most valuable aspect of belonging to Natspec is the opportunity to meet, network and learn from colleagues in other specialist colleges. Peer Exchange Week brings you a whole week’s worth of opportunities to meet other Natspec members, share effective practice, learn from one another and tackle challenges together.

We hope that Peer Exchange Week will help you build networks with whom you continue to maintain contact. With your permission, we will be sharing the contact details of everyone attending each session so that you can continue conversations and explore further peer learning opportunities with one another.

Book your place now!

Peer Exchange Week Programme

  1. Peer exchange sessions
  2. Webinars
  3. Post-it board

Peer exchange sessions

Two different 75-minute online peer exchange sessions will take place each day. Most sessions will begin with short inputs on a current hot topic from one or more Natspec members. They will be sharing effective practice, posing thought-provoking questions and highlighting challenges. The facilitator will then open the floor for questions and there will be an opportunity for everyone to share experiences, exchange ideas, give information and ask and answer questions of one another. Please come ready to actively participate.

Monday, 10am: Learner Voice practitioners share communication approaches

Andrew Evans (Learning Programmes Co-ordinator, National Star), Helen Owen (Derwen College), Alice Aubrey (Student Voice Co-ordinator, Glasshouse and Argent College) and Jill Beacock (Student Voice Co-ordinator, The Oaks Specialist College)

A panel of Learner Voice practitioners share approaches to communicating the views of learners including the use of Assistive Technology, inclusive approaches for young people with complex needs and ways for the Learner Voice to be heard directly by senior leaders.

Monday, 1pm: Sex and relationships education in specialist colleges

Bernie White (Director of Education, Seashell Trust), Lisa Hart (Vice Principal, Henshaws Specialist College) and Beth Jones (Student Voice Co-ordinator, Henshaws Specialist College)

What does age-appropriate sex and relationships education look like for young people with a learning disability?

Tuesday 10am: Refreshing the PMLD curriculum

Lauren Hill (Education Manager, Beaumont College), and Naomi Parish (PSD and sensory programme lead, Henshaws Specialist College)

How can we ensure that our work is up to date with the latest research and developments in teaching and learning and young people with PMLD? Are we taking full advantage of the available equipment and technology to support learning? Come along and share your thoughts and ideas with colleagues working in this area.

Tuesday 1pm: Delivering inclusive sport and physical activity

Shannon Howarth (Development Officer, AoC Sport), Laura Muir (Orchard Hill College) and Laura Halford (Sense College Loughborough)

Many Natspec colleges deliver an exciting programme of sport and physical activity, providing opportunities for students to try something new and develop their communication and many other skills. Find out more and share your approach, including news from AoC Sport’s Inclusion Hub programme.

Wednesday 10am: Delivering Assistive Technology

Neil Harrod-Beck (Assistive Technology Projects Lead, TechAbility), Fil McIntyre (Manager and Assistive Technology Lead, TechAbility), Nici Cutler (Vice Principal, Hive College), Ciara Porter (Tutor, Chadsgrove College) and Becky Cooper (TechAbility Champion, Portland College)

How do we improve the Assistive Technology provision for learners? We hear from three colleges about their journey: what support they have received, what decisions they have made and what the outcomes have been. Expect college-wide strategies and student case studies, along with insights from the TechAbility AT Champions Programme. A great opportunity to gain perspectives from a number of different organisations.

Wednesday 1pm: Top tips for fundraisers

Ian Proudler (Fundraising Manager, Communication Specialist College Doncaster), James Hunt (Head of Fundraising and Communications, Orpheus College) and Catrin Viveash (Fundraising Manager, National Star College)

Has your college been successful in raising funds or applying for grants? Find out how others approach the issue of fundraising and share top tips about creating effective fundraising, successful grant applications and more.

Thursday 10am: Working with young people and families on mental capacity and decision-making

Ben Baxter (Head of Safeguarding, Treloar College) and Carla Jones (National Lead, Safeguarding, National Star College)

Ways to build the capacity of young people to make decisions and to help parents understand the young people’s rights under the Mental Capacity Act.

Thursday 1pm: Choosing the right MIS system

Clare Howard (Chief Executive, Natspec) and Richard Pyka (ILR Consultant, Natspec Associate)

Share your thoughts on the MIS systems used in your college and hear from other colleges about the advantages and disadvantages of different systems.


Each day we will be screening a recording of one of our popular Wednesday Webinars in which Natspec members present an aspect of their work, sharing ideas, research, and effective practice.

Monday 11.30am: Cross-college forum for learners with complex disabilities

Shari Welsford and Helen Mills describe the work of the cross-college forum and the role of assistive technology in supporting the student voice. The learner forum at Sense College East brings together learner representatives from eight college sites. The Learner Voice has shaped curriculum opportunities, enrichment events, learning access, and influenced environmental change. Sense College East are the winners of the 2021 Natspec Student Voice award.

Tuesday 11.30am: A silver lining approach to home learning

Ambitious College has a large percentage of non-verbal learners, and there was some apprehension as to how inclusive a home learning approach could be. Throughout lockdown and the home learning period, teaching and therapy staff at Ambitious College utilised a combination of learning resources and teaching methods that engaged 83% of learners in daily learning. Iestyn Withers explains how a home learning strategy with a focus on daily living supported learners to maintain their education, progress in their learning, and transfer their knowledge, learning and skills to environments outside of college. Ambitious College is the winner of the Natspec 2021 Home Learning award.

Wednesday 11.30am: Using a Functional Communication Training approach to reduce behaviours of concern

Kate Duggan, Director of Service Development at Seashell Trust, presents an overview of work using the Functional Communication Training (FCT) approach.

Thursday 11.30am: Improving mental health through community links

Through the multi-stranded wellbeing programme at Eat That Frog, young people are involved in a range of activities matched to their own interests and needs. These practical activities have strong links to the local community. They provide opportunities for young people to do things with and for others. Emma Seaman describes how the programme, which also includes online modules, has improved the mental health and wellbeing of young people. Eat That Frog is the winner of the 2021 Natspec Wellbeing and Mental Health award.

Post-it board

We are also be running an interactive online post-it board during the week. You can use the board to share information about current, past, and planned peer learning activities. We’d be particularly interested in hearing what has gone well and what made it so useful.

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