The voice of specialist further education

Student Voice Parliament

Natspec supports colleges in their work promoting, listening, and responding to the voice of their learners through the National Student Voice Parliament, a Learner voice network and through providing practical tools and resources.

Natspec Student Voice Parliament

Natspec Student Voice Parliament logo

Natspec’s Student Voice Parliament provides an inclusive opportunity for learners to be part of a collective and learner-led voice to talk about subject’s important to its members. The agenda is set by members of the Parliament and chaired and hosted by learners from a different college each time it meets.

Around 300 learners and staff attended the last Parliament that was held online and in person. Agenda items included how the requirement for Voter ID disadvantages young people with learning difficulties and disabilities who typically don’t have a driving licence and may not have a passport. They also raised how access to mental health services is a big problem. The Parliament also regularly shares examples of different colleges work in engaging with and making positive contributions to their communities including increasing an understanding of the abilities of learners in specialist FE colleges.

The Parliament is committed to supporting the work of student Sam Veesey from National Star College and his campaign that the disabled blue badge logo should be updated to be representative of non-visible disabilities.

Members of the Parliament held a competition for what the new badge should look like and this badge was created from the winning entry.

A revised blue badge design, with the image of a person in a wheelchair from the existing design alongside the figures of a man and a woman, who both have the person in a wheelchair image inside their heads. The text reads: "Some disabilities are visible, some are not. Take care of each other."

For more information on the Student Voice Parliament email our Learner Voice Co-ordinator

Learner-led research

Over the academic year 2022-2023 members of the Student Voice Parliament asked their peers, their thoughts on what makes a good tutor or support worker and what environment they need to develop their skills.

Their findings demonstrated that when staff listen, respect and include all learners they provide a valued student experience and the right environment for students to build their skills. They said:


Students told their peer researchers that a good teacher or support worker is someone who listens to them and takes the time to get know them and understand their wants, needs and preferences.

They said it was important they are given enough time and support to understand what is being asked of them along with being given enough time to respond.

They said when they are working in groups it is important to make sure all students are listened to and to remember that some students’ communication challenges mean they may communicate differently.


Staff in colleges, being friendly, patient and understanding is valued by students. They said that feeling respected in college helps them to develop the skills they will need in their post-college adult lives. e.g. confidence and self-advocacy.

The research revealed how students valued their opinions being sought and being involved in decision making, e.g. about their timetables, where they go for work experience or what they will do after college.

They also said it was important they were given clear explanations about changes that were made to their days. E.g. when there would be disruptions to their normal routines like when they would be working with new or different staff to usual.

Students highlighted the importance of respecting their sensory needs and how staff should avoid putting students in scenarios where they could feel overwhelmed. They said that this was important to ensuring they are in the right environment and headspace to learn new skills.


Students said they thought their time in college was helping them to lead more included lives through teaching them to be more independent, learning to make choices and use technology,  developing their confidence in decision making, planning for their future and accessing their wider communities.

They said that being included in setting their own learning goals and assessing the progress they are making gave them ownership and increased their motivation.

In 2023-2024 the Parliament will be extending their research to ask their peers what it is they want to achieve from their time at college.

The Student Voice Parliament exhibited at Natspec’s National Conference in June 2023 promoting a best practice poster for colleges based on the findings of their research. You can download a digital copy of this poster here.

Upcoming Student Voice Parliament meetings

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Natspec Learner Voice network

The Student Voice Parliament is supported by staff in colleges, many of whom are member of the Learner voice network who share approaches and expertise across the UK.


Natspec has developed resources to support colleges in listening and responding to learner voices.

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