Natspec Highlights | May 2019

It’s been another busy month for our colleges! At Natspec, we were delighted to see so many colleges and students participate in the Natspec Games over the month – and there’s still the South East Games to get involved with in June.

We’ve got some exciting things to watch in this edition of the Highlights, as students from Catcote Academy have been producing their own cookery show, and RNIB college has been hosting a film festival! Students have also gotten involved with the great outdoors, tackling mountains and canoeing canals to complete expeditions, whilst others have been working out how to use digital technology to express themselves.

Read on for stories about the following:

  1. Catcote Academy launches a second series of cookery programme.
  2. Portland College student Jess wins Emerging Artist Award!
  3. Learners from Eat That Frog get a bite of the digital skills apple!
  4. Cambian Lufton learners tackle the Ten Tors
  5. Learners at Homefield College play at Leicester City FC.
  6. Seòl Trust Open Day: 18 June 2019.
  7. Derwen College Students Going for Gold, Silver and Bronze.
  8. The 2019 Shorties Film Festival at RNIB College.
  9. Talking to Support Staff at Bridge College.
  10. Expanse Learning’s Latest Recruit
  11. Hedleys College students become ambassadors to their favourite football team new social campaign ‘United As One’
  12. Hereward College shortlisted for national award for supported employment work.
  13. Ready, Steady, Cook at Queen Alexandra College
  14. Upcoming Events

Catcote Academy launches a second series of cookery programme

Look out Gordon Ramsay! The students of Catcote Futures College in Hartlepool have their very own weekly cookery programme! The show is called Catcote Cooks and each week the students demonstrate how to make simple, functional snacks and meals to increase independence skills.

Teacher Pete Wells said “I’m thrilled at how excited the students are to be part of the project and, of course, with the progress and skills they have demonstrated. As well as showing their awesome cooking prowess, the students have to be mindful of keeping the audience engaged, which is really important. So, like the very best celebrity chefs, they try to ensure there are no boring silences, which is great for their communication skills.”

The Catcote Cooks crew have a diverse range of needs and the college is keen to highlight the use of assistive technologies to allow all learners to be an integral part of the show. Student and presenter James Dean has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, and his movement limited primarily to his head and thumbs. He not only uses switches to control the kitchen appliances used in the show, but he also composed the theme tune. He said “Using the technology gives me independence and allows me to show the world what I can do!”

New presenter Conor Lambert said “I watched the first episodes of Catcote Cooks during my Easter holidays to give me tips on how to present. I really enjoy doing it, it’s my favourite lesson of the week!”

The web-based series is updated weekly and is in its second season.

Portland College student Jess wins Emerging Artist Award!

Jess with her Be Mighty Be Creative AwardOne of Portland College’s first year learners, Jessica Fisher, last month won an award at the ‘Be Mighty Be Creative Awards 2019’ which were organised by The Mighty Creatives, a Midlands-based charity working with children and young people to provide them with creative opportunities.

Jess was awarded with The Young Emerging Artist Award following her work with a developer of a wheelchair controller through which she can play music. She has performed at the Mansfield Palace Theatre and at the Metronome in Nottingham showcasing this amazing piece of equipment. Jess has also been invited to perform at a BBC Introducing Gig with Dean Jackson on the 27 June.

Jess’s tutor Lianne Worth said: “Jess’s family, myself and her progression tutor, Verity Cartwright, are extremely proud of this achievement and are hopeful that this will lead to further opportunities for Jess in the future.”

Learners from Eat That Frog get a bite of the digital skills apple!

Learners from Eat that Frog display the drawings they've made on iPadsLearners from Eat That Frog’s South Devon centres have been working closely with local Apple representatives to help them make the most of the latest technology. Apple originally approached ETF to offer a training day for staff, who were shown how to use the new iPad Pro to its full potential.

Staff then arranged for a mixed group of digital skills and creative learners to experience this for themselves, giving learners the chance to experiment with a design app called ‘Procreate’. With this application they drew artistic portraits (mostly of their tutor!). After creating their portraits the learners began tinkering around with tools the application had to offer, creating beautiful symmetrical drawings.

The learners all expressed great pleasure in learning how to use their technology better, and said they’d love to explore more in the future, which is great, as Apple are keen to keep collaborating with Eat That Frog throughout the next academic year!

Cambian Lufton learners tackle the Ten Tors

Cambian Lufton students climbing the TorsOn the 10 and 11 May, three Cambian Lufton College learners took part in the Ten Tors Challenge on Dartmoor. The group set up camp on the Friday for the overnight stay and completed their challenge walk on the Saturday. Our college team completed the Jubilee Challenge Route 2 in just over 4 hours and were the first team back.

Learners at Homefield College play at Leicester City FC

A student excited about visiting the King Power stadium

Seven students from Homefield College had the chance to show off their skills at the home of Leicester City Football Club. Gracing King Power Stadium’s hallowed turf, the students participated in a memorable ‘Play on the Pitch’ football tournament.

The team had a fantastic day, playing five separate matches with some difficult opposition. The Homefield students came together with great team spirit and made the most of a very special day.

Seòl Trust Open Day: 18 June 2019

The Seòl Trust buildingRuskin Mill Trust are proud to announce the opening of their latest provision, the Seòl Trust, this Summer 2019. Set in 60 acres of beautiful woodland in East Lothian, this day provision offers people with complex needs, aged 18+ years the opportunity to build self-confidence and improve independence through experiencing meaningful craft, land and practical skills based activities. Progression towards internship, apprentices, employment and accreditations are available through a programme built around the unique Trust method of Practical Skills and Therapeutic Education (PSTE). Pishwanton Wood is a site for environmental education, research and holistic practice, offering opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to renew and deepen their relationship with nature.

Derwen College Students Going for Gold, Silver and Bronze

Derwen College students have faced wet weather, blisters and nights under canvas this month in preparation for challenging Duke of Edinburgh’s (D of E) Awards. A total of 44 students have been training for their Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards on gruelling practice expeditions. Students have covered miles of road, canal and lake in the build up to demanding treks which will see them achieving Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards.

16 Bronze Award students tackled a 5km walk across Pontcysyllte Aqueduct into Chirk in preparation for a two-day expedition around the Chirk area. 22 Silver students spent three days and two nights on a canoeing and camping expedition along the Llangollen canal, completing a gruelling 26 kilometres on the water.

Six students have been working towards the most challenging Gold Award. Students spent five days and four nights at Glan Llyn activity centre on the shores of Lake Bala taking part in a range of outdoor activities and helped instructors deliver activities to school children. They also undertook a four day and three night trek in the Beddgelert area of Snowdonia, walking 10km each day

Steve Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards leader and Sports Coordinator at Derwen College says: “The D of E programme is challenging and gives our students the chance to develop skills for life and work. It promotes independence, pushing young people out of their comfort zone. As well as gaining a nationally recognised award, achievement of the D of E evidences commitment and dedication whilst developing problem solving, independent thinking and leadership attributes; skills that the students can use in other areas of life. It is recognised as the world’s leading youth award and can enhance employment and independence – something we actively promote at Derwen College.”

  • Students setting off on their DoE expedition

The 2019 Shorties Film Festival at RNIB College

A student receives a certificate for participating in the film festivalOn Wednesday 8 May, budding filmmakers, directors and producers came together for the Shorties Film Festival at RNIB College Loughborough.

Following on from the success of last year’s film festival, the 2019 Shorties were held to give students, staff and friends of the College an opportunity to show off their best work in the form of a short film. Entries included a film about staying safe on the internet, short animated movies, an instructional DIY video and an insight into what Darth Vader does on his days off!

The audience enjoyed an independent screening of ten films that had been submitted by staff and students of RNIB College Loughborough, Forest Way School, Homefield College and Gateway College.

The film festival was organised by one of the tutors at RNIB College Loughborough, Anna Janickyj, who said;

“This year we moved from Stop Motion Films to Short Films for the Festival. We had 10 very different and interesting films in different genres. Two of this year’s films are part of a series; one continuing the story of Psycho the Squirrel and the other continuing the ‘How Darth Vader Learned to Love…’ series. We also had a number of documentary films for the first time including a film about how to make a work bench. We received 3 external entries from other colleges and schools, so it was good to see their work. We did, of course, have the odd technical glitch, which was quickly resolved. I was pleased to hand out a Certificate of Participation to each entrant and sell a few DVDs featuring all of this year’s films. I hope that we continue with the Short Film Festival next year, and I would like to see many more external entries”.

You can watch some of this year’s submissions here.

Talking to Support Staff at Bridge College

Jade Cole from Bridge College caught up with two of their support workers to chat about what makes them proud, the highs and lows at Bridge College and what inspires them. Sandi says “it’s about ensuring the students feel like they’re in a safe happy environment so they can do their work.”

Debbie says: “One student stands out for me. When he first arrived at college he was working with three support workers and displaying very challenging behaviours. We’ve worked together as a team and now three years later he can manage his behaviours really well! Currently he doesn’t display any challenging behaviours and that’s because of all the input from the staff team.”

You can read more of the interview here.

Expanse Learning’s Latest Recruit

Student with Molly the therapy dogExpanse Learning recently welcomed a new member to the team in Molly, School’s Therapy Dog. Research shows that therapy dogs have the ability to ‘reduce depression, PTSD symptoms, and anxiety’. Therefore, for a specialist school supporting students with SEND, a therapy dog is the perfect fit.

During an average school day, Molly, who belongs to Expanse Learning’s CEO Tony, sits in class with our students, offering therapeutic respite throughout the day, where needed. During break time the students can interact with her, take her for a walk around the school grounds or even play ball with her.

Molly has been supporting our students-she has been settling anxieties and putting smiles on lots of faces. She brings a real sense of excitement to the school and is proving to be one of the main attractions.

Molly is a lively dog, enjoys all the attention and the time spent with students and is really helping to improve the emotional wellbeing of both students and staff at the school. She is a wonderful asset to our team.

Hedleys College students become ambassadors to their favourite football team new social campaign ‘United As One’

"This is an opportunity for different types of people to come together and enjoy the experience" - Harry"I want all clubs to let people know everyone is welcome with open arms" - EwanNewcastle United Football Club, supported by its own former frontman Shola Ameobi, has recently launched a campaign ‘United As One’. We were thrilled to hear when the club has invited Hedleys College students, who are currently attending work experience at St James Park, to become the campaign ambassadors. Both Ewan and Harry are over the moon to become a part of the campaign that they strongly believe in. United As One’ aims to end discrimination and inequality in football and society and improve social inclusion in the sport by linking the club’s work in the fields of diversity, inclusion and welfare under one banner.

Hereward College shortlisted for national award for supported employment work

Hereward College in Coventry has been shortlisted as a finalist for the ERSA Employability Awards 2019 in the Disability and Health Employment category. Now in its seventh year, the ERSA Employability Awards celebrate best practice across the employment support sector and seek to demonstrate the day-to-day hard work and dedication of those working to improve the lives of jobseekers, communities and the wider workforce.

The college has been shortlisted for the Disability and Health Employment award, which recognises an employment services provider who has demonstrated exceptional commitment in supporting jobseekers with disabilities and health conditions to achieve sustained employment.

Its highly successful supported internship scheme has seen rapid expansion, with over 55% of participating learners achieving sustained employment as a result.

As a successful finalist, Hereward College will attend a special ceremony on 20 June with the Minister for Employment, Alok Sharma MP.

Paul Cook, Principal, Hereward College said:“We are delighted that our work has been shortlisted for this national award. Our Supported Internship model has shown real results and continues to grow year on year, showing demonstrable benefits to both learners and business.”

Ready, Steady, Cook at Queen Alexandra College

Student cooks preparing for competitionAs part of Queen Alexandra College’s ongoing healthy eating project, they invited the School Food Showdown to deliver interactive workshops to students.

Chef Ian explained why breakfast is important, the five food groups and why less healthy food should only be eaten in moderation. The session culminated in two student groups (red and green) competing against each other to produce the best healthy meal. The audience voted on the best dish with their green and red cards.

There were two competing rounds and all the student groups involved tried to produce the winning dish; one of the groups produced a Birmingham Stew which was unknown to the entire audience and unfortunately didn’t end up as the group had intended. Despite this, it was a great morning and the students had lots of fun.

Loosely based on the popular TV show ‘Ready, Steady, Cook!’ students found the workshops exhilarating, fun, highly interactive and educational. Chef Ian offered students advice and guidance throughout and kept the audience entertained and engaged!

Upcoming Events

Students were busy throughout May attending the North-West, Yorkshire and Humber, Midlands and Wales and South West Natspec Games. Still to come is the South East Natspec Games, happening on 20 June in Sussex.

The next meeting of the Student Voice Parliament is also coming up on 11 June at the Seashell Trust in Manchester. It’s been two years since we set up the Student Voice Parliament and it’s exciting to see it go from strength to strength.

Natspec Highlights | April 2019

It was a busy start to the month as we welcomed over 200 delegates to Natspec’s National Conference for two days of discussion about specialist provision in the further education sector, thinking specifically about having high aspirations for all students. Our colleges have also been busy finishing up Spring Term and thinking ahead to summer.

Nonetheless, they’ve still been up to plenty, with student progress, new projects and partnerships all featured! Read on for news of what they’ve been up to.

  1. Maths Week Winner Announced
  2. Ruskin Mill Trust organises Neurodiversity Conference
  3. Orpheus Centre student participates in professional readings
  4. QAC ArtsFest 2019
  5. Bridge College partnership with Sport England
  6. New College Worcester partners with LEGO in braille bricks project
  7. Landmarks College introduces Wayfinder Recruitment
  8. Learners at Horizons College impress Swindon Town FC
  9. Holiday fun with Short Breaks @ Derwen
  10. Upcoming Events

Maths Week Winner Announced

Chris assembles his kitchen splashbackThis year’s Maths Week competition was won by Chris Sterry from The Mount Camphill Community. Chris made a colourful tiled splashback and showcased the variety of maths skills developed through creative activity, showed an awareness and engagement with the task, and thoroughly enjoying himself!

Ruskin Mill Trust organises Neurodiversity Conference

Ruskin Mill Trust are continuing their partnership with Hay Festival in committing to helping neurodivergent individuals reach their potential and participate fully in their communities.

For the second year running, Ruskin Mill Trust will be present at the Hay Festival on 30 and 31 May hosting a panel discussing what it means to society to be genuinely accepting and inclusive.

This informative event will be followed up by a further two day ‘Living Conference on Neurodiversity’ to be held on Ruskin Mill Trust’s site in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire on the 19 and 20 July. Attendees will be able to discover and engage with new perspectives on autism through talks, panels, and performances as well as interact with our students and experience working with craft.

Orpheus Centre student participates in professional readings

Orpheus Centre Student Awa JagneAwa Jagne, a third year Orpheus Centre student attended an internship with Graeae Theatre company for 6 months. She was then asked to take part in a Professional reading at the Dorfman Suite in collaboration with the National Theatre of ”And Others” a play which brings to life the voices of women who fought for suffrage but whose stories have been lost to history. This was hugely successful and Awa was again offered another Professional reading of the same at the Rose Bruford Theatre in Kent which took place on 16 April.

QAC ArtsFest 2019

QAC staff and students use 3D pensStudents at Queen Alexandra College (QAC) saw out their spring term in style with their ArtsFest event. The event showcased everything creative that happens at College with over 20 staff-led workshops taking place across the week. Sessions included percussion making, iPad music, virtual reality experiences, Anime art, dance, 3D pens and puppet making.

QAC also welcomed local Creation Station leader Emma McCalla-John to run some rainmaker craft sessions with Preparation for Life (PFL) groups and Neil from Freshwater Theatre Group who offered an interactive Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare workshop.

Find out about everything else the students got up to!

Bridge College partnership with Sport England

Bridge College logo

Bridge College has received funding from Sports England to help promote disability sport at the college. Sport and community manager Julie and Sports coach Chloe are spearheading the project and discussed their ambitions for the future over on the Together Trust’s blog. Julie says “My goal has been getting as many students as active as possible. We’re currently doing this through our sports and motor activity training programme sessions. We’d like to broaden that out, initially for our students in college and then progressing to activities outside college hours. Then hopefully we’ll develop that again to work within the community.”

New College Worcester partners with LEGO in braille bricks project

New College Worcester Student uses LEGO braille bricksNew College Worcester has been heavily involved in testing the prototype LEGO Braille bricks and showing the potential of learning with them in the classroom, testing them out in Maths, English and Spanish. The Braille bricks are moulded with the number of studs used in the Braille alphabet, while remaining fully compatible with the LEGO System in Play. To ensure the tool is inclusive allowing sighted teachers, students and family members to interact on equal terms, each brick will also feature a printed letter or character. This ingenious combination brings a whole new and playful approach to encourage blind and vision impaired children to engage with learning Braille, enabling them to develop a breadth of skills needed to thrive and succeed in a fast-paced world.

Box of LEGO Braille BricksSusan Lock, Head of Mathematics at New College Worcester, said: “Braille gives vision impaired children and adults absolute independence. Without it, how will children learn grammar, or how to spell? The ability to read and understand Braille can be life changing for many of our students and can present very many opportunities, which is why we were so thrilled to be involved in the project.”

“I’m passionate about both the Braille Bricks and teaching at NCW because we have the opportunity to transform children’s lives. LEGO Braille Bricks is doing that because it is making subjects far more accessible than they ever were before.”

Landmarks College introduces Wayfinder Recruitment

Landmarks College has set up Wayfinder Recruitment, a new service dedicated to supporting people with learning difficulties and disabilities into employment. The team work closely with the college to assist people on the Employment Pathway develop the skills they need to secure work, as well as searching out employment and placement opportunities with a range of employers. They’re dedicated to providing successful and meaningful placements and ensuring learners get the qualifications and accredited experience needed for future work.

Learners at Horizons College impress Swindon Town FC

Horizons College students pictured standing with Swindon Town FC youth playersA group of learners at Horizons College have been undertaking a long-term fitness enrichment project, developing their understanding of health and fitness. The project has gone so well that learners began planning their own training sessions and delivering them to the rest of the group. Horizons College Governor and ex Swindon Town Football Club Chairman Cliff Puffet shared the project with Swindon Town FC, who were very impressed by the development and perseverance of the learners. In April, two players from Swindon Town’s youth team attended the college and supported the learners through one of their planned fitness circuits. This unique learning experience is something that the learners will never forget and all learners felt the support of the players.

This project has paved the way for future learners at Horizons College and the college is hopeful that the project will turn into an ongoing collaboration, allowing learners to develop not only their fitness abilities but also enhancing their entire personal learning experience.

Holiday fun with Short Breaks @ Derwen

Derwen College has had a busy Easter holiday period entertaining new guests as part of its new short breaks provision. While students at the college enjoyed their April Easter break, the college was delighted to welcome visitors to its new programme of short breaks that provide specialist holiday care and activities all year around. Guests take part in a range of activities and trips, as well as making use of the campus facilities. The holidays are also a great opportunity for young people to meet new people and explore local attractions. Holiday activities have included swimming, basketball, use of the gym and football, day trips, shopping, cooking, bowling and cinema.

Amy enjoys learning independence skills in the Short Breaks kitchen20-year-old Amy is one of those who’s been taking advantage of the new provision. She enjoys the over-night experience of being away from home and spending time with peers of her own age in a fun environment with plenty of activities organised on and off site. Amy has Down’s Syndrome, learning difficulties and speech and language needs. She needs support in some day-to-day care tasks and uses Makaton to support her communication. As a Makaton user, Amy benefits from working with staff who are trained in Makaton and can support her communication and understanding using signs and symbols. An active, sporty person, she relished joining in with activities including swimming in the on-site pool, cinema trips, bowling and a day out in scenic Llangollen. She has experienced shopping trips and been involved with household activities such as baking a chocolate cake.

Upcoming Events

The Natspec Games are fast approaching on 16 May in the North West and South West, followed by Midlands & Wales on 20 May, Yorkshire and Humber on 22 May and the South East on 20 June. It’s a great opportunity for students from our member colleges to access a wide range of inclusive sports – and maybe find something new to enjoy.

If you’re interested in how to make technology accessible to a wider range or learners – or simply wondering how to use it more effectively – our upcoming TechAbility webinars may be of interest to you.

Our Student Voice Parliament is also coming up on the 11 June and is a great chance for students from across the country to meet and gather and exchange ideas.

Natspec Network | March 2019 Highlights

March has been a busy month here at Natspec. We’ve celebrated another successful Maths Week and made preparations for our National Conference which is happening very shortly – on the 2 and 3 April. Read on for highlights from across the SEND Further Education sector.

  1. Maths Week
  2. World Book Day & Red Nose Day
  3. Mechanical Interest turns into Employment
  4. Orpheus students take part in research project
  5. Performing Arts Student in ‘Call the Midwife’
  6. Portland College wins award for Woodlands Adventure Zone plans
  7. Exeter Deaf Academy breaks ground on new Exmouth Campus
  8. Fairfield Farm College wins Apprenticeship Award
  9. New College Worcester student represents Great Britain internationally
  10. Beechwood College students shine in work placement
  11. Upcoming Events

Maths Week

This year’s #MathsCreative was a huge success, with over a hundred students participating from a range of colleges. On twitter, we saw the wide array of ways colleges have successfully embedded maths into the curriculum. From folding towels and sheets into halves and quarters, weighing ingredients for cooking, counting out money for purchases and travel, to measuring out garden displays, students’ skills were on full display. Thanks to all who participated for making it such a success, and we are looking forward to announcing the winners at Natspec’s National Conference on 2 April.

World Book Day & Red Nose Day

  • Author Jan Hedger visits Derwen College
    Derwen College

Several of our colleges held fun days for both World Book Day and Red Nose Day this month, dressing up as their favourite characters and engaging in fundraising efforts. Pictures from a few of our colleges are featured above.

Catcote Academy deserves a special mention for producing a video full of jokes, which is particularly brilliant.

Mechanical Interest turns into Employment

Our latest student work experience success story features Ryan from Landmarks Specialist College. When he started with Landmarks College, Ryan would always talk about cars and mechanics; he wanted to learn more about engines and how they work. He started an employability qualification, and in September 2018 he began a supported internship at ETC garage in Alfreton. He has become such a valued member of the team that he has now been offered paid employment from April!

Orpheus Centre students take part in research project

Orpheus Students being filmed at the University of BedfordshireStudents at The Orpheus Centre have been selected to take part in a ground-breaking research programme at the ISTD (Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing). The ISTD believe there is a need for more avenues into the profession of dance and it should be more open to young people with disabilities and provide a more inclusive dance education. This research is being undertaken by the ISTD and the University of Bedfordshire. Orpheus students visited Bedfordshire University recently to be filmed.

The process of the research is being documented and analysed. The findings will be launched in early 2019.  The outcome should lead to more opportunities into dance for young disabled dancers, increasing accessibility to private dance studios, and advocating for further teacher training opportunities in this area.

Performing Arts Student in ‘Call the Midwife’

Former QAC student PoppyFormer Queen Alexandra College (QAC) performing arts student Poppy appeared in the final episode of BBC period drama ‘Call the Midwife’ which aired on 3 March 2019.

Poppy, who studied BTEC Performing Arts at QAC between 2014 and 2017, starred as Jane, the girlfriend of Reggie, during the final scenes beneath the mirrorball at Shelagh’s charity dance as series eight came to an emotional end.

Principal and Chief Executive Bev Jessop commented: “We are delighted for Poppy on her amazing achievement. We all eagerly tuned into last night’s episode and we weren’t disappointed. Poppy has a bright future ahead and we wish her continued success, we are very proud!”

Portland College wins award for Woodlands Adventure Zone plans

Principle Mark and Assistant Principle Edward pick up the Active Place AwardAt the Notts Getting Active Together 2019 Awards ceremony at Nottingham Trent University on Thursday 14 March, Portland College won the Active Place Award for their innovative plans for the fully accessible Woodlands Adventure Zone at the Ashfield based campus. Work on this exciting project, which includes a climbing tower, zip-wire and activity trail, is underway and the College looks forward to opening to the public in Summer 2019. As part of the College’s commitment to the community the College will provide free of charge programmes to local primary schools and groups supporting disadvantaged people to ensure this wonderful facility to accessible to all. The Woodland Adventure Zone has relied fully on fundraising efforts and would not have been made possible without prominent supporters such as Mansfield Building Society, Nottinghamshire County Council and Ashfield District Council.

The Notts Getting Active Awards Awards celebrate the fantastic achievements of communities, groups, clubs and individuals across Nottingham and Nottinghamshire who are helping to make physical activity the norm. They want to show the world some of the amazing work going on and help spread the word about how physical activity can change lives.

Exeter Deaf Academy breaks ground on new Exmouth Campus

Breaking ground at the Exeter Deaf Academys new campusFormer student Nikki James, along with current students Lily, Hugh and Winston, broke the ground on Exeter Deaf Academy’s new campus on Friday 1 March, before handing the spade over to the Chairman of Midas, who are responsible for the construction of the 10.5 million pound project. The new academy is set to open in April 2020.

Nikki James said, “It’s an exciting future for a connected deaf and hearing community. We will be taking Exeter Deaf Academy’s rich heritage with us to build upon in Exmouth. Generations of deaf young people will achieve great things on the ground we stand on today”.

Fairfield Farm College wins Apprenticeship Award

Fairfield Farm College accepts Apprenticeship AwardFairfield Farm College has been awarded the 2019 Wiltshire College Medium Business of the Year Award for Apprenticeships during National Apprenticeship Week.

The achievements and successes of apprentices were celebrated at Wiltshire College and University Centre’s annual Apprenticeship Awards. Over 100 guests, a combination of winners, their families, employers and staff, attended the event hosted at the Arc Theatre in Trowbridge on Thursday 7th March.

Business Development Training Consultant Alistair Baxter, who nominated the Fairfield Farm College for the award alongside other staff members, came to the college specifically to present them with their award. Fairfield Farm College are delighted to have won this award and are really proud of working to support employees to learn the skills they need to work in the sector.

New College Worcester student represents Great Britain internationally

Stuart and other players at the International Goalball TournamentStuart, a student from New College Worcester, was part of the men’s U23 Great Britain Goalball team at the International Goalball Tournament in Lithuania this month. The team battled against other countries and eventually came in third place, scooping bronze.

Of the experience Stuart said: “The team played really well, and some games were so close in score. I’m glad we achieved Bronze. It was also a great experience visiting Trakai in Lithuania!”

Beechwood College students shine in work placement

Two students from Beechwood College completed a week-long work placement at Admiral Insurance’s Head Office in Cardiff this month. Admiral had never had SEN students on placement before so everyone was hoping this would be a successful trial.

The students got amazing feedback from Admiral’s work-experience co-ordinator: “The students should be very proud of themselves, I know it is not easy for them to come out of their comfort zone and come into a busy working environment, but they dealt with it extremely well. I think they should also see themselves as an inspiration not only to themselves and your college but also to people like myself and the people that they interacted with this week who don’t have a full understanding of what people with Autism must deal with in their day-to-day lives.”

Read more about what the students got up to.

Upcoming Events

The Natspec National Conference is happening next week on the 2 and 3 April, and we are very excited to be welcoming over two hundred delegates for two days of specialist workshops, keynote sessions and networking opportunities.

We are running our Using RARPA in post-16 SEND provision workshop again, this time in Birmingham on 9 May. This workshop is ideal for curriculum managers and practitioners who are considering introducing RARPA or looking to improve their existing approach.

The Natspec Games kick off on 16 May in the North West and South West, followed by Midlands & Wales on 20 May, Yorkshire and Humber on 22 May and the South East on 20 June. Last year’s event featured learners from across 29 specialist colleges who got the chance to participate in inclusive sport and try new activities. We look forward to welcoming all learners to our hosting colleges for 2019.

Natspec Network | February 2019 Highlights

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.



Natspec Network | January 2019 Highlights

Welcome back to all our members, associates and wider network. We’ve had a brilliant year so far working on new CPD opportunities for members, planning the Natspec National Conference in April 2019 and attending consultations and a parliamentary reception to raise the profile of issues relating to SEND in FE.

Members of the network have also made exciting announcements and are getting involved in new projects and initiatives; including multiple award nominations, updated student success stories, and physical activity initiatives.

  1. Five Natspec colleges shortlisted for specialist provider of the year at TES FE awards
  2. Triple award nomination for National Star
  3. Learning Disability Charity are named Lincoln FC Charity Partners
  4. Updated: Students at work
  5. Visual impairment no obstacle for college students’ Dartmoor challenge
  6. Rewarding adventurous students thanks to lasting legacy
  7. Kidz to Adultz Middle | Free event for children and young adults up to 25
  8. Latest Natspec News and Transform Training and Events newsletter
  9. Natspec National Conference 2019

Five Natspec colleges shortlisted for the 2019 Specialist Provider of the Year at TES FE awards

We’re pleased to see the recognition of the great work our colleges do to support young people with SEND to develop personally and socially, provide specialist learning programmes and support work-life aspirations. Five Natspec colleges have been nominated for TES FE’s Specialist Provider of the Year award for 2019, with the winner to be announced at a gala award ceremony in London on March 22. These are:

  • Coleg Elidyr
  • Derwen College
  • Foxes Academy
  • National Star
  • Queen Alexandra College

Triple awards nomination for National Star

Aoc Beacon shortlist promo image

National Star, a specialist college for young people with complex disabilities and learning difficulties, has been shortlisted for three national awards.

In addition to being shortlisted for the specialist provider of the year for the TES FE awards 2019, they are a finalist in two other categories for AoC Beacon Awards: British Council International Award and RCU Support for Learners Award.

The winners will be announced at the ceremony in London on March 22.

“To make the finals of three categories in the most prestigious education awards in this country is a tribute to our multi-disciplinary team and their incredible work,” said David Ellis, Chief Executive of National Star.

National Star last year supported 647 people with disabilities. It shared its expertise with more than 2,800 professionals and people in the sector.

Learning Disability Charity is named Lincoln FC Charity Partners

linkage chosen as charity partner to local football clubLinkage Community Trust, a local learning disability charity, has been chosen by the public to become Lincoln City Football Club’s Charity of the Year for 2019. The partnership with Lincoln City FC will help Linkage further its work in ensuring that people with learning disabilities receive the support they need to achieve their aspirations.

Valerie Waby, CEO of Linkage said “Linkage has been doing amazing things for people with learning disabilities across Lincolnshire for 43 years. However, beyond the learning disability community we’re not hugely well known, and like most charities, we are not blessed with huge financial resources. This partnership with Lincoln City FC will make a massive difference to us, helping us build our supporter base and raise money. We are rightly proud of what we do, but we need more people to know just how amazing Linkage is, and the difference that we make to the lives of those with learning disabilities. Thank you to every single person who voted for us.”

As Lincoln City Charity Club Partners, Linkage will receive priority for fundraising support and profile awareness. The Club will also assist the charity with fundraising activities, including match day bucket collections.

Updated: Students at work

We’ve updated our students at work series highlighting the accomplishments of young people with SEND excelling in their work experience and achieving full and part-time employment opportunities. Read student stories here.

Visual impairment no obstacle for college students’ Dartmoor challenge

9 students with visual impairment participating in ten tors trainingNine visually-impaired students from WESC Foundation’s college in Exeter, Devon, have begun their training sessions for the annual Ten Tors outdoor challenge, which each year attracts teenagers from all over the south-west to the relative wilderness of Dartmoor.

Taking part in the training alongside teachers and other support staff, many members of the WESC Foundation team will be hoping to complete their second or even third “Jubilee Challenge” later this year. The event is aimed at young people with a range of challenging conditions including sensory impairment and physical disability, and participants aim to complete routes of up to 15 miles, with the terrain, distance and climate all conspiring against success.

Ten Tors training is one of the highlights in a busy programme of enrichment, community engagement and work placements. Students have access to retail, horticultural, tourism and business opportunities delivered through a network of local businesses and WESC Foundation’s own social enterprise department.

Organised by the Army’s Headquarters South West, Ten Tors brings together around 2,500 young people from schools and further education colleges across the region.

A new award in memory of a remarkable young woman

arran hands award over to steveDerwen College, near Oswestry, has been given the honour of delivering an award – which will be presented every year by The Kirstin Royle Trust to one of Derwen’s students who has challenged themselves through the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.

The Kirstin Royle Trust was set up in 1993 in memory of Kirstin who died aged 22. The trust began with the aim of providing opportunities for young people to participate in challenging activities that give them a real sense of adventure. Kirstin was a kind and compassionate teacher who loved the outdoors, so it seemed natural that the trust provided opportunities for young people to participate in activities that would otherwise be very difficult for them.

The trust has also made a contribution to the Raymond Priestley Centre in Coniston where Derwen College students spend time as part of their Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards.

Derwen College, in Gobowen, is a specialist college for young adults with learning difficulties and disabilities. The college offers students the opportunity to learn new skills in real work environments and to learn life skills which will enable them to live as independently as possible. Last year, 60 learners from the college completed their D of E awards at Bronze, Silver or Gold levels.

Kidz to Adultz Middle | Free event for children and young adults up to 25

Take advantage of a free event aimed at young people with SEND who are 25 and under on Thursday 21 March, 9.30am – 4.30pm. This event is also open to parents, carers, guardians and professionals who work closely with young people with SEND. With 120+ exhibitors attending, there’ll be plenty of information, advice and guidance available for visitors to benefit from.

Learn more and book your place.

disabled living promotional image

Latest Natspec News and Transform Training and Events newsletter

Read more on the latest from our member colleges and their community partnerships by viewing our latest Natspec News: January 2019 edition. The newsletter covers great stories and examples of specialist FE colleges working with organisations in their communities to raise awareness about important topics or provide employment opportunities to young people with SEND.

Interested in the latest CPD opportunities from Natspec? Our latest Natspec Transform: Training and Events newsletter lists our upcoming workshops, networks and conferences.

Natspec National Conference 2019

The national conference for SEND professionals working in post-16 education is taking place on 2 and 3 April 2019. The conference will be packed with useful information on best practice, insights and experiences on the different aspects of working with young people with SEND. In addition to the workshops, keynotes and hot topics that are taking place on issues ranging from managing local authority relationships, assistive technology to learner’s voice and more – you’ll also have the opportunity to network with like-minded colleagues and engage in discussions about your shared experiences.

Learn more about the event and book your place.

Natspec Network | December Highlights

December’s highlights are here early this month as many organisations and providers wind down for Christmas break. We’re pleased to be closing off the last highlights of the year with some great news from the specialist sector. Here are the items in this piece:

  1. Sporting marvel Sami hits the ground running at London South East Colleges
  2. Coventry athlete opens redesigned living space at Hereward College
  3. Royal Opening for Boultham Park Education Centre
  4. Learner from Boroughbridge has won an industry award at a prestigious ceremony

Sporting marvel Sami hits the ground running

This year, a student from Dorton College – RSBC’s Further Education College has been creating huge waves amongst her fellow students and teachers at London South East Colleges’ Bromley Campus.

Sayma Begum (aka Sami), started to lose her sight at the age of just 6 years old and now lives with, and successfully manages, a severe degenerative visual impairment. None of this has held the 16-year-old back, and she is currently careering ahead on her Sport and Exercise course.

Sayma Begum - Sami, sport and fitness student

Sami left school last Summer with an excellent set of GCSEs including good grades in English and maths. With an interest in sports and fitness and a particular love of football and table tennis, Sami decided that she wanted to put her talents towards promoting health, fitness training and sports development in her future career.

Sami says: “I have ambitions to become a sports physiotherapist one day. I’d love to work with professional footballers treating sports injuries – my ideal job would be to work for Liverpool FC, my favourite team.

“I discovered my passion for all things physiology and anatomy during biology lessons at school and knew from an early age what I wanted to do. Because of my visual impairment, I am currently living in at Dorton College and attend the Bromley Campus for 3 days a week.

“At Dorton, I am helped with my living and independence skills and I have two wonderful Learning Support Assistants, Catherine and Janine who guide me through any potential issues regarding my written and theory projects. They are a great help to me and enable me to study without any barriers.”

Sami’s course tutor at London South East Colleges is Karen Giannini. She has been impressed with how well Sami has integrated with her classmates and become a major contributor to the group’s dynamics. She says: “Not only is Sami a very bright and enthusiastic student, but she also has a wonderful personality, charisma in bundles and learns at an amazing pace. We aren’t even at the end of our first term and she is already a big success. I am so glad she joined my class; it is students like her who make teaching a real pleasure.”

Recently, Sami has won a Jack Petchey Award for sporting excellence and inspiring her fellow students. She is currently awaiting to take part in a work placement at a nearby gymnasium and leisure complex in Bromley and has achieved a massive 97% attendance record at the College.

Offering her own personal advice and words of wisdom, Sami adds: “You simply have to make good use of all the senses and abilities you have and not dwell on those that you don’t. You must also do the things you love – and love the things you do. Nothing is going to stop me from achieving my goals and ambitions, and although my physical sight is poor, I can see my future very clearly.”

Coventry athlete opens redesigned living space at Hereward college

Coventry-based wheelchair athlete, Kare Adenegan has officially opened a newly revamped residential living space at Hereward College in Coventry – Cofa’s Tree Lodge.

Karen Adenegan outside newly established living space at Hereward college with some of the students

Hereward College, which provides young people with disabilities with the skills needed for independent living and employment, caters for around 250 students on a day and residential basis.

The newly refurbished and purpose built residential accommodation includes fully accessible bedrooms and bathrooms, adjustable kitchens, and state of the art assistive technology.

Students who stay at the college access dedicated arts & crafts and cooking area, take part in health and wellbeing activities, and plan social and group events.  The college also offers respite care breaks for young adults.

Jane Ferguson, Vice Principal Safeguarding and Pastoral Care said: “We are delighted to be able to upgrade our residential provision to our students. The young people who choose to stay at Hereward develop independence and life skills, make new friends, gain confidence, and take more control over their own care supported by a highly experienced team of staff.”

Royal Opening for Boultham Park Education Centre

On Tuesday 11th December Linkage, the Lincolnshire-based learning disability charity, was proud to receive HRH The Princess Royal at the Boultham Park Education Centre.

HRH the royal princess visiting Linkage college

Her Royal Highness attended the site to officially open the Education Centre which is home to Linkage College, Lincolnshire’s only specialist further education college for people with learning difficulties and disabilities.

HRH visiting Linkage college 2

During the two hour visit Her Royal Highness was given the opportunity to see firsthand the how the charity, and the facilities which have been built as part of the Boultham Park Restoration Project, support young people and adults with learning disabilities.

The Boultham Park Restoration Project is a partnership project between Linkage Community Trust and City of Lincoln Council who have been awarded £2.7 million in grant aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund Parks for People programme to restore Boultham Park. The Linkage facilities at the site include The Boultham Park Education Centre, Linkage Community Support housing at Rookery Court, the Boultham Park Horticulture Centre and the Boultham Park Café which are also both operated by Linkage

At the Education Centre and Horticulture Centre Princess Anne observed a range of lessons in progress including Lego®-based Therapy, a new approach to teaching and learning which uses Lego as a way to support language development, social skills and numeracy. Her Royal Highness also visited the home of a resident at Rookery Court where people develop their independent living skills whilst still being able to access care services from Linkage.

Throughout the afternoon Her Royal Highness met and spoke with a number of college students and Linkage clients who are supported through Linkage Care Services and Linkage Adult Skills, a day service for people with learning disabilities. Linkage CEO, Valerie Waby, who showed Her Royal Highness around said: “The Princess Royal seemed to very much enjoy her time speaking with clients, students and staff. She had a genuine in interest in the work we do, as well as an understanding of the issues we face. To hear her say that as a charity we have a model which should be expanded and adopted by others was a particularly proud moment.”

Learner from CSCD has won an industry award at a prestigious ceremony

Spraying cars for a living turned from a dream to a reality for a 21-year-old Deaf student from Boroughbridge and he has now been awarded an industry accolade for his work.

Joseph Brown, a former residential student at Communication Specialist College Doncaster (CSCD), was given the award for his skills in paint work from the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) and named the overall winner at the event by the Federation of the Motor Industry. The awards were presented by Prince Michael of Kent who was very impressed with Joseph.

Joseph Brown, student at Borough bridge awarded industry award at prestigious event

Following successful work placements, Joseph took up his first full-time job in July last year at James Wood Automotive Refinishers Ltd in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire and has recently been recognised at the IMI’s Outstanding Achiever Awards ceremony.

He said; “I’m thrilled to have received the award for paintwork and to receive the Federation of the Motor Industry bursary. Working in this motor industry was something I always dreamed of, so to be recognised for my work is fantastic.

Joseph was at college for four years, he studied car body and spraying in his first two years at CSCD and in his third year he concentrated on spraying, with his final year involving an internship.

Andy Boothroyd, tutor at Communication Specialist College Doncaster, said: “We are all so proud of Joseph and what he has achieved.

“He worked hard at college and learned a lot from his tutors including Sanjay Topiwala, one of his main tutors, whose years of experience and expertise were used to help Joseph reach a high standard. Sanjay also helped him to gain his additional custom paint qualification.

“It is fantastic to see that Joseph has used the skills he learned to do an outstanding job in his chosen career.”

The team at James Wood Automotive Refinishers have learned a number of basic signs from Joseph and they use pads and pens and a white board to communicate.

James Wood said: “We are extremely pleased that Joseph’s hard work has been rewarded in this way. He is a very dedicated and talented member of the team.

“Having a Deaf employee was a real unknown to us before Joseph and his family approached us. Thankfully his college came out and supported his work experience and his transition into work and we’ve never looked back.”

Natspec Network: November Highlights

It’s been an incredibly busy November at Natspec. We co-ordinated the Inclusive Skills Competitions alongside World Skills UK Live, which showcased the talents and skills of young people with SEND alongside their peers from mainstream education. In addition to this, many Natspec colleges have run exciting campaigns, formed new partnerships and positively spotlighted talent in their own organisations. Here’s a contents list of the news items:

  1. Natspec Inclusive Skills Competitions with World Skills UK Live
  2. Five Natspec members are shortlisted for TES FE Specialist Provider of the Year Award 2019.
  3. QAC form a partnership with a local employer for supported internship project and receives a visit from Invictus Games medallist Kelly Ganfield
  4. Derwen college awarded Gold standard from Fair Train in recognition of their employment, supported internship and workforce services.
  5. Orpheus Centre launches new social enterprise: Thessaly Theatre which delivers disability awareness workshops.
  6. National Star secures UK Government contract to deliver training in India and also receive local publicity from the BBC on art student winning a national award.
  7. Natspec Annual Conference | Exhibitor and Sponsorship packages


Natspec Inclusive Skills Competitions with World Skills UK Live

On Saturday 17 November, 52 competitors with SEND participated in the final Inclusive Skills Competitions with World Skills UK Live at the NEC. The event showcased competitors demonstrating their talents in 9 different skills and 1 demonstration. The competitors’ skills were recognised during a medal ceremony at the end of the day, where they were awarded medals and certificates for the quality of their work and participation. The Inclusive Skills competitions will be co-ordinated by the World Skills UK Live team next year, succeeding Natspec as the primary organiser.

Read the rest here.


Five Natspec colleges are shortlisted for TES FE Specialist Provider of the Year Award 2019

TES FE awards specialist provider of the year category shortlist stamp

We’re pleased to announce that five Natspec members (Derwen College, Foxes Academy, Queen Alexandra College, Coleg Elidyr and National Star College) have all been shortlisted for the 2019 TES FE Awards for the Specialist Provider of the Year category. This is a phenomenal recognition of the organisations’ excellent learning services and outcomes for young people with SEND.

Tes FE editor Stephen Exley said: “Excellent practice exists right across the further education sector, and those shortlisted for the Tes FE Awards are the cream of the crop. Our judges were extremely impressed with the calibre of entries. We had more entries for this year’s categories than ever before, and the standard was higher than ever. To be shortlisted is an extraordinary achievement.”

The winners will be revealed at a gala awards evening at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London on Friday 22 March 2019. It promises to be a spectacular event with more than 800 guests expected to attend, including government ministers and other dignitaries from the education sector.

To see the full list of who is in the running for all the categories please visit


QAC form a partnership with a local employer for supported internship project and receives a visit from Invictus Games medallist Kelly Ganfield

group of learners from QAC standing together for a picture

QAC student George helps local retailer boost online salesIn addition to being shortlisted for the 2019 TES FE awards, QAC has formed a partnership with local employer Thrift House Interiors to offer work experience placement to George, a level 3 IT student who helped the firm with their e-commerce activities. He assisted the business with updating their website with new products and inputting his ideas into the seasonal Christmas decorations. This was a great opportunity for George to boost his confidence, independence and practical IT skills while helping Thrift House Interiors to grow their sales at an integral time of the year.


QAC welcomed The Invictus Games Foundation Team UK athlete Kelly Ganfield to the College to meet with students and staff.

Kelly was joined by QAC Patron Mikail Huggins who works with her as a guide runner and coach.

Kelly is an inspirational young woman who lost her sight whilst working in the army and now works closely with Help for Heroes and Blind Veterans. She and Mikail have recently returned from Sydney, Australia where they competed in this year’s Invictus Games, coming home with a silver medal!

Kelly shared some inspiring and personal stories about her life, the difficult times she has faced, and the role sport has played in it. Mikail also shared insight into his experience of working with people with vision impairment and what he has learned about himself along the way. Students from different programme areas listened, engaged and asked some great questions.

Learn about health and fitness in SEND FE here.


Derwen college awarded Gold standard from Fair Train in recognition of their employment, supported internship and workforce services

3 learners doing work placement at the premier inn derwen placement

Derwen College has also received a top Gold standard award in recognition of its work experience opportunities and vocational programmes for young people. The college received a Gold certificate and trophy from Fair Train – an organisation which champions high-quality work-based learning in the UK.

Derwen College provides vocational learning and work experience for 16-25-year old students with learning difficulties and disabilities. The college offers internal work experience on site in commercial areas which are open to the public including the Orangery Restaurant, Karten Print Shop, Garden Centre and Garden Café. Derwen College has also built strong external links with local and national businesses, offering valuable work experience.

Derwen College’s Work Experience and Transition Team are pleased to have received the nationally respected Work Experience Quality Standard at the highest Gold level for the third consecutive time.

Abi Baker, Work Experience Co-ordinator, said she was delighted that the hard work of staff and students at Derwen College had been recognised for a third time.

“We are really pleased to have received the Fair Train gold quality standard award which shows we are achieving Fair Train’s exacting standards of practice at the highest Gold level.”

Read more about providing supported internships in your FE organisation here.


Orpheus Centre launches new social enterprise: Thessaly Theatre which delivers disability awareness workshops.

Thessaly Theatre is a new social enterprise group made up of Orpheus alumni that delivers disability awareness workshops.

Thessaly Theatre uses interactive theatre and live performance to deliver disability awareness in a new and unique way. It also gives your colleagues, pupils or clients the opportunity to ask questions or have conversations they maybe wouldn’t have in day to day life. This initiative is about celebrating ability, alongside talking about disability. Find out more about Thessaly Theatre and how you can get involved here.

If you’d like to arrange a disability awareness workshop or like to find out more, please contact Rachel (Thessaly Theatre director) at or Jack (corporate partnerships) at


National Star secures UK Government contract to deliver training in India and also receive local publicity from the BBC on student receiving national art award.

National Star has secured a contract with UK Government Department for International Development to deliver disability awareness training for trainers and master trainers in New Delhi and Hyderabad.

National star delivering workshop training in India

The college is delivering training on 26 November to 7 December and then again in March 2019.

As part of the training, Star will also be delivering sessions on assistive technology to Non-Government Organisations in India.

Training in March 2019 will extend the range of training delivered by including health and care training to caregivers.

Roundtable discussion at the national star workshop in india

Supporting Inclusive Practice is four days of disability training for vocational trainers working in retail, administration, IT, hospitality and dressmaking in Hyderabad in India. This is a pilot project funded by the UK Government and DFID with Skill India and the Skills Council of People with Disabilities. Read more about this project here.

In other good news from National Star, art student Michael Baiilon was featured by BBC Gloucestershire for his impressive skillset after winning a national art award. Watch the video on the BBC’s Facebook page for the full story here.

Michael Baiilon
Staff and Student photography, The National Star, Gloucestershire, UK.

Natspec Annual Conference | Exhibitor and Sponsorship packages

In anticipation of the Natspec annual conference, we have a range of sponsorship and headline packages available for organisations to get in front of key stakeholders in specialist and general Further Education.

Contact to get more information and book your package – now limited.

Natspec Network: September highlights

Firstly, welcome back to the first month of the new academic year to college staff and learners; old and new. We hope you had a refreshing break and have settled in well to college life. We have plenty of great news from the sector, including student achievements, college news and new training and events to look out for.

In today’s article you’ll find:

  • PossABILITY performance: disabilities and employment
  • Doncaster Deaf Trust opens new classroom with support from local businesses
  • Natspec college students embark on new journeys
  • Key facts in SEND FE
  • Colleges Week 2018 #loveourcolleges
  • Upcoming events for SEND professionals

PossABILITY performance: disabilities and employment

Orpheus centre is running a special screening of a fantastic new documentary by Abigail Clay, about people with Down’s Syndrome in employment.

Abigail’s sister Claire, who presents the film, is a former Orpheus student.

The screening will take place at the Orpheus Centre, in Godstone, on Wednesday 10th October 2018 at 5.30pm

This will provide a fantastic opportunity for local businesses and services to get together to discuss opportunities for people with learning disabilities in the workplace.

The 27-minute film will be followed by a brief panel discussion featuring the director, some of the stars of the film and representatives from Orpheus.

You can watch the trailer for the film here.

A glass of wine and canapés will be provided.

To register for your free ticket please visit our website.

Doncaster Deaf Trust opens new classroom with support from local businesses

Doncaster Deaf Trust has opened a new classroom with the help of businesses from a local retail outlet. Lakeside Village, a shopping outlet with 45 stores in its centre donated tables and chairs, enabling the trust to offer additional lessons and better support students.

Read the full story here.

Natspec college students embark on new journeys

September is an important month for students at specialist colleges; old, existing and new. Former students are moving onto their next chapter, whether that’s transitioning to independent living or moving onto further education. Existing students are coming back to college and setting goals and achieving milestones in their learning and development while new students encounter a new environment altogether. Each of these transitions are incredibly important stages for learners to go through as they meet new people and settle in to new places.

It is positive to see learners express their desire to continue to learn and develop academically. For example, former New College Worcester pupils: Zoe, Elle and Sarah have performed phenomenally in their A-levels and have ventured off to university to continue their formal education.

Zoe, student from NCW

Elle and Sarah from NCW
 Elle and Sarah







However, formal education is only one option of many for moving on to bigger and better things, for many of our learners, transitioning to independent living is a challenging yet fruitful phase – read more about students moving on to a new chapter of their lives.

Key facts in SEND FE

Natspec has collated the latest data on post-16 specialist further education and presented them in this latest blog.

To keep up to date with information about SEND legislation, trends, news, events and more, subscribe to our newsletter.

Colleges Week 2018 #LoveOurColleges

From Monday 15 – Friday 19 October 2018, Natspec will be participating in #LoveOurColleges week. The week is about celebrating the contributions colleges and college staff make to the lives of learners in the country and how they benefit their local communities. Colleges are central in the English education system and educate and train 2.2 million people every year.

Love our colleges logo

As a specialist provider, funding cuts and under-resourced facilities have left colleges feeling unsupported and unheard as the costly requirements for addressing the needs of each and every individual learner rises and becomes complex.

This is why we believe that #LoveOurColleges week is an excellent opportunity for Natspec colleges to highlight the best of themselves, whether that’s brilliant tutors, events or services, classes or happy students and outcomes. Spotlight the people who uphold the meaning of ‘love your colleges’ and show the importance of fair funding and consideration for colleges everywhere.

Please visit for more guidance and information.

You can also find a full list of activities you can do to support the campaign here. 

You can find resources like the official logo, infographics and more to support your campaign here.

Upcoming events

TechAbility conference

Do some of your students with SEND struggle to access the curriculum using traditional technology? Do you want to make learning accessible to everyone, without buying expensive equipment or software?

Assistive Technology isn’t just about a different mouse or keyboard, it involves the use of technology to improve access to all areas of learning.

TechAbility 2018 will show you how to use technology to make sure learners have the access they need. Get your questions answered and discover innovative ways to improve assistive technology in your organisation. You will have an exclusive chance to hear from leaders in the sector about best practice and meeting the expectations Ofsted has in this area.

We have an outstanding range of experts and specialists who will demonstrate the benefits of technologies such as virtual reality, coding for SEND, access to iPads, technology use in exams, voice control and more.

The keynote will be delivered by Alistair McNaught, subject specialist at Jisc. He will be “Peeling back the layers of accessible practice”; discussing what you need to do to ensure all learners have access, not just those identified as needing support. At the end of the day a panel of leaders and experts in the sector will answer your questions on how to improve your approach to AT across your organisation.

16 October | West Midlands

Book your place

Supported internships and South West Network

An interactive workshop delivered through Natspec Transform for organisations who are planning to introduce supported internships or improve or expand their existing provision. This workshop will:

  • introduce you to a range of supported internship models
  • explore planning considerations such as staffing, employer engagement, partnership-working and recruitment of learners
  • provide you with examples of effective practice
  • help you review and improve existing provision
  • give you the opportunity to work together to tackle specific challenges

Book your place | 7th November | Leeds

Book your place | 5th December | London

Meanwhile, there is a further opportunity to discuss Supported Internships at the South West Autumn Network, open to all FE providers, on 29 October. Book your place.

Essential SEND Managers Programme

The Education and Training foundation, in partnership with National Star College and The Leadership Centre are launching an innovative new Essential SEND Managers Programme. This programme will provide bespoke leadership skills and specific SEND knowledge to new or existing SEND managers from general and specialist further education, training and offender learning.  The programme will offer two full days of training in Systems Leadership and two full days of training in SEND knowledge. Delegates will have the option of attending either or both programmes, dependent on individual requirements.

For full details, see the attached flyer.

The Leadership module – BOOK NOW 19 November and 15 January: London, or 23 January and 6 March, Birmingham

SEND Knowledge Module – Maximising Potential – BOOK NOW3 and 4 December, London, or 26 and 27 February, Cheltenham

Coming soon

Learning Support Assistant workshop

This workshop is an interactive session for learning support managers or managers of SEND provision in the FE sector. If you already manage learning support assistants (LSAs) and are ready to review and maximise the effectiveness of this resource in a collaborative and positive way, then this workshop is for you.

Uniquely, managers are asked to bring along an LSA to the training, ensuring that collaborative practice is at the heart of their approach from the start.

This workshop will be available later this term as an external training session or can be delivered in-house for an individual provider and any partners they wish to involve. Register your interest in an external training session in your region or to request in-house training.