Student Voice Parliament 12 November

Natspec’s Student Voice Parliament met on the 12 November at QAC in Birmingham in its largest ever gathering. Students and staff from 15 Natspec Colleges were in attendance, along with NUS’s Vice President for FE, Juliana Mohamad-Noor and Member Support Advisor Lauren Cooper.

The aim of the day was to build off the work of the previous parliament meeting back in June. Since then, many colleges have elected new student councils, so a whole new raft of students arrived ready to contribute ideas.

Introductions

With all new students coming from different colleges right across the country, the first call of the day was introductions. Students and staff were encouraged to draw and write on a coloured piece of card. These cards contained their name, where they were from and something that they liked. When finished, students gathered up the cards and exchanged them with another table.

From looking at cards from other people in attendance, students and staff were able to learn a little more about each other.

What do we need?

Students were then asked to consider a range of questions which were discussed at the previous meeting.

  • What makes you different?
  • What are you good at?
  • What do you need help with?
  • What should that help be like?
  • What do people in the community need to know?
  • What would help?

Students were given a short amount of time to discuss the topics amongst themselves. Following this, contributions to the parliament were welcomed. One student said that it was important to ‘live life to the max’ and ‘look to the future and not to the past.’

A group of students generates ideas with a member of staff

On the subject of help, one student said that ‘families support the stuff that you do and ignore the things you can’t do.’

The key statement made was ‘there aren’t many non-disabled adults out there who understand what disabilities you have.’ Students felt that, outside their colleges and immediate family, many people didn’t give them the time they needed, or make the effort to understand them.

Solutions?

In the afternoon, students started work. The aim was to produce leaflets and messaging on the issues that were important to them. Themes picked by the students included:

  • transport
  • anti-bullying
  • autism acceptance

Some students made posters, some made leaflets, and others had individualised creative ideas about what to make. Students from RNC Hereford made a paper chain, with statements written on each piece.

Two students and a member of staff from RNC present their concept, a linked paper chain with messaging

The aim is to take the materials generated by the students and use them to put together a body of materials Natspec and our members can use to campaign on issues relevant to young people. Our current student voice banner, made following a design by students at ROC College, is always very popular at events. We’re excited to be representing and promoting the voices of young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, and see it as an important part of our work.

What now?

Our next student parliament will be held next year; we are still confirming a date and venue.

We’ll be developing resources for colleges and the wider sector to use to promote student voices. If you couldn’t make it to student parliament, but would like to contribute, please contact sarah.laszlo@natspec.org.uk

Learner voice: new research project

Natspec and the National Union of Students (NUS) have been working in partnership for the last year to establish and develop a national student voice parliament for learners from Natspec member colleges. This work promotes learner voice and embeds practice to supports it.

To extend this work, Natspec has won a recent Education and Training Foundation (ETF) research tender and, in partnership with NUS, will conduct research into the roles of staff who support learner voice in a SEND setting as part of the Foundation’s SEND Workforce Development Programme.

This work will involve evaluate existing resources and practices; an online survey to gather data; and interviews with current practitioners to gather good practice. It will result in recommendations to support providers in embedding learner voice within their day-to-day work and wider organisational strategies.

We will be in touch in due course seeking your involvement and support with this work. If you’d like to learn more about it, please email Daniel.Baxter@nus.org.uk