Vice Principal fights for more opportunities for SEN students
Wednesday, 03 February 2016
A Thundersley father of a young autistic child with severe learning difficulties has led Seevic College's successful drive to increase opportunities for students with a learning difficulty and/or disability to enter mainstream education, where they also have opportunities to develop their independence.
In the last five years the number of young people studying a Foundation Learning course at Seevic has tripled following exhaustive work undertaken by Vice Principal John Revill, father to Matthew, age nine. The number of high needs learners at the College has also doubled within the last twelve months.
John said: “This is not about expanding the College but expanding opportunities for young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, allowing them to develop and progress on to either employment, further education, independent living or simply become more engaged in the local community. Essentially, the College is preparing them for adulthood and improving their life chances.”
"We are now starting to see different opportunities for our special young people"
Alongside the College’s work with students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, Seevic also supports a high number of mainstream students, establishing a diverse community of young people on a campus that is both safe and secure for all.
The College offers the widest choice of A-Levels across South Essex in conjunction with a fully accessible and inclusive range of vocational qualifications and Apprenticeships.
John’s attempts to increase access to mainstream education for young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities focused on placing Seevic at the heart of the local community, and being reactive to the increasing levels of diversity and changing demands.
John and his team focused on listening and talking to parents and young people while forging mutually beneficial links with mainstream and special schools, local and national charities, parent groups, Essex County Council, local employers and Southend and Thurrock unitary authorities.
John said: “As the parent of a young person with a disability and severe learning difficulty, you want to find an environment for your child which is safe, secure and totally inclusive – with an awareness and acceptance of treating people for who they are. You also want your child to have positive life chances ahead of them.
“Matthew was diagnosed with autism and severe learning difficulties when he was just 18-months old, and suddenly I found myself thinking ‘what is going to happen to Matthew when he reaches adulthood?’ ‘How will he be accepted within society and the community?’ ‘Will he live independently?’ ‘Will he have employment?'
“It was then that I passionately felt that I wanted to make a difference for young people with a disability and/or learning difficulty and fortunately, with our staff and collaboration, we are now starting to see different opportunities for our special young people.”
In January 2015 John created a group called the SEN Advisory Board, comprising of head teachers from local mainstream and special schools, as well as representatives from Essex County Council, local employers and relevant agencies.
Meeting several times throughout the year the Board aims to act as a critical friend, challenging the College to ensure its curriculum offer, impact and outcomes for learners with a learning difficulty and/or disability meets the diverse needs of their local communities and develops positive sustained destinations for all young people.
Through this collaboration learners from special schools, including the Lancaster School, Glenwood School, Cedar Hall School, Castledon School and the St Christopher School, now regularly visit the College one day per week.
This enables young people with additional needs to be integrated into a mainstream environment to prepare them for adulthood, whilst mainstream learners at the College develop awareness of learning difficulties and/or disabilities and how to co-exist effectively.
Assistant Principal at Castledon School, Simon Holliday, said: “A number of recent leavers said they had a fantastic social life and liked attending the many clubs at Seevic. Another aspect of further education that Castledon students enjoy is the increased independence of travelling to and from college as well as being able to make increased choices over everyday decisions such as choosing their own lunch.”
John has also helped Seevic become a pilot centre for the Achievement for All charity, which works with schools, colleges and relevant agencies to ensure young people’s outcomes meet their aspirations.
Colleagues Jill Whight, Skills Academy Director, Kay Davis, Head of Foundation Learning & Community Development, and Julie Clark, Supported Internship Coordinator, have assisted John to help bring about the increased local opportunities in mainstream education now available to young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.
John added: “Jill, Kay, Julie and I share a vision for an inclusive society where people with a learning difficulty and/or disability are fully accepted, having access to resources which will enable them to better prepare into adulthood.
“The atmosphere within Seevic College is one of inclusivity and acceptance from all groups of an ever-increasing diversity of young people.”
John sits on several local governing bodies and is a Director on an Essex multi-academy trust – the SEAX Trust. First joining Seevic College in 1994 as a Chemistry Tutor, John Revill became Vice Principal in 2010.
Seevic’s Foundation Learning provision includes the Essential Skills and Supported Internship programmes plus Level 1 courses in Caring for Animals, Beauty Therapy, Caring for Children, Creative Media Production, Health & Social Care, IT and Sport.
The Essential Skills programme provides five-day provision for young people who would benefit from learning in a supported environment. It aims to develop independent living skills, preparation for adulthood and develop basic skills in numeracy, literacy and ICT.
Teresa Revell’s son Daniel first visited Seevic while a student at Cedar Hall School. She said: “I chose Essential Skills at Seevic because Daniel had been coming in to the College one day per week and had got a taste for it – he really loved it.
“When you have a child with special needs you need to know they are going to be happy somewhere. He’s where he wants to be and learning things that are of interest to him.”
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The Supported Internship programme helps young people with a statement of special needs take their first steps into employment. Young people spend one day at College and up to four days in the workplace each week. Students also work towards qualifications in English, Maths and ICT and receive support from a fully-trained College Job Coach.
In 2014/15, 81% of Supported Internship students either continued in education as an Apprentice or went into paid employment upon completion of the programme. Their pass rate of 100% in the Employability qualification highlights the College’s focus on positive sustained destinations for all students.
Wendy Graves’ son Zak Bannon was part of the Supported Internship programme and is now employed full-time as an Apprentice Kitchen Assistant. She said: “The staff at Seevic are amazing. They have really pushed Zak academically and socially, he’s now much more independent and sociable – it’s been a total change of character.”
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