Specialist Further Education College celebrates student successes

The success of young people with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) has been celebrated at a specialist Further Education college in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Beechwood College in Sully, a specialist day and residential service for young people over the age of 16 with an Autism Spectrum or Asperger’s Syndrome has hosted its annual Students’ Awards Day.

The families of 57 day and residential students travelled from across Wales and England to watch the presentation of certificates in a marquee in the College grounds.

Unlike mainstream Further Education establishments, Beechwood College measures success based on completion of learning programmes which incorporate a range of goals set with the students, their families and their existing support workers when they arrive at the College.

These goals can include both achievement of formal qualifications but also the attainment of essential life skills, which are aligned to their current and future needs such as home management skills, as well as their own goals which reflect personal interests such as sport activities.

This year, 63 qualifications were achieved from the awarding body Agored Cymru which were made up of accreditations in Art, Music, Enterprise, Creative Media and Drama and all 57 students achieved non-accredited learning in home cooking skills and leisure activities.

Awards presented this year included an Eco Award for students that have done the most to promote ecological projects, an Entrepreneur Award for students who have run an enterprise scheme and shown the most entrepreneurial skill, and a Work Experience Award for students that have shown the greatest commitment to their work experience opportunity.

Students finishing at Beechwood College this year have met more than 95% of their learning programme goals.

Angela Kent, Director of Education and Care at Beechwood College said:

“Our Awards Ceremony is a much-anticipated annual recognition of our student successes.

“Our integrated learning approach, which involves the active participation of the education, clinical and residential teams, aims to provide each student with a 24-hour learning environment tailored to their specific needs.

“Our goal is to provide a very broad range of experiences and skills for each individual, preparing them for later life and developing their skills in their areas of interest.

“It is a tribute to the hard work of our students and the efforts of the Beechwood College team that the students have achieved such a broad range of qualifications.

“Our largest ever student group completed Duke of Edinburgh Awards aimed at building confidence and team working skills this year. 9 completed their Bronze Award and 4 completed their Silver Award.

“Learning even the simplest of skills needed to build independence can be challenging for young people with Autism, so we are extremely proud of everyone.”

A parent of one of the students at the College, said:

“Beechwood College staff are keen for students to develop and that is reassuring for us as parents.

“What is very important to us is that Beechwood is a very transparent organisation and we feel our son is in safe hands with them as safeguarding is the number 1 priority for us.

“We see Beechwood as an extension to our house and we are all part of the same family.

“It is so reassuring to find a placement that is so motivated and wants to really help our son progress and be happy and safe.

“Beechwood truly care. As parents that is more important to us than anything.”

Opened in 2004, Beechwood College is a specialist day and residential service for young adults over the age of 16 with a formal diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Condition or Asperger’s Syndrome.

The College is registered with the Welsh Government as a Further Education (FE) College, and with Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) as a care home for younger adults and students typically attend the college for between 2 and 4 years.

Based upon the principles of TEACCH, PECS and Makaton, the College’s goal is to provide opportunities and experiences for each individual, regardless of ability, to prepare them for later life. The integrated approach to learning has qualified lecturers, residential and clinical teams partnering together so that each student’s personalised education programme is developed and reinforced consistently as a 24-hour learning environment which can lead to formal accreditation.

Beechwood College is part of the South Wales-based Ludlow Street Healthcare Group. Employing more than 1100 staff including extensive clinical teams, Ludlow Street Healthcare is a provider of tailored care solutions for adults over the age of 16 who have a range of complex mental health, personality disorder and physical health needs.