Nuneaton campus

Students participating in a college programme for young people aged 14-16 have been praised for their resilience in adapting to the changes brought about by the coronavirus lockdown. The students are part of North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College’s Inspire programme, an alternative to traditional mainstream schooling.

Learning and skills manager for the programme, Natasha Evans said, “The lockdown was always going to be more challenging for this group of students, many of whom are vulnerable or have Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). Some of them were immediately concerned about what would happen with their GCSEs and then shortly afterwards heard that the exams were being cancelled. Others are used to the support of youth workers and access to them has been restricted by social distancing.

“I have been impressed with their continuing level of commitment despite that fact that they were one of very few college groups who continued to attend the college’s Nuneaton Campus throughout the lockdown period. They have shown great determination and really rose to the challenge.”

Natasha explained that students on the programme, all from Years 10 and 11, are studying GCSEs and functional skills at the college in a way that supports their individual needs. Subjects include English, maths, geography, science, and modern ethics.

Natasha added, “Traditional schooling is not for everyone and some of our students have experienced difficult circumstances and significant challenges. We operate according to the principles of restorative justice to help students engage with the consequences of their actions, seek closure, and achieve rehabilitation. Despite the lockdown, most of our students have adapted well to the new arrangements, have been highly focused in the classroom and are on track to succeed with their qualifications.

“I would also like to pay tribute to my team who have managed some difficult personal circumstances themselves to maintain the service to our students. My colleague Karen Barber stepped up to manage the provision when I was away for health reasons and one of the first challenges she faced was to manage the lockdown arrangements.”

Year 10 student Luke Underhill said, “Inspire made me realise that I can achieve many things. This includes improving my maths, English, and science skills more than I ever thought I could. Smaller classes have helped me to concentrate more, and when I am struggling, I am able to get the help I need.”

Chloe Beech from Year 11 said, “Whilst I have been at Inspire I have developed many new positive characteristics, and this has helped me overcome the negativity in my life. The staff at Inspire pay attention to students’ individual and personal needs and set boundaries to help us to reach our full potential. As students we feel valued and respected. Teachers make the work more interesting and entertaining.”

Ocean George, also from Year 11 said, “The staff at Inspire have really helped me to figure out who I am, as have been out of mainstream school for four years. They treat us so differently and always with respect. I have also met some of my closest friends at Inspire. I’ve learned a lot in the short time I have been here.”

Year 10 student Craig Martin said, “My experience at Inspire was completely different from what I expected it to be. I thought it was going to be really strict, but the Inspire team are so welcoming and caring. I never thought I would learn as much as I have. I am so glad that I can attend Inspire because I honestly wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Trinity Morrissey from Year 11 said, “I have been with Inspire since Year 10 and I have realised that I had learnt more in my first six months here then I had ever learnt in mainstream school. Learning is fun in Inspire. I would like to thank all of the staff for their support and the fun times!”

Marion Plant, OBE FCGI, Principal and Chief Executive of NWSLC said, “I am very proud of our Inspire students who have negotiated the lockdown arrangements with such maturity. They have kept working despite being one of the few groups coming into college throughout the last few months and have demonstrated the ability to keep on track when it counts. I know how hard their tutors have worked to manage such difficult circumstances and to help to support them in their studies.”

Click here to find out more about the Inspire programme.