From education to employment

New Centres for Excellence in SEND announced


The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) has appointed two new Centres for Excellence in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (CfESEND); Natspec and Oldham College. Natspec’s work will concentrate on bringing specialist knowledge and skills into the mainstream, while Oldham College’s activity will focus on the theme of careers, helping to ensure that more learners secure meaningful employment.

Natspec has delivered training on behalf of ETF on delivering programmes for learners with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) and on understanding the complex SEND in FE funding system. Natspec also developed some of the most visited resources on the ETF website, including guidance on recognising and recording progress and achievement (RARPA) and on PMLD (Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty) provision.

Oldham College becomes a CfESEND following two years as a SEND Employer Spoke, showcasing their partnerships with employers and delivering events on effective practice for employing learners with SEND. Their work included showcasing how using digital CVs can break down some of the barriers of traditional recruitment processes.

At the same time, after three successful years and working with thousands of practitioners, Derby College will move on from the CfESEND programme, leaving a thriving and sustainable practitioner network and legacy of resources that demonstrate the difference a curriculum with purpose makes to learners’ lives.

Natspec and Oldham College join Weston College and City College Norwich, who will continue as Centres for Excellence in SEND, focusing on the themes of people and community respectively. Weston College’s work on a people-centered approach is described in their video ‘A people themed approach can lead to outstanding’, while City College Norwich’s work has included the creation of the ‘Inclusive Employer Induction Toolkit’.

Teresa Carroll, National Head for Inclusion at ETF, said:

“We are delighted to welcome Natspec and Oldham College as our new Centres for Excellence in SEND. We know that by bringing people together to harness and share knowledge and skills, we make the SEND system work for our learners.

“The themes on which Natspec and Oldham will focus will build on recent CfESEND activity – illustrated by publications including Putting learners with SEND at the centre of FE provision – and we look forward to working with them to drive the inclusion agenda forward.

“I also want to thank Derby for all they have contributed as a Centre for Excellence in SEND. Their work has benefitted thousands of learners and their families, and they leave a legacy of valuable resources that will impact on SEND provision in our sector for years to come.”

Clare Howard, Natspec Chief Executive, said:

“Natspec is excited to be working with ETF and joining the other Centres for Excellence in supporting and developing the SEND in FE workforce. We hope to complement the excellent work that the other Centres have been doing, and build on the lessons learnt from our partnership working between specialist and mainstream FE colleges. We particularly want to provide support to staff in FE who work with young people with complex needs in a wide variety of FE settings, by sharing highly specialist knowledge, skills and experience, through events, webinars and communities of practice.”

Alan Benvie, Vice Principal at Oldham College, said:

“To be chosen as a Centre for Excellence in SEND is a huge honour. We have been working with the Education & Training Foundation on a regional basis for some time and take great pride in the quality of our SEND provision and expertise of our staff.

“Becoming a national hub within the sector is a new challenge that we will relish. Our theme –careers – runs across everything that we do at Oldham College, and it will give us the opportunity to deliver the ETF programme supporting and learning from other providers in a collective drive to increase career opportunities for all our SEND learners.”

Pete Benyon of Deby College said:

“At Derby College we have really enjoyed and benefitted from the opportunities the programme has provided for us to connect with our colleagues across the FE sector and sincerely thank the ETF for its recognition and support. To be enabled to communicate, collaborate and co-create with our incredible sector, its amazing professionals and inspirational learners has been a privilege. Now is the right time for us to take the time to reflect on this brilliant journey and to focus all that we have learnt on what will always be our highest priority: the experience and success of our learners. We continue to work with the ETF on the Apprenticeship Workforce Development project.”

Centres for Excellence in SEND is one aspect of the support provided to the FE sector as part of the Universal SEND Services programme, which runs until March 2025. It provides sector-led support to leaders, managers and practitioners to create a step change in inclusive teaching and learning, hosting a wide range of activities and events.

To access resources and find out more about upcoming activities and other support visit the CfESEND area of the ETF website.

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