College names best in Britain

A Shropshire college has won a top national award.

Derwen College, near Oswestry, has been named Specialist Provider of the Year in the TES FE Awards – one of the UK’s top awards for recognising those that work in further education.

Staff and students at the college say they are delighted to receive the news during what has been an incredibly challenging year.

Judges praised the college for 16-25 year olds with special educational needs and disabilities, for doing everything in its power to continue its mission to create a world without barriers even during a pandemic.

When the pandemic hit, staff across curriculum, care and support came together with parents, carers, supporters and industry partners to ensure work, independence skills, health, fitness, sports and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award all continued, despite the challenges.

The college also set up an on-site charity shop, an online eBay shop and a new takeaway service to ensure that work placements for students continued, and staff worked tirelessly to host annual events virtually, including open days, a prom and graduation ceremony.

It even opened a new Telford campus as planned in September 2020. Today, it delivers much-needed provision to students with special educational needs in the area.

Lead judge Lynette Barrett said: “During such adverse and difficult times, this college has shown how it has remained focused on student achievements and outcomes. The pandemic did not hold this college back; it initiated new projects, which meant student outcomes could be achieved, and learners remained safe and engaged in their education.

“The staff worked relentlessly to remain open and create new ways of working, which allowed some of the most vulnerable young people in society to achieve their outcomes without compromise.”

Derwen College Principal and CEO Meryl Green said: “This award recognises the commitment, imagination, passion and resilience of staff across College campuses. It has been a year of triumphs for the college during some challenging times. We are honoured to have been recognised by judges who are experts in the field of education. The Specialist Provider of the Year category has many contenders of an impressive calibre who have all worked tirelessly to support people with special educational needs and disabilities in further education."

Chair of Governors Kathleen Kimber said: “We have long been proud of how Derwen works with its students and their achievements never fail to amaze us. Recently the staff have gone above and beyond what could have been expected of them. Their commitment and creativity during long periods when students were having to isolate in bubbles here or spend time at home have been outstanding.

“What has been striking is that student engagement and enjoyment have been very evident. There has been a sense of fun. New ventures have been successfully launched, either to offer an alternative to work experience off- site or to bring to fruition a planned development, such as the opening of the new satellite at Telford. "

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