Shropshire Star

Shropshire college wins award for teaming up with film company

A specialist Shropshire college has won a national award for an innovative partnership forged with a local film company which shares the establishment’s ambition for people with special educational needs and disabilities.

Performing Arts teachers Tara Edwards, Aimee Ingham, Opal Trevor and Jessie Vaughan, supported intern Anna Redding, Rocking Horse founder Gareth Thomas and Work Experience team Abi Baker and Natalie Martin.

Derwen College, near Oswestry, recently won the Natspec award for Innovative Partnership Working.

It following the Oswestry based Rocking Horse Media project using areas of the college as the location for its pilot television comedy/drama with an inclusive theme.

The college said the venture provided meaningful work experience and industry information to students and supported interns.

During the filming well-known actors worked directly alongside the students, including former Blue Peter presenter Peter Purves, Doctor Who and Skins actress Annette Badland and Doc Martin’s Ian McNeice.

Rocking Horse Media also delivered workshops on continuity, acting and directing as part of careers week while its founder, Gareth Thomas, gave his time to judge talent shows, provide students with professional acting headshots, and videoed and photographed college events, such as the annual Christmas and summer shows.

Derwen College-supported intern Anna Redding started a regular work placement with Rocking Horse as a runner and has progressed to acting, writing and even producing. Director/scriptwriter Gareth has supported Anna to write and produce her own short film, based on her personal experience of short-term memory loss.

Anna said: “I really enjoy my internship with Rocking Horse Media. I got to be a clapper at one point which was really exciting because I’ve never got to use the clapper before. I have also acted as a background actor.

“I’ve learnt that you have to be professional even if you are stressed. You have to be patient with different people.”

Rocking Horse Media supported Anna to create her own short film on the short term memory loss condition which she has and introduced her to many industry professionals.

Mr Thomas said: “Being autistic myself, Rocking Horse Media has always championed itself on being a neurodiverse supporting organisation, working with people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds.

“Getting to produce our care home drama series TV project, which champions the SEND community, right here at a renowned specialist college, with students with SEND involved on our set, both on and off camera, was the perfect marriage between both organisations.”

Natspec, which represents specialist colleges across England and Wales, announced the winners of the Innovation Awards during a virtual ceremony, with the trophy presentation taking place at Natspec’s National Conference on 13 June.

Derwen's performing arts lead, Jessie Vaughan, said: “Rocking Horse Media has had a massive impact on the performing arts pathway over the past year or so. With its consistent support and ideas they have provided our learners with a range of experiences which include question and answer sessions, headshot workshops, careers talks, filming and editing our departmental shows, to name just a few.

“Rocking Horse Media have not only provided our current cohort of learners with memorable opportunities, they have also offered work experience opportunities to recent and older graduates.”

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