Tour of Sheffield College

15th May 2013

  • Parents of disabled teenagers are often reluctant to consider a mainstream college for their child’s post-16 education. But since there are only three special schools with sixth forms in Sheffield, their post 16 places are oversubscribed. There are now more students with high levels of need at the Sheffield College than in the three special school sixth forms put together. But can a mainstream college really cater for those with the most complex needs? Our staff and trustees went on a guided tour of three Sheffield College sites (Norton, Hillsborough and Peaks) to find out. Here’s what they thought:

    “I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Sheffield Colleges. I really wasn’t expecting to even consider any Sheffield college for post 16 provision for my son, however I was pleased to meet dedicated, enthusiastic and friendly staff who were prepared to try to meet the needs of young adults with complex needs. We are a little way off looking for post 16 provision, but when the time comes we will certainly be visiting the colleges again, to discuss our son’s needs and what support could be available. Many thanks for an informative day.”
    Laura Gillespie, trustee

    “Following my visit to Sheffield College my perception of what the College can provide for young people with SEN and disabilities has changed considerably, very much for the better. I was impressed by the various specialist teams at the College, for dyslexia, ADHD, autism etc., and by the range of courses, particularly the life skills and entry level courses for young people still working at P levels. The existence of this support and range of courses needs to be publicised in College prospectuses and, at a more detailed level, on the website too. Parents, carers and young people need to know about the existence of these facilities in order that they can make an informed decision about post 16 education in Sheffield.”
    Joanne Ferguson, trustee

    “I only joined the tour at Hillsborough, so can’t comment on the other two colleges. I was very surprised to learn that Hillsborough College has specialist teachers for a wide range of needs, including autism, visual impairment, ADHD, dyslexia and even mental health needs. I also didn’t expect them to have such a large team (over 30) of Learner Support Assistants. Some of the classes we saw had teacher-to-student ratios similar to those you’d find in a special school. You’d never guess all this was available from looking at the College literature!”
    Eva Juusola, Development Worker

    “I really appreciated the opportunity to speak to staff in the additional support team and see the facilities that Sheffield College offers.  I never thought my son would be able to cope at College, but I have been reassured that support is available at a level that would support my son appropriately and, when he is ready, this could be a positive route for him to follow.  I would recommend that parents and carers speak to College staff about their child’s support needs as early as possible in the process when considering future provision. “
    Jayne Woodward, Co-Chair

    “The trip was very interesting. Support at Norton College is not bad, but access for students with mobility needs is poor because it is an older building with lots of steps. Peaks College is a bit more spacious, but when the extension was built they didn’t put another lift in – so again, any student in a large wheelchair might struggle. Hillsborough was the only college where we able to talk to support staff. Students with mobility problems are catered for with an excellent changing room with hoist and changing table/bed. There are two lifts which can both take larger wheelchairs and students using walking frames. We have found Hillsborough excellent – it has to be if our son wants to stay for a third year and do his level 2 Horticulture there. In terms of café facilities, Norton has a ground floor café as does Hillsborough, unfortunately Peaks has moved theirs to the top floor, which is ok if the lift is working.”
    David and Sue Roe, trustees

    “It was a really useful and enjoyable day.  I was pleasantly surprised, especially by the willingness and enthusiasm of support staff to work to meet the needs of individual students. However it did highlight the lack of information available to families of young people with Learning Difficulties and Disabilities (LDD), and this is something that we hope to work with the College to address. A prospectus for LDD students, explaining the courses, qualifications, and support that is on offer and the progression routes for after college would be great.”
    Anne Snowdon, Development Support Worker