Students at The Wing Centre in Bournemouth, an independent residential school for young people with Asperger’s Syndrome, are studying NEC GCSE and A level courses to help prepare them for work and further study.
‘Classroom teaching doesn’t work for all our students,’ says Kim Welsh, Deputy Head Learning at The Wing Centre, an independent school in Bournemouth for young people who have Asperger’s Syndrome. ‘They may have had a bad experience in education in the past or gaps in attending school. What they need most is to be able to learn at their own pace.’ The Wing Centre has 25 residential places and 10 day places for students aged 16 to 25. Students come from across the UK and have a wide range of interests.
An academic approach is right for a number of them while others have chosen to follow a vocational route. Some are studying for exams, others are doing re-sits. All students have to study English, Maths and ICT, as well as social skills and skills that will help them in the future in accessing the community, further study or at work. The school offers a therapeutic approach tailored for each student, with psychologists, speech therapists and occupational therapists working alongside with teaching staff. When they leave The Wing Centre, students can go on to higher education, further education or into employment, including apprenticeships.
With so much to fit in, each student has a personalised timetable and follows a ‘waking day’ curriculum that extends their education across all their waking hours, a specific approach for pupils in residential settings who have special educational needs. Nine teaching staff are responsible for delivering the core curriculum and ancillary subjects including food technology, sport and humanities.
Kim found out about NEC several years ago through a student who was studying with NEC through an outreach programme. She was quick to see the potential for the school of a model of blended learning delivery that combines distance learning with tutor support and wanted to make more use of it. NEC courses are now used in a number of ways to help students achieve qualifications and also to fill in gaps created by extended periods of time away from formal education or to give students a taste of a subject they want to try. Students can work through the course, see what progress they make and then decide whether to do the exam or study in more depth.
NEC enables the school to offer a far wider range of subject choices at GCSE and A level than would be possible otherwise. English Literature A level and Environmental Studies and Biology GCSE are popular courses with students. The benefits go far beyond course choice, though, as Kim explains: ‘Equally important for our students is the way NEC courses are delivered. Students receive feedback from their tutor through email or letter. That’s ideal for them as it means we can go through with them what the tutor has said about their work, taking on the role of moderator. It may suit a student to stay in their own room or have a period back at home if they’re dealing with anxiety, for example. With NEC, the course follows the student. They can carry on studying wherever they are. Flexibility like that is hard to find, but that’s just what NEC offers.’
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