World Autism Acceptance Week: How our qualifications are helping learners at Combe Pafford School
This week is World Autism Acceptance Week, taking place from 28 March to 3 April. Established by the National Autistic Society (NAS), the awareness week aims to draw attention to those living with autism in the UK to educate those unaware of the condition, as well as to help make the world friendlier to those who are affected by it.
To help raise awareness, we caught up with Combe Pafford School in Devon, who provide education for young people with mild to moderate learning difficulties, physical difficulties or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They strive to support learners with the skills, tools, learning and experiences they need to develop and succeed, supported by the dedicated vocational facilities that provide meaningful and realistic opportunities for their learners.
Currently, the school delivers NCFE CACHE Level 1 Award in Caring for Children and NCFE CACHE Level 1 Award in Preparing to Work in Adult Social Care, which helps their learners experience the world of work within their own supportive setting and prepare throughout their education for adult life.
We spoke to Miranda Stone, Vocational Teacher of Health and Social Care at Combe Pafford School, to find out how providing our courses has helped their learners.
Who are your learners at Combe Pafford?
“My learners range from Year 10 to Year 14, and I have 3 different cohorts of different ages. Each learner has an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) which details their particular needs within education and provides us with insight into the support that is required for them to succeed. Each learner has a keen interest in working with young children and/or vulnerable adults, and they all need differentiated tasks to enable them to learn.”
Why did you choose our NCFE CACHE qualifications?
“We have several learners with ASD – these learners often need clear visual structure, routine and repetition to succeed. The qualifications offered by NCFE have several underpinning themes which help our learners to retain knowledge. They are able to see each criterion and unit which provides an important visual indicator of their progress, and consequently, this increases their self-esteem and confidence.
“I like the way that the qualifications are structured. Our learners also need qualifications that can be differentiated so that they can aspire to gain the level of qualification that is right for them. NCFE offers a clear progression from award – certificate – to diploma, and this enables me to be able to plan and develop our pupils based on their own ability within the same classroom.
“NCFE provides clear and concise information on their website and their specifications are clear, well written and offer supportive suggestions of how to assess learners. I frequently use the website to look up and download general information – the proforma’s on offer are detailed and clearly explained.
“Throughout the lockdown periods, NCFE was brilliant at keeping our centre up to date with the latest guidance and this was reassuring that they were prioritising the learners’ education. NCFE is always quick to reply whenever I have emailed, and our EQA visits are professional and informative.
What is your experience of teaching these qualifications?
“Many learners completing the childcare qualifications do so as they want to support young children to grow and develop. Throughout the qualification, they learn so much about themselves and what they enjoy. I make this qualification as practical as I can for our learners, as this is how they learn. The qualifications provide ample opportunity to add practical elements, and as many learners need visual and hands-on experience to enable the learning to embed, we are in contact with local nurseries who provide a wonderful platform for our learners to see what it is like to work alongside young people.
“I have seen very introverted learners come out of their shells when working with young people – they can translate their theory into practice and vice versa to make the learning meaningful and this enables them to retain the information delivered to them. The qualification allows for flexibility in delivery, and this is essential for our learners who all have differentiated needs.”
What are the future plans for your learners?
“Our learners have gone on to study apprenticeships in childcare and we have some learners volunteering twice a week in local nursery settings to gain experience whilst completing their qualifications. One learner went on to gain a teaching assistant (TA) qualification recently and others have progressed in further education at local colleges and schemes.
"I have recently had one learner with ASD offered work experience as a TA at a local school nearby and he cannot wait to get involved and (as he says) ‘…put his knowledge to the test working with children’. NCFE qualifications ensured that he was confident in his knowledge to work with young children, and he is excited about the future!”
We also heard from an ASD learner regarding their experience of studying an NCFE qualification:
“This course is really interesting, I never thought I would learn anything like this. It is really useful information for me for the future, I thought it would be just nappies and stuff but it’s much better than that – it’s awesome!”