Tag: NATSPEC

Hear us Roar – Right Not a Fight

If you have been following my musings for quite some time you may remember that I had the pleasure of attending the Natspec Student Conference way back in December.

Since then Natspec’s campaign to give choice to young disabled people in education has grown into a rather stunning campaign called ‘Right Not a Fight’.

The title (of course) is referring to the battle which many young people have to go through before they can gain funding to get into specialist colleges. I loved the december conference and I was honoured to be a part of the group which coined the phrase ‘Right not a fight’. On tuesday I headed out with a group of students from my college to the capital to take part in a protest with Natspec outside parliament.

The day started bright and early and myself and friend T found ourselves to be the only two students to travel the four hour journey in the car rather than the minibus with the others. The minibus goers bided us farewell and began the journey, while staff member and driver K was still contemplating where on earth we were going to put the umpteen lunch bags we had been left to transport. Encased in egg sandwiches with a distinct absence of cool bags on one of the hottest days of the year, we were off.

Within college, marketing is somewhat a mystical department. We see very little of the staff there apart from when they appear at college events to snap a few photos. With only a vague idea of where they actually worked on the campus it was really nice to get to know K and L. We had some crackers of conversations on the long drive down including; comedy nose breaking, mockery of Nick Clegg’s tweet announcing his love for apple crumble and a lot of staff/student myth busting.

It’s relatively rare that staff find themselves trapped in a vauxhall with a dog, two students and many heat festering sandwiches so K and L appeared to use it as a student/staff ice breaking exercise. As the hours ticked by myself and T kept a close eye on a very suspicious looking cheese and pickle sandwich that in the heat appeared to be haemorrhaging chutney- it was our version of a barometer throughout the day.

On arriving in London and being presented with our ‘Right not a Fight’ t-shirts we went in search of a cafe and a toilet. To get accessible facilities we ended up going through airport-like security to use the ones in the House of Commons. We felt very privileged, and in the Foyer I met a group of small children who asked me if Noodle the Guide Dog was an MP. “Yes she is” – I replied with a smile. Apologies to the parents who likely later had to explain to their child that dogs, bow-tie wearing or not, cannot be members of parliament.

We were meeting on Old Palace Yard, Westminster and though we were strictly prohibited from using ‘Noise Producing Objects’ myself and T decided to take the risk and bring out our ukulele and Guitar. If I was to be asked previously what I thought the first time I performed in public would be like, I would have never have guessed it would be singing ‘Roar’ along to my ukulele in front of the House of Commons. Several MPs popped over the road to see us, and now that the noise rule had been well and truly demolished the group began to chant too. Other colleges who are members of Natspec were there also and it was lovely to catch up with people from the December conference and meet new friends too. My personal highlight of the day had to be meeting a charming young man called L who I communicated with through Makaton. I have been learning makaton since september, but this was the first time I had used it in real life. He was lovely and even told me about his pet cat.

Many photos, videos, chants and renditions of ‘Roar’ later we were back on the road. It did feel like we had been travelling for an awfully long time for just an hour and a half protest, but it was completely worth it. On the way back myself and T reflected on what our college has done for us, and how close the campaign is to our hearts. L and K joked that they should have had a dictaphone running to take quotes from us. Overall it was a fantastic day and I of course will be supporting Natpsec 100% as this campaign flourishes.

Myself and T playing our instruments and singing  The campaign group of all the students from different colleges and the staff


NATSPEC Student Conference

On tuesday I had the pleasure of being part of the group representing my college at the NATSPEC student conference. NATSPEC is the Association of National Specialist Colleges and it works to connect and support all the specialist colleges in the country. The conference was set up to give the students of the colleges a chance to give their opinions on the specialist education system and to meet each other.

Unfortunately getting into a specialist college isn’t as easy as enrolling in a mainstream school. Funding needs to be granted from the local authority for a student to be educated elsewhere, and a case needs to be made for why the funding is necessary. The funding application process is long and stressful, and a lot of hard work needs to go into it. This is something that every student at the conference had to face to get to their specialist college, and why NATSPEC are working to change the system for the better to give more young people the opportunity to benefit from specialist education. The new Children and Families Act is due to change the specialist education system again, and it is important that the views of the people it will effect are shown now.

The conference was held at the very impressive  National Star College near Cheltenham. The day started with introductions and we were put into groups with a few representatives of each college per table. On our table we were sharing with some lovely staff and students from Derwen College who we quickly got chatting with. The activities involved writing down our answers to some set questions on large pieces of paper. They covered a range of topics- from what we would recommend about specialist colleges, to what NATSPEC should do to improve the current system. With each question came very valuable discussions and ideas began to fly. Everyone on the tables, both staff and students, were passionate about the fact that specialist education is vital and needs to be protected and made available for more young people. As funding gets more and more difficult to obtain for prospective students the more these colleges struggle to stay open. I had never really thought about the effects of the funding system on the colleges themselves, and it was a real eye opener to hear about it. All over the room I could hear words like ‘Life changing’ and ‘Independence’ being used and so many more positive words being scribbled in big letters on each group’s sugar paper. It breaks my heart that every year so many young people get denied these opportunities because of the harsh funding process.

When asked what I would say to someone thinking about going to a specialist college I replied: “You can stop worrying about your disability and start learning and living.” and I mean it with all my heart.

It was an amazing day and NATSPEC is now in the process of planning it’s new campaign using the ideas students gave. You can read more about NATSPEC here, and see my thoughts on my personal move to specialist education here. I’ve seen the way specialist education can change lives, and I think it is something that we should definitely be fighting for.