New £1m ‘Futures Centre’ for Shrewsbury College and Severndale Specialist Academy opens

  • Date Published: Tuesday, 11 Nov 2014
  • Departments: Cross College,

The first purpose-built sixth form for students with learning difficulties and disabilities has opened at Shrewsbury College this week as part of a joint venture between Severndale Specialist Academy and the College.

The £1million project was funded by the Education Funding Agency and money from Severndale Specialist Academy. It will bring up to 80 students aged 16 – 25 a range of work-related learning activities and valuable real-life work experience to help them gain employment, as well as the ‘College experience’.

Students were involved in a consultation about the plans and had input into the design. The outdoor areas, which include an Observatory and Stargate, specially designed by Mike Russell, of Design with Nature, an RHS Gold Award Winning Garden and Landscape Designer, will be used for learning and recreation.
At the vocational learning centre, students will be taught by teachers and specialist tutors. Each workshop will have a different focus in order for the students to create produce and set-up enterprises including ceramics, jewellery, candle and soap making, textiles and printing.

There is also a garden so students can grow a variety of organic produce for use in the catering kitchen and café that will be open to the general public on a daily basis from January, with a few events in the run up to Christmas. The menu will be developed by students and based on what they have grown both at the centre and at Tickwood Farm Much Wenlock. The students will regularly attend farmer’s markets around the county to sell their produce. New links will also be developed with local employers with a view to providing work placements. 

Chris Davies, Principal at Severndale, said: “We are delighted the centre is open and students now have full access to these innovative facilities and are based at a College campus, which has always been our long term goal.

“The reaction from the students when they came in was out of this world and they are really impressed. The building has been specifically designed for work–related learning and is not a school building. I think it will really aid the student’s learning.”

The project came about following a number of Severndale sixth form students accessing vocational courses at Shrewsbury College, which has been taking place over the course of the past two years. 

“In September 2012, a small group of students began studying Motor Vehicle Maintenance - the original plans were for the students to complete an introduction to car valeting.

“However, it quickly became apparent that the students were flourishing in this new work-related learning environment, and so they quickly progressed.  This group of learners are now undertaking entry Level 3 qualifications in Motor Vehicle Maintenance,” added Mr Davies.

Principal of Shrewsbury College, Steve Wain, said: “This project is about breaking down barriers and will see students with learning difficulties and disabilities, from a range of subject areas getting work experience, volunteer work, and where possible qualifications.

“The students will mix across the College and be able to enjoy the ‘whole College experience’ accessing the new Student Learning Centre and new Student Zone to chill out, study or eat and using the sports facilities.

“The project will enable students who need access to subject areas within the College to get it and likewise any of our students who need more help with some subjects can now access this. It’s collaborative working and will enable important educational dialogues to be opened.”

For more information about The Futures Centre please call Severndale Specialist Academy on 01743 281600.

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