Derwen College is a very special place. When we visited, we came away feeling proud to work in a sector that does such incredible things every single day. The college works with young people with learning difficulties and disabilities; providing inspirational learning, development and care which aims to transform lives.
Based in Gobowen, a village in Shropshire, England; Derwen College is a residential specialist college, with students attending from across the UK. It's one of the select few Ofsted 'Outstanding' colleges in the UK, an accolade they've achieved for three consecutive inspections.
On the day we visited, the sun shined in all its glory and the drive across the country near Shropshire was idyllic, with nothing on the roads. We walked on to campus and instantly got the feeling that everyone knew each other and was supportive of one another. It seemed every member of staff had a good understanding of every student and could raise praise or concern for them individually. It felt like everyone was a family. The teams were so welcoming and allowed us to explore the place in an open environment and students freely approached and chatted with us. You could just sense the college had such a handle on their learner base that there were no unknowns. As we ambled around, it was also clear how ambitious and courageous the staff were and how keen they were to find continuous improvements in everything they do.
As we continued to walk around the modern space, with its unique architecture that was landscaped and decorated with bright fauna; we got to look at the friendly learning spaces that mixed tradition with a built-for-purpose structure. Everything at Derwen College has been designed around the learners’ needs, providing them with live educational spaces and real 'working' environments such as a farm, farm shop and garden centre; providing the learners with agricultural, retail and business skills. The students even create the produce sold in the retail spaces...we were certainly very tempted by their home-made jams complete with their own creative labels for the jam jars!
In their restaurant, staffed by the students, all hospitality for our meeting was second to none. In the commercial centre, we observed students receiving the help they needed to build confidence in getting a job after college. Progress is measured continuously and the centre has created its own community - by understanding each member of staff and learner. At Derwen, every student is different with different learning requirements and needs. Every ILP has to be absolutely spot on to an appropriate level. They set goals and progression paths for every single one of their students and set achievable and challenging goals that will empower their confidence to step forward into the real world and lead independent, happy lives.
We're proud to be helping Derwen College to empower their learners to reach their full potential. We provide them with a student management system, ebs, and a self-assessment and quality improvement planning tool, Actionplan+ which provide staff at the college with the much-needed information about their students.