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Activate Learning wins prestigious national award for supporting SEND learners into employment

25 March 2019

Activate Learning has been recognised for the work it does to inspire special needs students into employment with a coveted education award. 

The leading education provider won the Support for Students’ prize at the 2019 Association of Colleges’ Beacon Awards on 22 March. The award recognises Activate Learning’s innovative partnership programme for young people with SEND (special educational needs and disabilities). 

Activate Learning colleges in Reading, Oxford and Banbury work with partners to improve life chances and create sustainable job opportunities for students with learning difficulties or disabilities. Since launching in 2013, the programme has supported over 1500 Berkshire and Oxfordshire SEND learners with work experience.  

Now in its 24th year, the AoC Beacon Awards showcase best practice and innovation in colleges. It is designed to promote the interdependence of colleges, businesses and professional and voluntary organisations. The awards also highlight excellence and helps share best practice across the sector. 

Activate Learning’s CEO, Sally Dicketts CBE, said “We are immensely proud to have won this prestigious national award. It is a real testament to our learners, staff, parents and partners. 

“We have put a great deal of effort not only into what our students learn, but how they learn it, and our unique Learning Philosophy sits at the heart of everything we do at Activate Learning.  

“The development of the student’s emotional intelligence is key to this Learning Philosophy and the development of personal attributes of both our staff and students is crucial to this.  

“This unique approach ensures that learner achievement levels remain high, and that we create sustainable employment opportunities for all our learners.” 

Activate Learning’s SEND students gain real life work experience either on campus at a college-run learning company, at an off-site work placement or on an external supported internship programme working towards a paid position. 

At a time when local authorities, the NHS, and social care providers are facing increased demand and funding pressures, the programme helps SEND learners with the skills they need to live independently and gain paid employment. 

Industry partners, who shape and co-deliver learning progammes, benefit through better recruitment and staff development opportunities. Organisations that take on a supported intern often report decreased absenteeism and greater job satisfaction among employees who work with SEND learners. 

A spokesperson from award sponsor RCU said: “We are extremely proud to be the sponsors of the AoC Beacon Awards, Support for Students category this year and to see first-hand the wonderful work being done across the sector. A huge congratulations to this year’s winner Activate Learning who have demonstrated an innovative and unique programme of support for their students which both enriches their learning experience and significantly enhances their outcomes and future opportunities.” 

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, added: “Each year the standard of entries is extremely high and this year is no exception. This makes choosing the winner so difficult, especially with so many worthy entrants. 

“Colleges are inspirational places to learn because education and training is delivered by expert teaching staff in industry-standard facilities. Activate Learning should be proud of their award.” 

Find out more about our SEND programmes here.