Sheffield college powering the next generation of Olympians
From learning to live independently to competing in the special Olympics one Sheffield college is transforming education for people with learning difficulties and disabilities
Landmarks Specialist College focuses on what learners want to achieve and then creates bespoke Pathways to help them get there. The college is nationally recognised for its ability to transform the lives of its learners.
Whether it is learning life skills, pursuing further education or overcoming employment barriers, specialist staff support learners every step of the way.
“Landmarks is unique because we truly focus on developing programmes of study that meet our learners’ individual needs,” said principal Larry Brocklesby.
“We focus on those learning priorities which when mastered, will enable learners to achieve their longer-term ambitions.
“We have created a number of exciting, practical learning environments that allow learners to develop skills while undertaking activities that don’t rely on academic ability, but require skills such as dedication, perseverance and satisfaction in doing a task to the best of your ability.
“Landmarks compliments these curriculum activities and initiatives by applying qualifications where necessary.
“We are proud to say that as a result of our individualised, practical approach all of our learner progress onto positive destinations, having enriched weekly activities, made friends or secured employment.”
‘We want to know where our learners want to be’
All learners at Landmarks have a pastoral tutor who works with families, employers and colleagues to ensure their progress is tracked and celebrated.
“Landmarks begins at the end,” said Mr Brocklesby.
“We want to know where our learners want to be at the end of their time with us and plan from there.
“This approach enables the college to create programmes of study and support around the individual.”
‘Landmarks has helped me feel more confident’
Rebecca had attended mainstream education before starting at Landmarks in September 2016.
Unfortunately, her time at school had been very difficult and she endured years of bullying.
She was initially withdrawn, quiet and unable to give eye contact with any of her peers or support staff.
However, she always had a keen interest in horses so much of her timetable was developed around this passion.
Rebecca worked hard handling the college’s horses, completing her Horse Care Level 1 qualification and developing her self-esteem.
When she started her second year she had developed the skills to take on a Supported Internship at Handley Equestrian Centre where she excelled.
Recently she has started to compete in the Special Olympics and is now working as a weekend animal technician at the college.
She also volunteers during the week, working with the current learners during their Horse Care sessions.
“Landmarks has helped me feel more confident about talking to people, I am not as shy as I used to be,” said Rebecca.
“I love working with the animals and I’ve always wanted a job in animal care.”
Learning ‘life-changing’ skills
Landmarks offers five main pathways – Life Skills, Community Learning & Development, Further Education, Employability and Work Based Learning.
The Life Skills Pathway is designed for learners who have complex and profound needs.
A specialist team of speech and occupational therapists works alongside teachers and support assistants to help learners.
“Our Life Skills Pathway provides opportunities for our learners to develop their functional communication skills so that they learn to say what they want regarding decisions and activities,” said Mr Brocklesby.
“For many learners, learning to communicate wants and needs, share activities with peers, follow routines and make choices about what they would like to do, with confidence and certainty is a life-changing skill and one which can lead to many more opportunities for them in life.
“The Life Skills Pathway has supported many learners to move from isolation in their own home, to accessing their local community, to making decisions about things they would like to happen and to enable them to access day services or higher-level learning having mastered new levels of confidence.”
‘Being able to access the community is an essential part of life’
The Community Learning & Development Pathway was set up for people who find the idea of a traditional college difficult, allowing learners to access their local communities and providing them with the key skills in preparing for adulthood.
“Over recent years we have noticed a number of learners, when they come to us, have significant anxieties about accessing college or their community and as a result spend no time outside of the family home,” said Mr Brocklesby.
“We recognise that in order to move forward, being able to access one’s own community is an essential part of life.
“We therefore work with families and learners to provide educational opportunities that help learners progress from the home environment into their local community.”
Learners can also follow the Further Education Pathway which allows them to explore a number of vocational and practical subjects.
‘I now feel a sense of purpose’
The Employability Pathway helps learners develop practical skills and knowledge while Work-Based Learning is available for those who do not like accessing a classroom environment.
Mohammed started at Landmarks on a School Link Pathway when he was 14.
He initially struggled with the different learning environment, was reluctant to attend and could not see what benefit he would get.
To help him settle into a different learning style a bespoke pathway was created which included Mohammed joining the college’s maintenance team.
He quickly started to show more interest and interact with other learners.
Staff also noticed he thrived when given responsibility and he began to help his peers with their targets.
Mohammed expressed an interest in becoming a learning support assistant and started on the Employability Pathway.
He is now working two days as a learning support assistant and spending one day a week accessing English, maths and Employability sessions.
“I’ve developed so many new skills since starting at Landmarks College,” said Mohammed.
“I now feel a sense of purpose and feel I can help others.
“I’m looking forward to starting work and will hopefully gain full-time employment.”
Overcoming barriers to employment
Landmarks has a number of facilities designed to give learners hands-on experience in their chosen industry.
The Archer is a fully-operational pub in Rainworth, Mansfield, and offers a unique training environment.
Unlike traditional hospitality and catering courses, learners spend 100 per cent of their time at The Archer, engaging with customers and colleagues while also gaining qualifications.
One hundred per cent of Archer learners have got jobs after following their programme.
To support learners who are finishing their time at the college, Landmarks also has a supported employment agency, Wayfinder Recruitment.
“We are dedicated to supporting people with learning difficulties and disabilities into employment,” said employer engagement manager Brian Harrison.
“Wayfinder Recruitment aims to help people with additional needs and disabilities overcome barriers to employment.”
‘I am proud of what I do’
James started at Landmarks in September 2017 on the Further Education Pathway.
He had no specific vocational aim but knew he wanted to work.
Throughout his first year he worked hard to develop his functional skills and participated in work experience placements.
In September 2018 James progressed to the Employability Pathway and is now on a Supported Internship at Sainsbury’s.
He attends the supermarket two days a week supported by his job coach.
James initially needed prompts but is now able to carry out tasks with minimal support and has also been working on travelling independently.
“I love Landmarks and going to work, I am proud of what I do,” he said.
Landmarks Specialist College
Landmarks Specialist College has facilities in Mansfield, Rotherham, Sheffield, Dronfield and Nottingham.
According to feedback, 100 per cent of parents feel it meets the needs of learners and would recommend the college to a friend.
To find out more visit their website.