Last week, on Friday, 17th February 2023, Coleg y Cymoedd opened the doors of its Nantgarw campus to experts in the field of inclusive education, as nearly 800 of its staff gathered for a specialist training day: Festival of Inclusion.
The list of world-leading guest speakers featured Dr Pooky Knightsmith, Pete Wharmby and Esther Barrett, who delivered over 30 ‘sign-up’ sessions to staff on the day. Areas of focus included: Dyslexia, ADHD, Autism, Deaf Awareness, British Sign Language, Assistive Technology, Challenging Behaviour and more. This extensive provision meant that staff members did not have to miss out on topics that most closely aligned to their area of work or appealed to their own professional development.
The fastest-filling slot was a 9.30am presentation by former British and Irish Lions rugby player, Lee Byrne, who delivered an eye-opening account of his life living with Dyslexia. The inspirational figure moved to breakdown assumptions of studying with additional learning needs, and was clear on the help he wishes he had received whilst in school.
In between seminars, staff made use of computers set up in private booths to complete online learning programmes focused on strategies to build inclusive environments in education and the workplace. Also on hand were key partner organisations including Learning Disability Wales, South Wales Police and Public Health Wales, who hosted ‘drop-in’ stands to offer specialist guidance to those who requested it.
Cymoedd’s Festival of Inclusion, which has affectionately become known amongst staff as ‘Inclusion Fest’, is the first training event of its kind in Further Education in Wales. Its inaugural event aimed to equip staff with the necessary skillset ahead of September 2023’s implementation of the Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Act in Wales.
The Act will help young learners with ALN reach their full potential by overcoming barriers to learning, ensuring a consistent approach to ALN provisions and a protection of the rights of all children, regardless of the extent of their needs.
The Festival of Inclusion is set to be repeated to keep tutors and support staff abreast of the latest policy changes for education in Wales, and to provide access to the best practice when it comes to creating an inclusive environment for all learners.
Commenting on the importance of the training offered on the day, Dorian Adkins, Head of Inclusion & ALNCo at Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “Around 20% of all learners who apply to study at Coleg y Cymoedd disclose a learning difficulty or disability, and some of these learners will need support from our Additional Learning Provision.
At Coleg y Cymoedd, we are committed to providing the best support possible for our learners, and part of that is ensuring that Inclusivity training is useful and engaging across all departments. Alongside the sessions for academic and learning support staff, we ran “Recruiting a Neurodiverse Workforce” for our People & Culture team and “Making Information Easy to Read” for our business support staff.”
He went on to say: ‘The event has been the first of its kind for FE providers in Wales. The overwhelming engagement and feedback that we’ve had from staff is a testament to their commitment in providing inclusive learning environments for learners with additional needs.
I’d like to thank all of the amazing guest speakers, the charities and organisations who gave their time to offer advice on inclusion and of course all of the amazing staff at Cymoedd for their involvement. Our learners will benefit so much from this.”
Rhondda Cynon Taff
Heol y Coleg
Rhondda Cynon Taff