Derwen College wins national award for innovation

Derwen College has won a prestigious award for developing brand new technology to support students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) into work.

Student George (centre) with Neil Bevan, director of app developers Starfish Labs and Derwen College Principal Meryl Green
Student George (centre) with Neil Bevan, director of app developers Starfish Labs and Derwen College Principal Meryl Green

The residential and day college near Oswestry for young adults with SEND has partnered with app developers Starfish Labs to create a ground-breaking suite of iOS and Android-compatible apps.

The college’s ‘Digital Support Work’ project has won the Innovation Award for Technology from nasen (National Association for Special Educational Needs) in their 2020 Awards.

The ‘Digital Support Work’ project was part funded by Marches Local Enterprise Partnership Midlands Engine. It brought together a unique partnership combining digital expertise with expertise in SEND education.

The apps are designed specifically for use by people with special education needs. They include apps to help students learn to work in the college’s training hotel and Premier Inn hotels, as well as in a café or shop environment. There is also a CV Builder app which allows students to create and send their own CV, including video and photographic evidence of their skills.

Derwen College has harnessed technology with a vitally important outcome in mind: to support students with learning and communication difficulties in developing their training and employment skills. Future employment, and maximum independence, are the ultimate goal of the digital ‘Support Work’ project.

Derwen College Principal Meryl Green said:

“Derwen offers students with a range of complex special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) the teaching, skills and support to achieve employment by equipping them with the digital tools to succeed. The apps offer students greater independence which ultimately leads to increased self-confidence and a more independent way of working and living.

“We are very pleased that our continuing work on this unique project has been recognised with a nasen award.”

Neil Bevan, director of app developers Starfish Labs, said:

“We are delighted to be working on this project with Derwen College as it presents us with design and development challenges in building effective tools to benefit people with learning difficulties and disabilities which are really making a difference to the students’ lives and employment opportunities.

“It’s been a great collaborative effort including research and development to identify student and employer needs, and how the students interact with different learning methods in the apps.

“I’m delighted to be part of a project that has won nasen’s Innovation Award for Technology. We’re looking forward to developing the apps further with Derwen College, to take them into other colleges and employers, both in the UK and in exporting British educational tech expertise in overseas markets.”

Professor Adam Boddison, Chief Executive of nasen, said:

“We are delighted that Derwen College has been awarded nasen’s Innovation Award for Technology and want to recognise their incredible and innovative achievements.  We want to share our thanks to Derwen College and Starfish Labs. We are proud to spotlight their work and best practice to benefit the education and SEND sectors.”

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