This blog is more about the journey that the Alexandra Centre for Further Education has made more than a personal one, but I will add something about that too. I have been subcontracted by MacIntyre since July, when I first met Natalie MacPherson and visited the centre for the first time.
It is an amazing building in an incredible setting – the whole site has been completely refurbished and a new accommodation respite centre added as well. The building work has been carried out around the college while the learners have been present which has presented all sorts of challenges that have been overcome. It is a listed building designed in the late 1960’s. In my opinion many of the best things were created in that time of radical and brave new thinking – the Alexandra Centre, the MacIntyre charity and me!
My induction was particularly memorable as Carly Murray and Laura Edwards set a great challenge for staff teams which allowed us to get to know each other and the local area. The highlight for me was our winning photo of the re-creation of the Beatles Abbey Road album cover shot. Abbey Road is a five minute walk away and we re-created the picture in fine detail, although I am not sure the local residents were enamoured by my bare feet.
The Alexandra Centre for Further Education is a unique project – the building and refurbishment is owned and was carried out by Camden. The college is an off-site provision that is part of Westminster Kingsway College. The health input is provided by Camden NHS. The students – capacity 50 but currently 33 come from Camden, Westminster Kensington and Chelsea and other local boroughs.
The students have an eclectic mixture of needs so we have differing pathways in the college based on the needs of the learner – Choice, Control and Communication is designed for the students with a profound and multiple disability, and allows them to gain some control over aspects of their lives using communication devices, switches, PECS symbols and signing.
The students with highest ability study part time at Westminster Kingsway College as well as carry out work experience in the local community and a range of options within ACFE which include subjects such as computer programming, careers and guidance education to gardening and music.
The key thing is that every student has a bespoke timetable as they are all unique and fantastic individuals.
My staff team are amazing as many of them go above and beyond for students every single day – they are fantastic and I wish I could take them with me to my new role in January.
Setting up a college from scratch is a huge task and the development of the college is still ongoing and will be continued by Coral Romain my longer term replacement who starts in January.
To mention an individual student and Great Interactions I have included a picture of James whose face tells a story of a Great Interaction. One of the subjects James takes is sensory cooking. These sessions are led by Laura Edwards and she has been really imaginative in what the students have done. Over a number of weeks they have mixed dough which James usually tries to eat. The staff had to stir the mixture for James then after about 6 sessions he picked up the spoon and stirred it for himself – the class staff could hardly contain their excitement about this progress. Whilst this to many this progress would be considered standard, for James it is fairly huge. It typifies our work – where ever a student starts they can make progress and it is all relative.
I am sure such a great staff team will continue to help all of our students make progress – it is just a shame that I will not be there to see it.
Alexander Centre for Further Education