Ascent College students attend launch of Natspec’s ‘Unlocking potential’ manifesto 

Earlier this week, Natspec officially launched its General Election 2024 manifesto: Unlocking potential for specialist further education. 

The manifesto launch, which took place at a reception on the Terrace Pavilion at the House of Commons, invited learners and staff from across Natspec’s member colleges to meet with MPs to explain the importance of specialist further education (FE). 

Natspec’s manifesto calls for three key things: fair access to specialist FE for those learners who need it, investment in the specialist FE sector to ensure high-quality provision is available to these learners, and a joined-up approach across government departments so that young people with more complex needs have the support they need to thrive once they leave college. 

Representing Ascent Autism Specialist College at the event were students Courtney and Alicia, who joined 200 other attendees. 

Courtney, who is a Duke of Edinburgh Youth Ambassador, was keen to spread the message that all neurodiverse young people can achieve, given the right opportunities. 

Speaking on her experience, Courtney said: “Going to London for the Natspec 2024 Manifesto was a great opportunity. 

“At the event, I was able to hear students, from across the UK, about their experience in their colleges, how they were supported, and how they would want to be supported when leaving their setting. 

“There were members of parliament at the events to speak to the students and I had the chance to talk with Dr Lisa Cameron MP about supported internships and if this was a good pathway to specific jobs.” 

Courtney added: “Altogether, it was amazing to attend, to speak to members of parliament, and to share what I am doing for my future. Even just walking through the Houses of Parliament was amazing to see.”

Alicia, who is an active member of the Ascent student council, was recently selected as the college’s student careers champion. Alicia is passionate about working with the college’s employer partners, helping to provide training on how to support autistic individuals.

Both students got the opportunity to speak with several members of the Natspec team and Dr Lisa Cameron MP, who hosted the event. 

Dr Lisa Cameron MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Disability, the event was an opportunity for students from Natspec member colleges to have their voices heard and be a part of the conversation that will help shape their future education. 

Julliet Doherty, head of adult services at Ascent College, said: “At Ascent College, we are committed to delivering high-quality education that enables our students to access opportunities and experiences that support them to live happy and fulfilled lives. 

“There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to specialist further education; it is about understanding the individual needs of each student and having the tools in place to support them. 

“We are extremely proud of our students, Courtney and Alicia, who represented the college incredibly at the Natspec manifesto launch. It is so important that our students gain a deeper understanding of government policies and have their voices heard on how they want their future education to look.” 

Following the event, Courtney and Alicia were asked to share their feedback with the House of Commons staff about their experience and how the building could be made more accessible.

The college plans to share Natspec’s manifesto with students in a bid to help empower and encourage them to advocate for their education. 

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