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Colleges join forces to launch new courses for young people with autism

Paul Cook, Principal of ESPA College, and Anne Isherwood, Principal and Chief Executive of Sunderland College, are pictured with ESPA student Charlie Sear at the art department at Sunderland College’s Bede campus

Two Wearside colleges are joining forces to launch a new range of vocational training courses specifically designed for young people with autism.

ESPA College (Education and Services for People with Autism) and Sunderland College will be delivering the new full-time Pathways courses for young people across the autism spectrum aged 16 to 24 from September.

Students on the Pathways programme will spend up to one-and-a-half days per week at Sunderland College working on the vocational elements of the course, which could range from engineering to hairdressing or IT.

The remainder will be spent at ESPA College working on one of four course programmes best suited to their needs, which are: Good Health, Wellbeing and Communication; Skills for Independence and Community Participation; Skills for Employment; and Independent Living and Working.

Each offers specialist autism specific teaching and learning environments, vocational and work preparation, independence skills, enterprise, work placements, social leisure and communication, and functional skills – Maths, English and ICT.

The curriculum ranges from entry level to Level 2 and is accredited by ONE Awards.

Paul Cook, Principal of ESPA College, said: “We are genuinely excited about this new partnership, which will offer young people on the autism spectrum the best of both worlds.

“From September they can enjoy a unique combination of specialist autism specific teaching and learning environments and a full vocational training experience at Sunderland College.”

Anne Isherwood, Principal and Chief Executive of Sunderland College, added: “We have been working closely with ESPA to build upon our already solid partnership and the launch of these new courses will further enhance opportunities for learners with autism.

“In close collaboration with ESPA, we are dedicated to supporting these students locally and we look forward to working with a greater number of ESPA learners at Sunderland College.”

Places on the Pathways courses are funded by a student’s local authority, and ESPA can offer advice and support on the application process.

Parents and prospective students are invited to an open evening being held at Bede Tower, Burdon Road, Sunderland, SR2 7EA, on Tuesday February 3 from 6pm to 7.30pm. To register to attend please visit espacollege.org.uk/courses or call (0191) 510 2611.



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