A case study of Hackney Community College

Hackney Community College created an inclusive educational programme for a group of young people with learning difficulties and disabilities. 

In the hope of sharing their success, we are featuring this project as a case study and a list of top tips to help you learn from their experience. 

Hackney Community College is a medium sized educational institution located in Shoreditch, London.

The college is strongly committed to serving the needs of the community, which is highly diverse and includes many families with significant social and economic needs. 

The college has always provided courses for students with moderate learning difficulties and disabilities, but in 2009 was asked to make provision for a group of six young people with higher levels of need. 

This required a rapid transformation of support facilities and the development of a new curriculum to meet the needs of the new students. 

The tutor responsible for the project decided that the curriculum should help learners learn, live and work in their adult life by improving their ability to speak up on behalf of themselves.

The curriculum was based on a programme called Speak Up For Yourself and Your Future! developed by the Oregon Department of Education – a link to which can be found at the bottom of this page. 

The tutor then met students and developed her own set of aims and built a curriculum, lesson by lesson, to meet the specific needs of the students. 

A framework was developed for each session. Sessions would be conducted in a circle and students and staff would begin each session by sharing how they felt and why. A game would be played before the main section of the session. The main section involved a group conversation, or series of conversations, with a puppet called Jazza. The puppet helped students to communicate and to empathise. Sessions would also involve the drawing of mind-maps and smaller group work. All sessions were recorded and students would have the opportunity to watch themselves back. This helped prompt students’ memory and build confidence.

One student said the course now meant that: ‘I can tell people what I want my life to be like when I leave college.’ Another student said that each class, ‘makes me feel more confident.’

The programme has been very successful. This year, 48 learners with complex needs will attend the college.

Wanting to share with other schools and colleges, Hackney Community Colleges has suggested a seires of top tips based on their experiences, to help others develop courses that meet the needs of students with learning difficulties or disabilities:

  1. Match educational aims to learners, and continually review
  2. Take very small steps
  3. Continually recap and reinforce
  4. Use video and audio recording to prompt memory and build confidence
  5. Keep each activity short and use a variety of teaching and learning styles
  6. Keep the activities fun, engaging and interactive – use puppets, role play and games
  7. Work as a team and draw on strengths and skills of the support staff and model the behaviour you want to use
  8. Have access to a range of visual resources
  9. Although sessions are tutor led, discuss any decision about activities as a group and take every possible opportunity to making choices, listen to each other and state opinions together.

To read more about this project, download the report here. 

Download the curriculum developed by the Oregon Department of Education here. 

Files to be downloaded can be found here.