The commitment to equality and diversity at Dudley College was demonstrated recently when the college hosted a conference 'Action on Autism', showcasing the findings of a 6 month research project funded by the Learning and Skills Council. Over 100 delegates from all areas of education and support organisations, including parents and students were invited to the event.
The purpose of the project was to investigate the needs of people on the autism spectrum and the barriers they face both in accessing and completing educational programmes in further education. Students from local schools, mainstream colleges and specialist colleges contributed to the research, through either individual or group interviews, or by completing questionnaires.
The event was opened with a keynote address by the Principal, Lowell Williams, who highlighted the significance of the research project not only for the college but also for the region and beyond. Dissemination of the research findings followed, presented by lead researcher Nick Chown. The three workshops on the themes of 'Transition from School to College' by Diane Hanke of the Dudley Autism Outreach Service, 'Practical Help for Teaching and Learning Practitioners' by Neale Pilkington and Mark Carter of the Dudley Autistic Support Group, and 'Autism in FE: The Strategic Imperative' by Nick Chown were well attended and received by delegates.
Lowell Williams commented about the research: "Being able to gain such valuable insight into the particular difficulties that people on the autism spectrum face is hugely helpful and we are grateful to the LSC for funding the research. As a result of the findings, many of our staff have been trained to better understand the implications for learners in the classroom and how to support them effectively".
The report 'Removing barriers to learning for students with autism in further education' will shortly be available on the college website. Anyone wishing to know more about the project and its findings should contact Maria Staikopoulou, the college's equality and diversity officer, on 01384 363278.