Will Simpson, student at University of South Wales, inclusion advocate and DCG Alumnus, writes about his transformational experience as a further education learner.
I enrolled at DCG in September 2015 on a BTEC First Diploma in ICT.
I did a life skills qualification as part of my GCSEs called ASDAN, so I learnt how to do things like catch the bus on my own. That made me feel confident enough to explore Derby College, and once I’d met the team, I knew it was the right place for me.
I have autism which means I need some reasonable adjustments to help me learn successfully.
Through the ‘Getting to Know College: Different Is Brilliant’ scheme, I went to transition days and had 121 meetings with the staff. The change was tough, but getting to know the teachers and putting a personalised learning plan in place really helped my confidence grow.
The Learning Support and Curriculum teams supported me to secure funding for an Education and Healthcare Plan (EHCP). As part of the funding, I was given 3-4 hours of personal support a week which gave me a safe space to work through any challenges.
They also helped me to extend my studies from two to three years. This was something that they’d never done before, so it was really exciting to be the first to try this new approach.
The flexible learning made everything more manageable and less stressful. I could choose which modules I did each year, taking things at a slower pace.
I left DCG in 2020 with a triple merit and moved to the University of South Wales (USW). It’s the home of the BBC and I’m a huge Dr Who fan so it made sense!
Moving in the middle of the pandemic was really tough and took a lot of adjusting, but USW have been great, and once again, I’ve been able to extend my degree from three to four years.
Last year I lost my mum to cancer. It’s been a hell of a year, but I’m more determined than ever to succeed. Everything I do now is for her, and it’s for me. It’s to prove that I’m still going – that’s what she’d want and it’s what I want.
It’ll feel good to leave education and to start a new adventure. I’m currently working to secure a job and a work placement with BT Openreach.
What would I say to someone who might be in a similar position to me and thinking about college? I’d say don’t be anxious. Arrange visits, talk to the team, make sure it’s right for you. You’ve got this!
Life has sometimes felt like one big form with the EHCP, DSA and PIP processes.
People like Pete inspired me. He gave me the confidence to believe in myself. He empowered me to keep learning.
Pete and the DCG team always said ‘Will, you did it all on your own!’, but I couldn’t have done it without them.
That’s why I’m determined to give back. By sharing my story and using my voice, I hope that I can show others that they can change their lives too.
I’ll get there, I always have. It might just take me a little bit longer. But there’s no shame in that.
Pete Benyon, Project, and Delivery Manager for the ETF Centre for Excellence in SEND at DCG:
“Our experience of working with Will and his family (as well as many other learners with a similar journey) has both informed us and motivated us in personalising the engagement and support of all learners. These experiences, and the invaluable generosity of our learners to collaborate with us, is integral to the success of the opportunity we have had to share inclusive practices across England through the Centres for Excellence in SEND project.
This work with individual learners, and its success, has informed our approaches in how we engage with other providers, their leaders and their practitioners in the FE community to co-design, co-create, and collaborate.
Our learners have supported us to be more successful in our sector-led work with other providers.
Our hope is that, in turn, this is supporting the FE sector to be even more brilliant and inclusive than it already is.”
Find out more about our Together we transform initiative, and view other case studies, highlighting the transformative impact that the further education and skills sector has on lives across the UK.