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Scotland’s first complex needs college appoints Head of College

New Head of College hopes long-awaited opening will be “first of many”

Scotland’s first dedicated complex needs college has appointed its inaugural Head of College ahead of classes starting this month.

Liz McConnachie will take the reins at Capability Scotland’s Corseford College in Renfrewshire as it prepares to welcome its first intake of 15 students to the campus.

The new Head of College has been working to develop a sound curriculum which will support students with disabilities and whose needs can’t be met in mainstream colleges.

Liz comes with a wealth of experience in Senior Leadership in Scotland’s further education sector. She has also spent the last number of years in the Middle East having set up one of the First Female Technical Colleges in Saudi Arabia whilst working alongside its government.

She also spent time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, as senior leadership in vocational technical colleges including specialist government projects to support the development of post-16 special education vocational training, and special education needs staff skills development, benefitting hundreds of students.

Now, the new Head of Corseford College is looking forward to the first year of the Scottish Government backed specialist provision, and hopes this will enable and inspire many facilities to open around the country.

Liz said: “This college is an absolute necessity for young people throughout much of Scotland that require additional support in further education.

“While there are very admirable provisions in place in Scotland’s colleges, complex special needs are not accommodated for and we have found that many young people fall by the wayside after completing school because there is no further education provision that can directly cater for their needs.

“The government’s backing of Corseford College is welcomed and we must now demonstrate how and why similar setups are required in other parts of Scotland. The initial work we do here will amplify the need for this change in the Scottish education sector.”

Corseford College is being launched and operated by respected charity, Capability Scotland which has already invested £250,000 into the project – with a further £316,000 now pledged by the Scottish Government.

The college will open in a newly refurbished wing of the charity’s existing Corseford School Campus, near Johnstone in Renfrewshire.

Courses will focus on helping learners between 18-25 years to master literacy, numeracy and tech skills, as well as communication and interpersonal skills, health and wellbeing and adult transition. The curriculum will deliver creative experiences, physical development, and independent living skills.

A large number of specialist colleges operate in England and Wales, including 46 with a similar model to Corseford College. However, the lack of provision in Scotland has seen 51 young Scots with complex needs moving to England for specialist further education in the past five years.

Liz believes the facility will be transformational for the individuals and families who are enrolled on to the college; the college will provide tailored student support and specialised care planning as well as its curriculum offering.

Liz added: “Parents will see this as a lifeline for their kids. As a parent you naturally worry about what is going to happen to your child after secondary education, but we are offering a credible solution that will provide lifelong learning opportunities and set them up for the future.

“We hope to change these young people’s lives and give them opportunities that are not currently available to them.”

The main social hub of the college will be a student bistro, created as part of the circa £250,000 refurbishment. The campus will also offer sensory suites, a specialist hydrotherapy pool, rebound therapy using full-sized trampolines and outdoor learning spaces, including horticultural polytunnels for all-weather gardening.

It is hoped the launch of the college will help the Scottish Government to deliver on its Young Person’s Guarantee, which pledges to connect every 16-24-year-old with a job, apprenticeship, further or higher education, training or other opportunity.

The plan for Capability Scotland, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2021, is to increase to 25 students in year two’s intake. The charity already delivers exemplary care, support and education for disabled children and adults across Scotland.

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