2021 Awards

The 2021 Awards were the second year of the Natspec Awards. We added two new categories, one aiming to specifically reward the work colleges had done on home learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The winners were announced in a glittering virtual ceremony as part of Natspec’s 2021 online conference week.


The winners of 2021’s Natspec Awards were as follows:

Innovative Use of Technology: Bridge College

Pathways into Employment: LEAP College

Student Voice: Sense College

Wellbeing and Mental Health: Eat That Frog

Inter-disciplinary Working: Portland College

Partnership Working: Linkage College

Curriculum Innovation: Orchard Hill College

Home Learning: Ambitious College

You can read more about the winning entrants and the rest of the shortlist over on the Natspec website.

Awards Webinars

All the winners of the 2021 awards were invited to present a webinar sharing the practice they won an award for. Recordings of the webinars are available on our YouTube channel.

Ambitious College: A silver lining approach to Home Learning

At Ambitious College, who have a large percentage of non-verbal learners, there was some apprehension as to how inclusive a home learning approach could be. Throughout lockdown and the home learning period, teaching and therapy staff at Ambitious College utilised a combination of learning resources and teaching methods that engaged 83% of learners in daily learning. Iestyn Withers, employment specialist at the college, explains how a home learning strategy with a focus on daily living supported learners to maintain their education, progress in their learning, and transfer their knowledge, learning and skills to environments outside of college.

Bridge College: Integration of a QT Humanoid Robot: Removing barriers to learning for learners with autism

At Bridge College, a QT Humanoid Social Robot (QT Robot) supplements existing teaching methods to enhance the social interactions, communication skills, levels of engagement and mental wellbeing of learners with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Many learners have engaged with the robot for prolonged periods of time in comparison face-to-face interactions. Jeremy Hoare, Assistive Technologist, and Jeremy Swinn, Assistant Principal, describe the college’s work trialling the robot software and will explain how the introduction of the QT Robot is having a positive impact.

Linkage College: Live, work, enjoy and thrive: a blueprint for a whole-area approach to partnership

Linkage Community Trust and partners have pioneered a model of partnership working that is now being used as a national exemplar by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The model is based on an original project that developed educational provision and community involvement, alongside heritage restoration. This was the first time the HLF had worked with a learning disabilities partner as well as a County Council; City of Lincoln council. Martin Shelton, Principal of Linkage College, explains how this whole-area approach has created a new college campus in Lincolnshire to address gaps in provision for young people aged 16-24 with SEND, restored a local park and developed work-related learning and employment opportunities for learners and local people.

LEAP College: Peer support and empowering young people in their career choice

LEAP College offer learners a variety of opportunities to give young people a choice about their careers. Peer support is provided with Alumni students attending post-16 coffee mornings where they talk to current students. The college also provides impartial careers advice from an external careers organisation. The college offer Level 3 Access to HE pathways, supported internships, apprenticeship and university opportunities. One former student has been employed as a teaching support assistant. Julliet Doherty, Head of Education at LEAP, will explain how the college supports student aspirations and goals as they move into employment.

Eat That Frog: Improving mental health through community links: from dog-walking to meal deliveries

The multi-stranded wellbeing programme at Eat That Frog isn’t ‘one size fits all’, but holistically tailored to each learner. Young people have been involved in a range of individual activities targeted to their own interests and needs that have strong links to the local community. This has provided them with opportunities to do things with and for others. Practical activities and online modules have been part of the programme. Emma Seaman describes how the organisation’s strong links to community projects has improved the mental health and wellbeing young people they work with.