Using skills competitions to motivate older teenagers and young adults – a guest post by Clare Howard, Natspec CEO

Clare Howard, Natspec CEO writes this interesting guest post for us about how to use skills competitions to help motivate older teens and young adults. If you work with secondary or FE students, this article is a must-read!


Clare Howard, Natspec CEO

Clare Howard, Natspec CEO

As children with learning difficulties and disabilities grow up, those responsible for designing personalised learning programmes need to find ever creative ways of keeping them motivated and engaged. The Children and Families Act and the ‘preparing for adulthood’ agenda identifies four key outcome areas – employment, living more independently, participating in the community and health and well-being – which should be reflected in their study programme.


One proven method of not only motivating students, but also linking their work to employment based outcomes, is the Inclusive Skills Competitions, led by Natspec – the membership organisation for further education providers which have specialist programmes for high needs students. These competitions – which can be run as mini personal challenges for individual students, internal group based activities, or more formal competitions between colleges- stretch and challenge participants by asking them to complete tasks in a work environment, usually timed to mimic work conditions, and using employers as judges.


In November, Natspec, AoC and World Skills UK worked in partnership to integrate five new competitions into the main Skills Show at the NEC Birmingham. Students competed in Data Processing, Carpentry, Catering, Media and Health and Social Care. Building on expertise at Derwen College and partner employers, the competitions have grown from early pilots to exploring international partnerships. We have found that Inclusive Skills Competitions, a bit like the Paralympics, can achieve a tremendous amount in changing attitudes. Employers are increasingly involved in the competitions, many acting as judges and realising just how employable these young people are. Role models from previous years are inspiring new competitors. Winning medals, or just the experience of competing, has an incredible effect on levels of self-confidence, self-esteem, motivation and pride.


The 2017 programme will grow to ten competitions, and will be one of the many resources available from Natspec to support teachers and other practitioners to implement outcome based study programmes. “Moving On” from college to meaningful destinations will also be a theme for Day 2 of the Natspec Annual Conference, which runs on March 21 and 22, 2017. There are a few places remaining at the conference, so book your place to find out how Inclusive Skills Competitions, and other specialist teaching and learning techniques, can support integration, change attitudes and enable disabled students to succeed.

Clare Howard, Natspec CEO

Find out more about Clare and Natspec here.

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