Derwen College has been awarded with world-wide autism accreditation which demonstrates the college’s commitment to supporting autistic students.

The specialist further education college in Gobowen, near Oswestry, was presented with the official accreditation certificate from the National Autistic Society (NAS) at an official ceremony on 7 November.

Almost half of students at the specialist further education college for residential and day students are autistic. So, to meet the NAS high benchmark is hugely significant.

The College marked the grand occasion with a presentation from NAS Lead Assessor Jonny Knowles. This was followed by afternoon tea served by Hospitality students in the College’s The Orangery Restaurant.

Guests at the celebration included Shropshire Lord-Lieutenant Anna Turner, Shropshire
Deputy-Lieutenant Mandy Thorn, Oswestry Deputy Mayor Olly Rose, and Selattyn and Gobowen Parish Council Chair Craig Emery.

Also attending were Derwen College Chair of Governors K Kimber, Head of Quality Dawn Roberts, Derwen Autism Advisor Helen Evans, and members of the college’s Student Union Board.

K Kimber thanked Jonny Knowles for the support that he and NAS have offered to the college over the past three years.

She said: “Derwen College is 95 years old this year. In that time, we have adapted and responded to the needs of our students, working more and more with students who are autistic. We are delighted to have this external recognition.

Jonny said: “NAS is 60 years old this year and has been accrediting for 30 years. The award is recognised across the world. Our aim is to create a society that works for autistic people.

“Having spent two days at Derwen College, even staying at the College’s Hotel 751, I can say it is unique to anywhere I’ve been. We were blown away by the unique offer you have here and person-centred aspirations for students.”

Dawn Roberts thanked Jonny for his guidance and support, and also staff across curriculum and care for their hard work.

Achieving NAS Accreditation is a thorough process. The NAS team visited Derwen College, meeting with students and staff, and speaking to parents. They toured areas of accommodation, learning, work and social spaces, to ensure that the College is meeting the required standards of excellence.

The team evaluated and drafted a report on how the students were being supported in their communication and sensory needs, as well as their mental health, social skills, independence building and learning for future and employment.

The NAS report highlights students’ access to experiential learning opportunities onsite in the College’s Garden Centre and Gift Shop, Hotel 751, Orangery restaurant, Print Shop, Vintage Advantage Charity Shop and Walled Garden Café.

Adaptations have been made across the campus to ensure that areas are structured in a way that makes students feel relaxed. Adaptations to accommodation include personalised furniture, decor and lighting. Students also have access to two dedicated sensory rooms, and calm spaces within their work areas.

Derwen College Head of Quality, Dawn Roberts, said that the award was wonderful news for the College.

She said: “This accreditation demonstrates the work that has been done across college to ensure that we are doing all we can to support our autistic students.

“The project has been college-wide, combining expertise from the therapies team, nurses, teaching, sports & leisure, and care staff, as well as listening to the needs of the real experts – our students.”

The College was particularly happy with survey feedback from autistic students. More than 30 were surveyed ahead of the assessment team visit, and they unanimously said they were happy at college. Some strengths highlighted by students included the chance to meet with friends, the work experience opportunities and the support from staff. One student simply said: “I love it here”.

For more information about Derwen College, Derwen College Charity or the public Derwen Marketplace shopping and eating areas visit the website at or telephone 01691 661234.

Pictures: Grum.