A specialist local college is delighted to have won a national award for an innovative partnership forged with a local film company who share the College’s ambition for people with special educational needs and disabilities.

Derwen College, near Oswestry, recently won the Natspec award for Innovative Partnership Working. The award was for the mutually beneficial partnership with film-making company Rocking Horse Media. Oswestry-based Rocking Horse use areas of Derwen College as the location for their pilot television comedy/drama with an inclusive theme. They also provide meaningful work experience and industry information to students and supported interns.

With a shared vision for promoting inclusivity in the workplace and on screen and stage, Derwen College students have been able to access unique experiences from this partnership. Well-known actors work directly alongside the students, including former Blue Peter presenter Peter Purves, Doctor Who and Skins actress Annette Badland and Doc Martin’s Ian McNeice.

Rocking Horse Media have also delivered workshops on continuity, acting and directing as part of Careers Week.

Rocking Horse founder Gareth Thomas is an Industry Champion for the college’s Performing Arts Pathway. He freely gives his time to judge talent shows, provide students with professional acting headshots, and videoed and photographed College events, such as the annual Christmas and Summer Shows.

Derwen College Supported Intern Anna Redding started a regular work placement with Rocking Horse as a runner and has progressed to acting, writing and even producing. Director/ scriptwriter Gareth has supported Anna to write and produce her own short film, based on her personal experience of short-term memory loss.

Anna says: “I really enjoy my internship with Rocking Horse Media. I got to be a clapper at one point which was really exciting because I’ve never got to use the clapper before. I have also acted as a background actor.”

She’s also learnt transferable work skills. She says: “I’ve learnt that you have to be professional even if you are stressed. You have to be patient with different people.”

Rocking Horse Media supported Anna to create her own short film on short term memory loss condition (which she has), and introduced her to many industry professionals. They supported her to feature on a radio interview as well as securing her future work experience when she leaves us this summer.

Natspec, which represents specialist colleges across England and Wales, announced the winners of the Innovation Awards during a virtual ceremony, with the trophy presentation taking place at Natspec’s National Conference on 13 June.

Gareth Thomas said: “Being autistic myself, Rocking Horse Media has always championed itself on being a neurodiverse supporting organisation, working with people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds.

“Getting to produce our care home drama series TV project, which champions the SEND community, right here at a renowned specialist College, with students with SEND involved on our set, both on and off camera, was the perfect marriage between both organisations. We will continue to support Derwen College in any other aspect that we can out of recognition for that.”

Derwen Performing Arts lead Jessie Vaughan explains the College partnership with Rocking Horse Media.

“Rocking Horse Media have had a massive impact on the Performing Arts pathway over the past year or so. With their consistent support and ideas they have provided our learners with a range of experiences which include question and answer sessions, headshot workshops, careers talks, filming and editing our departmental shows to name just a few.

“Rocking Horse Media have not only provided our current cohort of learners with memorable opportunities, they have also offered work experience opportunities to recent and older graduates.”

If you would like any more information around our Performing Arts Pathway, or other pathways at the college, please visit www.derwen.ac.uk.

Caption: Performing Arts teachers Tara Edwards, Aimee Ingham, Opal Trevor and Jessie Vaughan, supported intern Anna Redding, Rocking Horse founder Gareth Thomas and Work Experience team Abi Baker and Natalie Martin.