Bik’s Blog: Is there still a need for specialist education?
“Hi, my name is Bik Lee and I’ve been working as the Digital Media Officer at RNC (Royal National College for the Blind) for the past four and a half years. The main part of my job is updating website and social media content, which means that I’m able to spend a lot of time with students, finding out what they’re up to and sharing that with their families and other potential students. My role sits within the marketing and student recruitment team which means that our team speak to young people and their families very early on when they’re thinking about coming to RNC.
Now I’m not saying that a specialist provision like RNC is for everyone. There are some young people who thrive in mainstream education where they have teaching staff who understand their needs, they have documents given to them in an accessible format in good time for their lessons, and they’re able to take part in extra-curricular activities with their peers. Unfortunately, the standard of support varies across the country and many of the calls we get from parents are when they’re frustrated that the right support isn’t being provided in school. There are often extremes where young people can be overly supported in lessons by a full time teaching assistant or they can be left on their own, waiting for work to be transcribed into a format they can actually read whilst the teacher gets on with teaching the rest of the class.
At RNC everything seems completely different to mainstream, it’s set up on a small campus where halls of residence and classrooms are on the same site. Students are encouraged from day one to be as independent as they can be, with support given at a rate that is needed for each individual student and then taken away when that student is ready. Rather than just being a number, every student at RNC is treated like an individual, it sounds so corny but it really is like its own little community here at RNC. Everyone knows everyone, the students have their own targets and goals that they want to achieve, whether that’s getting into university, passing GCSE Maths, getting a train home on their own, walking to the shop without a member of staff, making a sandwich or even making friends for the first time. There is so much support and encouragement that comes both from the staff, and fellow students who all feel like they’re in the same boat.
I suppose the point I’m trying to get at is that specialist education is about more than just getting grades; it’s about developing students as people. Sometimes people say that coming to a specialist college is excluding them from mainstream but I think. when done right, it can be a stepping stone towards going back into mainstream. At RNC, it’s a much smaller environment where students are able to develop the skills they need in a supportive environment, they don’t feel judged and they’re not made to feel different because everyone here has a visual impairment. There is a big safety net for them to fall back on if they need it. The beauty of RNC is that it’s residential so students are here all the time, not only are they learning the skills they need to be independent they are also given the time, and opportunity, to practice these skills every day. From when the students start in September, the progress they make and the confidence they develop can be seen very quickly. During their time at RNC these skills become stronger and they can be transferred to wherever they move on to.
As I type this, I am actually getting a little tearful as I’m leaving RNC this week and I know that this is the final blog I will write for this website. I can’t express what a special place RNC is, it quite literally changes lives. I will miss being part of the RNC community. I think that the word ‘inspirational’ is used far too much to describe anyone with any sort of disability but I do genuinely think that that this place is inspiring; both the people who study here and the people who work here. Everyone wants the same thing, everyone wants the students to achieve, whatever their individual goals are. I am so sad to leave but, as Dr. Seuss once said “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” I definitely will smile when I think back on all the amazing memories I’ve had and I know that there will be so many students who will leave RNC and go on to achieve amazing things.
If you are still thinking about coming to RNC, I would definitely recommend calling up and booking a tour!
For me, personally, it’s been an incredible journey and I have learned so much and achieved things that I am incredibly proud of. I created this fully accessible website we’re on now, I produced a series of really strong student videos highlighting the unique points of RNC (links to videos at the bottom of this page), I got us that coveted blue tick on Twitter and created an engaging Facebook and Twitter site where we can share all the achievements of our students. Thank you to all the amazing students, their families, and the wonderful staff at RNC for supporting me through all of this and for making my time here so memorable.”
If you want to find out how RNC can change your life, call the student enquiries team on 01432 376 621 or email firstname.lastname@example.org