Sowing the seeds for success at RNC

Ben and Ewan are in the RNC garden in front of a pond, they are standing either side of a big metal fence post, both holding onto it wearing their gardening gloves. In front of them there is a wheelbarrow with various pieces of gardening equipment in

Here, at the Royal National College for the Blind (RNC), we recognise that all of our students are individuals, for some sitting in a classroom is not always the best way to learn. Our vocational courses are more flexible and suit the differing needs of our learners. The ASPIRE Programme (Achievement for Social, Personal and Independence, Responsibility for future Employment and/or Education) enables students to develop core skills such as team work, communication, number and measure, with the emphasis being on embedding these skills through a regular work placement. Students Ben Davidson, 16, and Ewan Waker, 19, have a placement every Thursday with Grounds Staff at RNC, Gerry Reynolds. They undertake lots of practical tasks including building fences, planting trees, trimming hedges, sawing wood and using tarmac to fill potholes, to name but a few.


Ben, from Plymouth in Devon, had always wanted to be a fireman, until he was in Year 8 of school; a car accident meant that his eye had swollen and during an eye appointment it was discovered that he had the inherited eye condition RP (Retinitis Pigmentosa), where he has tunnel vision. The condition also affects his three brothers and his mother! The leading charity within this area, RP Fighting Blindness cites difficulties with night vision and peripheral (side) vision as the first things that are noticed. Later, reading vision (detailed vision), colour vision, and central (straight-ahead) vision are affected.


ASPIRE Teacher Laura Vickers, explains “Gerry is great in taking account of Ben and Ewan’s visual impairments, while trying to get them to do as much for themselves as they can. He spends a lot of time explaining things and teaching them real work ethic, mindful of doing things the right way. They’re trusted, with supervision, to use a range of power tools in the course of their work, where they can demonstrate what they’re good at and understand how this relates to what they’re learning in the classroom. It’s a real job, in a real work environment which gives them a sense of responsibility for their own learning.”


Ben goes on to say “I have always been an outdoorsy person so have always liked the idea of working outside. I get on really well with Gerry; he’s so funny and good at what he does. The placement is a lot of hard work but I’m really enjoying it and learning a lot.” Regular work based learning has reinforced Ben’s aspirations of working within a horticultural environment and he is looking forward to spending RNC’s work experience week in February with the National Trust.


With all the skills he is learning with Gerry, Ben is able to take some of those skills home, “I try and help my mum and dad out as much as I can and it’s tough being away from home, if my dad’s ill then I wish I could be there but he thinks that it’s good for me to be here. My whole family have been so supportive since I left home, I miss them a lot but we know that this is the right place for me. It takes me a while to get used to people but I have become a lot more confident since being here.”


If you’re interested in finding out more about studying with us, please view the courses available at RNC or give our Student Enquiries team a call on 01432 376 621.


If you may be able to offer a placement to one of our students, either on a regular or one off basis, please speak to our Work Placements Coordinator, Linda Hellyer, on 01432 376 621.


Article written by Bik Lee, Digital Media Officer at RNC


Work experience video;
Watch the video below to hear more from a student, an employer and our Transitions Coordinator about the benefits of offering work placements, both for the student and the employer.


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