Students at Meadowgate in Wisbech are winning at life

A Meadowgate School student carrying out work experience at the motor vehicle workshop

A Meadowgate School student carrying out work experience at the motor vehicle workshop - Credit: Archant

A BLOG BY Emma Bird, sixth form coordinator at Meadowgate School, Wisbech. Isn’t it amazing how just one TV show can get the nation talking?

Meadowgate School studenst with the Bramley Cafe delivery trolley

Meadowgate School studenst with the Bramley Cafe delivery trolley - Credit: Archant

The trials and tribulations of Anne Hegerty in ITV’s I’m a Celebrity caused a media storm last week as she revealed that she has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism.

Suddenly we are reminded that successful TV personalities are human too and deal with having additional needs like so many of us.

There has been a definite shift in the public’s perception of additional needs, whether it be physical disabilities such as Lauren Steadman, the champion para-triathlete currently in Strictly Come Dancing, actress Liz Carr playing Clarissa Mullery in Silent Witness, to learning disabilities and autism.

Who can forget the love shown for Robert White, the comedian who was the runner up and Lost Voice Guy, the winner of Britain’s Got Talent 2018?

Meadowgate School studenst with the Bramley Cafe delivery trolley

Meadowgate School studenst with the Bramley Cafe delivery trolley - Credit: Archant


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More and more people in the public eye have additional needs, which can only be a good thing for breaking down those barriers of ignorance and prejudice seen in the past.

These people are achieving success, they are champions, they are aiming high and scoring, they are not afraid to be seen for who they are. It is proof that disability and having additional needs are not barriers to success.

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I would like to highlight the achievements of the young people who attend Meadowgate Academy, a local school for special educational needs and disabilities.

The school has 170 students aged from two to 19 with a range of needs.

Meadowgate School studenst with the Bramley Cafe delivery trolley

Meadowgate School studenst with the Bramley Cafe delivery trolley - Credit: Archant

A third of the students have autism.

Contrary to the negative connotations that a label of special needs usually produces, these young people are winning at life and could have a bright future ahead of them.

Many residents in Wisbech are unaware that the Academy exists, much less know anything about the fantastic young people that study there.

We have a coffee shop on site, called Bramley’s where students learn hospitality including customer service, front of house tasks, preparing hot and cold dishes in the catering standard teaching kitchen and learn barista skills.

Meadowgate School studenst with the Bramley Cafe delivery trolley

Meadowgate School studenst with the Bramley Cafe delivery trolley - Credit: Archant

They can study a nationally recognised BTEC qualification in hospitality.

Students have gone onto the College of West Anglia to continue their studies and have also found employment in local cafes.

• Our horticulture department is very actively involved with the local Wisbech in Bloom team and produce seasonal plants for sale at the Academy. The students study towards Royal Horticultural Society qualifications in the polytunnel and gardens of the Academy. Past students have gone on to study at Easton College in Norwich.

• Our motor vehicle workshop is designed to replicate a working garage where students learn to respect the health and safety elements of this environment. Students learn basic mechanics, working on a range of vehicles, studying towards an Institute of the Motor Industry qualification. Former students have continued their studies at the College of West Anglia.

Meadowgate School studenst with the Bramley Cafe delivery trolley

Meadowgate School studenst with the Bramley Cafe delivery trolley - Credit: Archant

• Over 80 over cent of the students, aged 18+ undertake a work experience placement with local companies. Last year, 14 students worked with nine local employers and did over 780 hours of work experience, 156 days of work. It leads to a change in attitude for both parties. The students succeed “in the real world”, can envisage future employment and grow in self-confidence. The employers see how someone with additional needs is able to work in their environment, can follow instruction, has a superb work ethic, is reliable, is conscientious and can become part of the team.

• In a film made by the Academy to celebrate the success of the work experience programme, local employers stated how impressed they were by the attitude and achievements of the students and how employable they were. You can see the film on the Academy’s website.

• We want to build on this success and increase the numbers of young people with additional needs playing their part in our local community working, contributing and fulfilling their potential in a society that doesn’t see the label of special needs first before giving them an opportunity to show what they can do.

• If you are an employer and would be interested in offering a work experience placement, especially in the hospitality trade, please contact the school, we’d love to hear from you.

Meadowgate School studenst with the Bramley Cafe delivery trolley

Meadowgate School studenst with the Bramley Cafe delivery trolley - Credit: Archant

A Meadowgate School student carrying out work experience at the motor vehicle workshop

A Meadowgate School student carrying out work experience at the motor vehicle workshop - Credit: Archant

Meadowgate School studenst with the Bramley Cafe delivery trolley

Meadowgate School studenst with the Bramley Cafe delivery trolley - Credit: Archant

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