Students and staff share their experiences for UK Disability History Month
Our students – and staff – are repeatedly showing how perceived barriers in education can be overcome.
To celebrate UK Disability History Month, three students and a trainee teacher talk about their experiences at Leeds City College and how, with the right support, they have excelled.
‘The reassurance, validation and encouragement of my skills and passions massively boosted my confidence, which is something I’ve always struggled with.’
Saraya Hall studied a Foundation in Further Education course, paired with art, through the college’s Social, Emotional and Mental Health provision at Somerville House.
Saraya, who is autistic, was apprehensive about returning to learning as a 17 year old after encountering difficulties in traditional education settings.
Leeds City College’s Somerville House, however, gave her the personalised support and inclusive environment that she needed to flourish. Her course helped her develop a flair for arts culture, which she went on to hone through a virtual placement with Leeds Museums and Galleries.
“Somerville House completely defied my expectations; I was given the space and support to learn more about myself and my needs in a positive light. I had the freedom to work on things I enjoyed which, paired with the high support and small classes, made for an outstanding learning experience. The staff were incredibly understanding of my needs, constantly helping me to find better ways of working and new ways to engage with subjects.”
‘I’m doing something I’m really passionate about and that is something I always wanted to do.’
Juwairia Junaid has won two major educational awards this year for being an exceptional learner, and is in the running for a third. She is studying Level 3 Preparing to Work in Health and Social Care, and hoping to become a CBT therapist.
Juwairia, who was born blind, uses a range of extra technology to pursue her studies and is accompanied around college by a learning assistant.
She described winning the first of her two Learner of the Year awards (from the NCFE, her other was from the Federation of Awarding Bodies) as ‘a win for the whole disabled community’.
“We always have to put in ten times more effort than anyone else but I think people don’t see it, and that’s the main struggle. I’m doing something I’m really passionate about and that is something I always wanted to do.
“There is a lot I’ve been through in my life and there’s stuff I still have to deal with regularly. There have been a lot of people that have been there for me, I think I just want to do the same for others.”
‘I got loads of support with my courses and the college will understand if you need to do your work in a different way.’
Levi Rowe studied a Level 3 Health and Social Care course with the college during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Levi, who is dyslexic, credits her teachers for providing lots of helpful support – especially when she switched to remote learning. She balanced her studies with her role as a Covid Ambassador for Bradford Metropolitan Council – and won a Young Citizen Award for her work to dispel vaccination myths among BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities.
“Working and studying from home helped me so much to balance everything. I got lots of support from Deputy Head of Health, Science and Social Care, Vicky Meehan, who I will never forget. Vicky would video call me once or twice a week to help me get through my coursework and support me with my dyslexia.”
‘If you’re not feeling well, mentally, it’s important to speak up about it and then you can get the right support.’
Ryan McNamee, who is living with depression, teaches sports and life skills to alternative provision students at Leeds City College’s Mabgate Campus. In 2021 he raised £1,460 for mental health charities by completing the London Marathon.
Ryan decided to sign up for the 26.2 mile run to help raise awareness of mental health issues among men and the help that is available. His efforts benefitted Leeds Mind and Andy’s Man Club. “The run wasn’t just about fundraising. I also wanted to send out a message, especially to fellow members of staff at Leeds City College, to not bottle up your emotions because that makes it worse. If you’re not feeling well, mentally, it’s important to speak up about it and then you can get the right support.
“I wanted to show, too, that when you put your mind to it, you can achieve things even if there are barriers in the way. I work with many young people who have faced individual challenges and it is nice to be able to be a bit of a role model for them, just by showing them that anything’s possible.”