Two students from a specialist Shropshire college stood in the National Union of Students (NUS) elections and were successfully voted on to the Further Education (FE) Zone committee which represents FE students across the UK.
Thomas Shacklady and Bethan Charles, two students at Derwen College, near Oswestry, stood against learners from mainstream colleges across the country to obtain their places on the committee.
Thomas, a 25-year-old Creative Arts student from St Helens, in Merseyside, was delighted to be voted on to the committee for the second year running. Retail Studies student Bethan, aged 20, from Newtown, Mid Wales, joins him on the committee for the first time. As representatives for the NUS, the two of them are looking forward to championing students’ rights, and providing a voice for students with learning difficulties and disabilities.
The committee is made up of nine students from FE colleges across the UK; Derwen College is the only specialist college represented on the committee. Sarah Laszlo, Learner Voice Co-ordinator at Derwen College said: “We are delighted that Bethan and Thomas have been voted on to the committee. They will now continue the work that Thomas achieved last year, and that former Derwen student Robin Ferguson was doing with NUS for the previous two years to drive forward change within the movement for students with learning difficulties and disabilities.
”They received high praise from other members who were keen to embrace their stance on inclusivity in the NUS. They are looking forward to working with the rest of the team. Congratulations to them both for all their hard work and efforts.”
Thomas and Bethan delivered their manifestoes at Zone Conference 2018 in Leeds in October. Bethan Charles explained why she wanted to be a part of the committee.
She said: “I want to learn more about NUS and how it can help students with learning difficulties and disabilities just like me! I would like to help other students who find things hard to understand and to help them feel safe. I would also like to help NUS to work with students with communication problems.
“I think I would be a good member of the committee because I am skilled in being enthusiastic, meeting new people and working hard. I want to show people how important NUS is and how it can help people.” Thomas, who is also the newly elected President of Derwen College Student Union Board said: “I would like to be on the FE Committee again this year so that I can help and support people. I can communicate with people using Makaton signs and symbols and I would like NUS to know how important this is because they can use it to help other students like me to understand what is going on.”
As committee members, the students’ responsibilities will include attending up to four committee meetings a year (usually taking place in London), and representing the views of all students. Derwen College affiliated to the NUS in 2008; since then students and staff are proud to have seen the college’s involvement in the organisation grow over the years.
Derwen College is a specialist residential college for young adults with learning difficulties and disabilities. The college has an ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted grading and is a leader within the field of specialist education in the UK.