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College unveils new centre for people on the autism spectrum


A new and bespoke residential training facility for people on the autism spectrum has now been opened by Weston College, the first of its kind in the UK. 

The centre has been created out of the former Bay View Hotel along Weston-super-Mare's seafront, at a cost of approximately £1.5 million, and is now called Weston Bay. The aim of the facility is to provide training in Life and Social Skills and independent living skills for those on the autism spectrum. 

The centre is seen as a welcome development for parents of young people who want them to be educated in North Somerset and not at a specialist 'out of county' college. 


Weston Bay has eight bedrooms and four flats, allowing residents to get used to living away from home, manage tasks including cooking and developing their social skills. Length of stay ranges from one night to three months, depending on individual requirements, and all residents are students on Weston College courses. 

Some of these students are hoping to go on to university, but aren't confident about their ability to deal with the Social and Life skills required for living away from home. Weston Bay's individually-tailored programmes allow each student to develop their independence according to their particular needs. 

The centre itself has been refurbished to a standard suitable for people on the autism spectrum, including subdued lighting, analogue and digital clocks on the walls and minimalist decoration which promotes a low arousal environment. 

Two main rooms downstairs are multi-functional for both leisure and learning use, and each student has their own bedroom. There is an IT suite for evening study, four kitchens and a laundry and a programme of activities throughout the week. 

Weston College has an excellent reputation for its work with students with LDD. It has just received a prestigious Beacon Award for its work in the field and it is the only centre in the UK which offers their support staff a career structure which involves specialism to graduate level. In 2010 OFSTED's Special Education Needs and Review Team stated Weston College has an ‘exceptionally well qualified team’.

The College began its provision for students with learning difficulties or disabilities in 1981, with just eight enrolments.

Now there are 980 Further Education students and 57 Higher Education students receiving various levels of learning support at the College. Provision for students with learning difficulties or disabilities is classed as 'Outstanding'.

College Principal and Chief Executive Dr Paul Phillips said: “Weston College is seen as a centre of excellence for LDD provision and we pride ourselves on our professional approach. This new provision will enhance our reputation in this field enormously, and will offer a ground-breaking model of support that other colleges will surely follow.”

Rachael Bastin (Co-ordinator) said: “Weston Bay presents a challenging new venture; totally innovative in its approach to working with individuals on the autism spectrum, in a general College of Further Education. As a staff team we are excited and motivated by the results we are seeing on a daily basis. Students and their parents are keen to work in partnership with us to make a success of this provision which is aspirational for autism”.

Earlier this year the Ambitious About Autism charity highlighted a lack of accessibility to Higher Education among autistic adults. Only one in four school leavers with autism go on to further education, and 15 per cent of adults with autism have a job.

The charity's chief executive, Jolanta Lasota, said: "Less than one in four people with autism currently access further education, which is a waste of their potential and puts a strain on families. Many parents feel they are staring into a black hole when their child approaches school leaving age, because the options for further education are so limited.

“We want to give them the opportunity to be part of their community, to stay close to family and friends and enter meaningful employment."

The charity, which Weston College works closely with, has now launched a campaign - 'Finished At School' – that aims to secure more and better educational options for all young people with autism aged 16 – 25 to enable them to develop skills, gain employment, live more independently and ultimately to live the life they choose.

For more information about the new centre for people on the Autism Spectrum contact 01934 411411.

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