This year for the first time ever the Phoenix Learning & Care Group as a whole have achieved ‘Investors in People’ status. Phoenix Childcare have had the accolade for a number of years but this year we opened the award assessment to the whole group and are very proud of the result.

Investors in people is a way for the executive management team to show its commitment to the staff throughout the group, to ensure that communication is clear and that everyone understands the ethos and vision of the company, and the part they play in its success.

During the assessment our assessor had access to all our staff and was able to offer valuable insight for the EMT, pointing the way to improvements from an independent and objective perspective. This is not where the story ends because we have feedback which will help us improve further.


rohanTo those that have spent time with Rohan and know him best it is no surprise that he has recently come third in a county wide literacy competition for young people in Cornwall. His short story is a dark and terrifying read which keeps the reader quite literally on the edge of their seat and holding their breath to read the next sentence!

Rohan Canavan has just completed his first year at Oakwood Court Torpoint where he has been supported and encouraged by his literacy teacher Katie Bauer to really explore his creative side and start putting some of his amazing ideas down on paper. The competition win came out of the blue in many ways because Rohan’s main focus lies on completing his first novel which will ultimately form part of a series of six books charting the lives of differing races in an otherworld setting.

A massive congratulations to Rohan who we have no doubt will have his stories in print and a miniseries under his belt before very long!

Celebrating equality and diversity in a curriculum for students on the AutisticEveryone is Beautiful spectrum with difficulties with empathy.

At Oakwood Court College in Torpoint every opportunity for advancement and learning is discussed as a whole and agreement to take part is gained from students and their tutors alike. Having applied to the emCETT Julia Tester; Head teacher at Oakwood Court College and her team were delighted to learn that they had been chosen from many applications received to take part and had been awarded a bursary to carry out a targeted piece of research on empathy and how it impacts on those who are on the autistic spectrum.

The grant was used for travel to research meetings, guest speakers, a workshop for staff and students and resources for the centre.

The team carried out a baseline empathy assessment with all students and a control group of staff. They then set out to teach empathic reactions through regular instruction, role play and practical exposure to socially, medically, sexually, religiously and culturally diverse people and groups. They reflected on each session facilitated, discussed, revised their practice, facilitated the next session and repeated the cycle. The reflection and discussion incorporated colleagues and learners views. At the end of the project they carried out a summative assessment and invited students to comment on the benefits/difficulties of the project they had been involved in.

Through analysis Oakwood believe their hypothesis that it is possible to teach empathic responses to people on the Autistic Spectrum is correct. The majority increase of scoring on the Cambridge Empathy Assessment was indicative of learning having taken place
Julia and her team believe that the responses from students and visitors/providers following interactions indicate that their students were able to use a limited social tool kit that enabled them to interact appropriately and with empathy, in a structured setting.

Analysis of this project has shown that students on the autistic spectrum are able to benefit from teaching and learning of empathy and the learning from this project will influence the future development of the whole college, encompassing the learning and teaching of empathy throughout the whole curriculum with all staff reflecting and encouraging empathy when interacting with learners both in and out of the classroom.

Of 63 organisations who took part Oakwood Court College are one of 18 who will have their research and findings published on the Excellence Gateway in early September 2014.


In February 2014, the winter storms damaged the poly tunnel at our Fairfield site and Horticulture moved to our Oakwood Site. The students have worked very hard to transform an area of lawn into vegetable beds and even produced a crop of vegetables in the first season.

Old tyres were recycled to provide an area of herbs and wild flowers, attracting bees and butterflies to the area, which will help the vegetables flourish. Next door in the lost gardens behind Camellia, the students used railway sleepers to build steps between properties, cleared paths and borders to uncover a beautiful Victorian garden. This is a work in progress and will provide relevant gardening tasks for our horticulture students. This year again a number of students have completed their City & Guilds, Level 1 certificates in Horticulture and Conservation. Well done to Tom, Hannah, Harry, Eleanore and Lewis.

Picture of the Greenhouse in the Oakwood gardens         Picture of the vegetables growing in the Oakwood Gardens


KaneKane is a very special 2 year old Labrador X who has been working with the young people and has been to several of the Homes. He is based at Bournville with his owner and he spends time with the young people who help to feed him, care for him and walk him on a regular basis. This helps them to learn responsibility and keeping to a routine, particularly those on the autistic spectrum.

Kane is used as a therapeutic and positive reinforcement. The young people enjoy spending time with him and will talk to him about their achievements, wishes and worries. Kane will often wake them up for school, play games with them or simply spend time with them which has proven to have a positive impact on the young people he works with. The young people have made pictures which included painting Kane’s paws to create paw print pictures, read him stories and taken him to the park for a game of football. He is very patient, well behaved and of excellent temperament which is vital to his role. One young person even takes Kane to agility club which has hugely improved their overall confidence!

Kane has been very well socialised from a very young age and was trained to an excellent standard by Peter and Jayne Mounsey of Ashclyst K9 Services

One young person has stated: ‘I really like Kane because he makes me happy so much and because I can trust him and he is nice to me. He knows when I am upset and he helps me.’

Another young person said: ‘I love having Kane here. Kane is great, everyone loves him.’

A Right not a Fight 17th of June 2014 hannah

On the 17th of June, Rhys and I travelled with Giselle by train to London. I was nervous at first but also excited.

The campaign was held at the Old Palace Gate opposite the Houses of Parliament. It started at 1:30 and finished at 3:00 PM.

Over 80 students and parents from 12 national specialist colleges – Darwin, Fortune, Foxes, Mount Camp hill, Nash, National Star, New College Worcester, Oakwood Court, QAC, Royal National College for the Blind, Tremor’s and Young Epilepsy .  We all wore our ‘A Right not a Fight’ t-shirts. We chanted, held banners high, handed out leaflets to passers-by and talked to the MP Geoffrey Clifton Brown who came to listen to our stories. It was a really empowering and a positive experience for everyone.

Rhys George, a student from Oakwood Court College, Devon, was at the event and said: “Going to Oakwood College has allowed me to live life to the extreme and actually make something of my life.”

London is my favourite City. I loved Big Ben and the London Eye. I loved the Restaurant for dinner. I had plain Burger and chips and for lunch I had Subway.

On 26th June 2014 we went to Barnstaple to visit out head office called Phoenix Learning and care.   We met Judith and Elliot a reporter from the local newspaper, she also took some pictures.  We met Keith Burley and Moira Storkey who were very interested in our day at London. I am really proud of myself and what I’ve achieved since I’ve been at Oakwood Court College. I think it would be great to keep all special needs colleges open.   I would love to do something like this again if I could it would be amazing!

Thursday 2Interview with County Gazette6th June 2014 saw a very important change to 2 of the Oakwood Court student’s college time table. Rhys George and Hannah Best travelled to Barnstaple to meet with Elliot Anderton a journalist from The North Devon Gazette to report on their recent trip to London to take part in the Right not a Fight Campaign.

Rhys and Hannah arrived at head office with their tutor Giselle King who also supported them to travel to and attend the event organised by Natspec in London. Elliot soon had everyone feeling at ease and asked lots of questions about the event and why the students felt so strongly about taking part. Rhys took time to tell Elliot all about his own experiences of accessing appropriate education to meet his needs and how happy he is to be at Oakwood Court College ‘where teachers listen to me which has really made my self confidence grow.’

Hannah told Elliot all about their time in London and how they had been able to visit 10 Downing Street which she really enjoyed.

After lots of questions and a photo session Elliot left with lots of information for his article and the promise that the story will be run in the next week or so. Watch this space for a link to the paper where you can read for yourself the adventures of Rhys and Hannah in London and see why we are so proud of all our Oakwood Court students and the amazing personal goals they achieve.’

Thumbs up 2On Tuesday 17th June 2014 Rhys and Hannah, two students from Oakwood Court College in Devon travelled to London to be part of the Right not a Fight Campaign at the Houses of Parliament.

The Right not a Fight campaign calls for students with a learning difficulty or disability to have the same choices that most young people take for granted, such as choosing a further education college that best meets their learning and support needs.

With the sun shining brightly and not a cloud in the sky, Rhys and Hannah were part of a huge group of young people chanting and holding their banners high ensuring that everyone could hear their combined voice. Students were able to talk with passers-by, tourists and MPs and explain why they felt the need to back this campaign and to tell their own personal story and experiences of accessing education which met their own personal needs.

Rhys was interviewed by ITV where he was keen to tell the reporter “Going to Oakwood College has allowed me to live life to the extreme and actually make something of my life” while Hannah was able to spend time with an MP and talk
through her experiences of accessing education and even getting an autograph!

After an exhausting day of rallying, holding banners aloft and even a quick visit to number 10 Rhys and Hannah returned to Devon full of news for their fellow students and happy to have been part of such an important campaign. Both students are now keen to ensure their story is heard by as many people as possible and are looking forward to being interviewed by the local papers in their area. In addition to this Hannah is doing a report of her own which will be available to read soon on this news feed.

On Tuesday 17th June, a group of students from the Dawlish and Torpoint sites attended Plympton fire station for the annual ‘Blue Light Day’. There were great fire displays and students were able to sit in the emergency vehicles and watch a dog display which they enjoyed.

Students were able to spend some time talking to the fire, police and ambulance officers, dog handlers and first aiders. They learnt plenty about what each service does on a day to day basis,what is required to work in the emergency services and much more.

DSC_0127     Demonstration from the fire crew   Students taking a picture with a policeman     Student stood with a paramedic inside an ambulance



‘Gift of the Gab’

On the 8th May, Rhys one of our first years, was invited to the National Star College for the finals of the NATSPEC inclusive skills competition. Jordan and KC were there to cheer him on.

The brief for this years competition was to create a presentation with the title ‘Talk to Me’. Although Rhys was nervous, he did a fantastic job. He presented his PowerPoint on “The different ways you can talk to me”.

Rhys engaged the audience throughout and spoke clearly and confidently.

Then it was the time for the results. “RHYS WON” the individual category!

The judges feedback was that his presentation reflected the brief well and that the PowerPoint was visually pleasing and had many different layers to it.

Congratulations to Rhys and a big thank you to Jordan and KC for supporting Rhys on his big day.

Rhys said “This was the best day of my life and it has improved my confidence a lot”.