Thanks to nearly £60,000 of Children in Need funding a group of Northamptonshire schoolchildren with special needs now feel more confident and better prepared for the future.

Teamwork Trust was awarded the funding 12 months ago to set up a new School Transitions programme.

The charity, which has centres in Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough, recruited former teacher John Akers as its new Transitions Officer and the project to date has supported 30 youngsters aged 16 to 18 - from Kettering’s Isebrook School, Friars Academy in Wellingborough and the special needs unit at Corby Business Academy.

John explained: “Leaving school and finding a job is hugely challenging for these young people. Over three quarters of UK adults are employed, but less than half of people with disabilities are in work. This should and must change. Young people with disabilities struggle to get work but they have skills to offer that are not always apparent to employers. They are way back in the starting blocks and too often have to work twice as hard and show twice the potential to get on the career ladder.

“Thanks to Children in Need we have been able to visit pupils in their classrooms and then invite them to one of our centres, where they join our members on the factory floor, get vocational experience and learn valuable skills. It is hugely rewarding to see these students grow in confidence and skills.”

Around one third of the students John has worked with in the last year were on the autistic spectrum. Many have social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, some have Downs Syndrome while a handful have physical disabilities including hearing loss and cerebral palsy.

John added: “We surveyed young people both at the start and end of the project and the majority told us they had more confidence about their future thanks to their time at Teamwork and over half felt they now had the skills needed to help them get a job. Almost all had started making plans for their post 16 education and training.”

Victoria Bell, Head of Learning at Teamwork Trust, said: “We can already see and measure the impact and real difference we have made in just one year – and our Children in Need funding guarantees a further two years of this Schools Transition project.

“So, we are keen to keep supporting young people during this very challenging time of transition and to also work with more young people with special needs, in more schools and colleges and to support and guide employers in Northamptonshire.”

See our short Facebook film featuring John HERE.