Making Dreams Come True
The work of the additional learning support (ALS) team in Epping Forest College
“They are all heroes – every one of them”
Epping Forest College’s ALS Team is truly a life support system in flesh and blood for the region’s learners with special educational and social needs. Each year the team of four co-ordinators led by a manager and a further 70 helpers provide classroom-based learning support for over 300 students, and learning interventions for a further 300.
For many learners, and their families, the work carried out by ALS is truly transformative. Many learners have significant difficulties to face, such as high anxiety, low confidence and low self-esteem, as well as a belief (sometimes shared by their family) that there is little or no hope for a rich and fulfilling life.
The ALS team are here to challenge those assumptions, and do all they can to create the conditions in which such individuals can thrive. Often the results are truly astounding (names have been changed to protect confidentiality):
Stephen came to the team feeling anxious, withdrawn and overwhelmed by life; now, having worked with the ALS team for a year, he works independently, makes his own requests for information and support, makes friends easily, and engages fully in social events.
Alex changed from being a shy, reserved individual who tended to isolate himself from others, into someone who independently attends sessions regularly, makes a point of approaching people, and has applied to attend the Performing Arts course at college in September.
Here’s what one parent said:
“My daughter came to the team low in confidence, without any hope for the future. The College environment is safe and welcoming. She felt safe and comfortable, and opened up to the staff, explaining the difficulties she had faced in previous educational institutions. We were astounded: we’d never heard her talk like this before, to anyone.”
And here’s an ALS Team member’s view:
“To see a learner come in at entry as a vulnerable young adult, and see them progress into confident individuals, able to stand up for themselves both socially and academically, is hugely rewarding”
The Team ethos is a 24/7 and ‘Open All Hours’ approach. Many confess even when they are not at work they never switch and they are knowing to call back in to work or respond even when they are on official leave. They are not only dedicated, but highly qualified and experienced. Between them they have over 60 years of working in this specialist field, and a range of nine specialist qualifications, including Autism & Crisis Prevention, ASD and ADHD specialist support, and counselling. They have strong advocacy skills, and are professionally well connected to all the various support agencies active within the region. If additional specialist help or support is needed, this Team will find it.
The ALS team is the net, the support and a vital part of efforts at the EFC to help our learners succeed. The working relationship, closeness and coordination between this team and the academic teams is vital for the success of our learners. It is not a day that passes by where you take encouragement and energy from seeing the impact of their superb work.
The work carried out by the ALS Team helps change perceptions of the learners, and also of their families. Both the young adult and their family may start with the assumption that living independently or having a fulfilling life, or any meaningful work, is a dream never to be realised: the work of the ALS Team will challenge, and often change, such perceptions, making what seemed to be an impossible dream into an actual reality. Truly making dreams come true.