What we did:
The Usual Place (TUP) is an award-winning values-based organisation which pushes boundaries in delivering life-changing vocational learning opportunities for employment for young people with Additional Support Needs aged between fourteen and twenty-six in Dumfries and Galloway. Trainees are enabled to gain vital skills and complete SVQs.
Throughout lockdown, The Usual Place was closed due to Government restrictions. As part of a weekly Trainee Engagement Programme during lockdown, trainees were enabled to develop their I.T. literacy skills, specifically becoming proficient in the Zoom videoconferencing tool. They learned Zoom etiquette, utilised a wide variety of tools, engaged in online training and took part in activities including a Zoom cookery lesson.
Trainees engaged with their peers and stakeholders updating them on what activities they had taken part in. This encouraged individual participation in other online and offline activities and enabled growing confidence in speaking online. One trainee subsequently delivered a presentation to Inspiring Scotland, various Autism charities and Scottish Government representatives.
Ten trainees have completed Youth Achievement Awards based on their learning during lockdown and are awaiting accreditation.
The weekly Trainee Engagement Programme has significantly reduced individual digital exclusion, promoted competency and confidence in online learning and reduced social isolation.
Who we involved:
The Usual Place’s Autism Awareness Officer coordinated and led the project in partnership with Inspiring Scotland. Dumfries and Galloway College facilitated the successful online cookery lesson. The Usual Place staff participated in the Trainee Engagement Programme, enabling young people to use their new skills to teach others.
The difference it made:
We had tremendous feedback from trainees and their families. Digital Inclusion is always important, but became vital during lockdown to access key services and reduce social isolation. One trainee said, "I enjoyed meeting people and I loved being on Zoom because I had somebody to talk to through the challenging times”.
Several trainees didn't have the confidence to access services digitally previously. One trainee wrote, “After having the training in how to use Zoom I have used it on other activities such as Music and Training. If I never had the training I wouldn’t have taken part in the other activities that I enjoy".
Trainees are now confident speaking to others online and many have taught others, further promoting their abilities. One trainee said, “I have learned that I can do more than I think I can. I love doing challenges and pushing myself in the world”.
Ten trainees have now completed a Dynamic Youth Award based on their learning and development during lockdown. One remarked: “I felt more happy and more independent”. Another said: “My confidence has got a lot stronger. I am much better at talking on the computer”.
What we will do differently in the future:
Our Trainees have demonstrated a high degree of resilience in very challenging times. Enabling the trainees’ individual achievements in I.T. literacy has provided TUP with an opportunity to develop a variety of collective and individual online approaches to learning and teaching which complement our existing face to face practice.
We identified early on that several trainees had a very low level of I.T. literacy and confidence. Trainees have gained vital digital skills and significant confidence in speaking online. Individuals are now able to present to groups online and share their skills with others and will be able to take part in future online and face to face awareness raising, presentations and training sessions we deliver.
Young people tell us that negative public perceptions hold them back as evidenced in the report ‘Scotland’s invisible people: Support and opportunities for adults with learning disabilities (University of Strathclyde)’. Our Trainees’ digital literacy achievements have demonstrated that with the right enabling approach, young people with additional support needs can achieve digital inclusion. This will in turn help change public perception.
Young People have yet again demonstrated the importance of high expectations of success, aspirational approaches to promoting ambition, and achievement in skills development.