StarNews - Issue 16

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Welcome to StarNews for himself and communicate with others. Charlie’s parents never dreamed that he would be able to move into long-term supported living. They assumed that he would live with them and that they would have to give up work to care for him. ‘We used to fear for the future of our family, but we don’t anymore, thanks to National Star,’ said his parents.

As a charity, National Star’s work never stops. We provide support and care to young people with complex disabilities and learning difficulties 365 days a year. Our work not only impacts the lives of the young people we support but extends to their families. In this issue you will read about Charlie (page 4) who, thanks to National Star, has a bright future as a young adult in supported living. Three years at National Star has transformed Charlie from a young man who struggled interacting with people to a young man who can cook and clean

For Jack (page 12) our new long-term living accommodation in Hereford means that he will be living in his own county for the first time in eight years. That means he can see more of his family and be included in their lives. For his mum it is a dream come true. When you support National Star you are affecting the lives of hundreds of young people and their families. Not only are you enhancing the young people’s lives but bringing security and peace of mind to their families. There are so many others like Charlie and Jack who need National Star’s specialist support. Help us touch more lives. We need your generous support to help future generations. Thank you. David Ellis Chief Executive, National Star

Ullenwood Cheltenham Gloucestershire GL53 9QU Email Tel  01242 527631 National Star is a working name of National Star Foundation which is registered in England and Wales, company number 522846, charity number 220239. Registered office Ullenwood Manor, Ullenwood, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL53 9QU

Tuning into success Robert Wilkinson has his dream placement thanks to a project he did at National Star. Five students, including Robert, at National Star in Wales recorded an hour-long programme with Cwmbran-based Able Radio. They wrote scripts for the radio programme, chose their favourite music and practised recording, experimenting with voice volume, projection and speed of delivery. One of the students, who recorded the programme, uses a communication device to speak. He uses simple switches to move the cursor around. For Robert, who wants to work in the media, the project was the highlight of his year, along with being the narrator in Jack and the Beanstalk in National Star’s Eisteddfod Festival.

Robert Wilkinson in action at Able Radio

Now Robert, who has autism, attends Able Radio a day a week and works on the community radio station. ‘It was a wonderful experience for the students and an opportunity to improve their communication skills and to learn to work together as a team,’ said Joshua Fretwell, Programme Manager at National Star in Wales. ‘For Robert this experience was of particular importance because it helped him decide what he wished to do after leaving National Star. ‘It was a real opportunity for students who don’t have their own voice to show the public that they are more than able to make their thoughts and views understood through technology.’ Able Radio is a social enterprise which empowers people with disabilities by giving them the support and tools to broadcast shows. 3

Becoming his own man Charlie Watson has achieved the one thing his family only dreamed of for him – his independence. ‘I used to fear what would happen to him in the future when I could no longer look after him,’ said Charlie’s mother Kath. ‘National Star gave Charlie and our family a life.’ When Charlie, who has autism and severe learning difficulties, arrived at National Star three years ago, he struggled interacting 4

Charlie Watson

with people he didn’t know. It took him a long time to trust people. He barely spoke and was highly sensitive to noise. His difficultly in dealing with change, his limited communication and the struggle to manage his anxieties often led to challenging behaviour. When he started as a residential student at National Star his parents did not think that he would last more than a few nights.

For our family the life we have now is a life filled with confidence. Confidence to let Charlie blossom, to entrust him to others and let him be his own man

that his cautiousness and aloofness were hiding his real personality. He could appear intimidating or indifferent to others, but in reality he is gentle and very caring. Charlie is a changed person leaving National Star. He has gone from a young man who wouldn’t interact with students to performing on stage with his peers and enjoying every moment of it. His art has matured and developed with his confidence. Charlie cooks for himself, showers, shaves and dresses himself. He cleaned his flat at Lake House and did his own shopping and menu planning.

Now Charlie is making the transition to long-term supported living, something his parents never thought possible. ‘We assumed he’d be with us forever and we had talked about one of us giving up work to care for him,’ said his parents. ‘Now his life is filled with independence. Staff at Lake House have taught him to do those daily things we take for granted. Without the secure and quiet environment of Lake House, it is unlikely that Charlie would have coped. Lake House was funded largely by a legacy and provides a quieter residence with only five students and a small dedicated team to support them. While there is a communal area there is also more space for students to withdraw and be on their own. That small consistent support team enabled Charlie to develop strong bonds and relationships. More importantly, it helped him feel safe and less anxious. As the team got to know Charlie they discovered

‘For our family the life we have now is a life filled with confidence. Confidence to let Charlie blossom, to entrust him to others and let him be his own man. ‘We used to fear the future of our family, but we don’t anymore, thanks to National Star.’

If you would like to help other families in the future, consider making a gift in your Will to National Star. Get in touch with Monica Farthing, Fundraiser, at or on 01242 524478. 5

Trio win innovation challenge Three National Star learners wowed judges at a Gloucestershire innovation challenge with their idea of using virtual reality to make offices more accessible. Ed Scipio, Holly Holmes and Ted Barnard-Edwards won the opportunity to undertake work experience at St. James’s Place Wealth Management. Five schools and colleges took part in the day-long event held at St. James’s Place headquarters in Cirencester. The event was organised by St. James’s Place and local enterprise GFirst LEP. The challenge was to pitch an idea on the subject of ‘What does the office of the future need to look like to make work accessible for all?’. During the challenge, students were assigned a business mentor to assist them on the different stages of the competition. They were then asked to think of an idea, consider the finances of getting it off the ground and, finally, present their proposal to a specially selected panel of judges which included: Andrew Cullen-Jones, Director of Development and Advice at St. James’s Place; Vicki Foster, Head of Inclusion and Diversity at St. James’s Place and Vicky Walters, Strategic Lead for Disability Employment at Gloucestershire County Council.

Ed, Holly and Ted impressed the judges with their engaging presentation for their VR (virtual reality) headsets which would link to laptops and desks and adapt to a person’s learning style. Holly presented the winning team’s idea to the panel of judges. ‘I get very bad stage fright even just on the telephone or speaking to someone that I don’t know, but I kept on telling myself that my voice can project to the back of the room and, not to be modest, I’m very good at explaining,’ said Holly. ‘After the team wrote the presentation for the pitch I thought that I could put a bit of humour in it to get the judges to interact, which really worked. I learnt that if I put my mind to it I can really explain an idea clearly and persuade people of my ideas.’ A second National Star team of Murray Field, Thomas Langston-Deadman and Chesca Vismara came up with the idea of a VIP pod (Virtual Intelligent Pod) which would have everything a homeless person or someone with disabilities or learning difficulties would need to work. 7

Celebrating our own voices Seven young people at National Star now have their own voices for their communication devices. Four of them not only got individualised voices to reflect their age and where they live but they had the opportunity to create and perform a stand-up comic routine with comedian Lost Voice Guy, Lee Ridley. Lee, who also uses a communication device, held a workshop with the four and then performed the routine live at National Star’s Leavers’ Awards Ceremony. The film, now on Facebook, has had more than two million views. Around 6,000 young people nationally depend on communication devices (AAC) as their voices. At National Star 22% of learners use a communication device. A customised voice costs around £500,

which many families cannot afford, not to mention the time it takes – about six to eight hours – for the voice donor to record their voice. National Star speech and language therapists have been searching for age-appropriate regional accents and discovered there was little or no choice. So National Star launched the Find My Voice project and Technology Fund to help students find suitable voices and pay for the recordings. Two students received their new voices thanks to RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) graduates. One – Rose Brown – had her experience of getting a Cockney voice featured on BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire programme. Another student, Cain Webb, got his new voice from his younger brother and was featured on BBC TV’s Points West programme.

Comedian Lost Voice Guy (Lee Ridley) with National Star students at this year's Leavers' Awards Ceremony


Cain on BBC Points West

Rose in the studio with her voice donor and Victoria Derbyshire

‘The project has been a fantastic success and the seven who have their new voices are much more confident and enthusiastic when using their devices,’ said National Star Principal Simon Welch. ‘They enjoy talking and that will be vital for their successful transition into adulthood.’ Work has already started to identify the learners who would benefit from the project. Watch a video of The One Show film: Watch a video report on Rose’s new voice: We have established a Technology Fund which will help fund projects such as this and other life-enhancing technology which enables young people with complex disabilities to have a voice, access learning and control their environment. Aerospace engineering company Ontic, based in Cheltenham, recently donated

To find out more about our Technology Fund please contact the Fundraising team at or call 01242 524478. To find out more about National Star’s personalised therapeutic programmes email, call 01242 534928 or visit

£500 to the Technology Fund. ‘We take our voices for granted and to see young people who did not have a voice of their own struck a chord with the Ontic team,’ said Daisy Titus, Personal Assistant / Office Manager at Ontic. ‘We are delighted to be able to support the Technology Fund which will enable more young people to find their own voices.’ 9

Enjoy delicious breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas at StarBistro at Ullenwood, Cheltenham

Support our social enterprise, which works in partnership with young people with disabilities Enjoy: •

Delicious breakfasts, lunches, speciality coffees and mouth–watering cakes and afternoon tea

Locally sourced ingredients

Special themed food evenings

Exclusive private hire available

Free parking and free Wi–Fi

TripAdvisor review

StarBistro at Ullenwood

Usual opening hours

National Star, Ullenwood, Cheltenham Gloucestershire, GL53 9QU Tel 01242 535984 | Email ullenwoodstarbistro


‘This is a gem of the Cotswolds. The food, staff and ambience are all first class. I go back time and again. I’d recommend it to anyone.’


Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 4pm Saturday, 9am to 3.30pm

Student Alexandros with a Google Home device as Ashleigh Denman looks on

Smart communication Members of National Star’s Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) team have shared the results of a small study exploring how smart speakers can help people with disabilities improve the clarity of their speech. In the study some National Star students with dysarthria (the medical term for having unclear speech) appeared to subconsciously speak more clearly when talking to a smart speaker, rather than when they merely said the same word out loud. It appears that often just the thought of speaking as clearly as possible so that a smart speaker can understand what is being said is beginning to help students improve their speech intelligibility. Speech and Language Therapists Ashleigh Denman and Victoria Jones shared the results of the study during the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists’ Conference. ‘The results of our study, although small, are galvanising multi-disciplinary teams at

National Star to think even more creatively about the use of smart speakers as therapeutic tools,’ said Ashleigh. ‘For example, one student who is trying to improve their speech clarity when talking to members of the public is now prompted to speak in the same way as they would to their smart speaker. This is resulting in them beginning to be better understood and is hugely rewarding for the student who is motivated to make further improvements in their speech clarity.’ The SLT team at National Star are experts at supporting people with disabilities to develop their communication skills. Communication is embedded across the curriculum and within students’ residences.

National Star’s Technology Fund helps fund technology projects and life-enhancing technology. To find out more please contact the Fundraising team at or call 01242 524478. 11

Jack and his mum Joanne

Jack is finally moving home When National Star opens its new long-term accommodation this autumn it will have a huge impact on Jack Lofting and his family. Jack, a former National Star student, has not lived in his home county of Herefordshire for eight years. When he moves into the refurbished bungalows at 1 Ledbury Road, Hereford, Jack will be back in the community he grew up in. He will be just 10 minutes from his family. Jack received an acquired brain injury from meningitis at the age of 13 months. It left him with complex disabilities and extremely 12

challenging behaviour. He requires space to be himself and needs a timetable and routine. When he was 15, Jack’s family could no longer manage him at home. There was nowhere suitable in the county where Jack could safely live and be happy. He first moved to Worcester. At 18, Jack became a residential student at National Star in Cheltenham. When he arrived at National Star, Jack, who is non-verbal, would not eat or drink and so was tube fed, suffered from sensory overload and would demonstrate challenging behaviour. He would grab things and hit out.

When he was ready to leave National Star, Jack’s family could not find suitable accommodation in the county. The closest was in Gloucester. For the first time in his life, Jack did not see his family on Christmas Day because the home did not have the staff to support him. When his family learned about 1 Ledbury Road, Hereford, it was a dream come true. The move will transform his life. ‘We’re desperate for him to move. Being in Hereford will mean he can spend more time with us, his family, and again be involved. We can’t wait.’ Once the bungalows open at 1 Ledbury Road work will begin on the main house which will provide specialist learning, life skills, therapies and sensory spaces from summer 2020.

Thanks so much The National Lottery Community Fund has awarded £10,000 towards the purchase of a minibus for the long-term residents at Hereford. The Seasalt Shop in Old Market Shopping Centre in Hereford donated £500. Seasalt staff volunteered during a charity bag packing at Marks & Spencer in Hereford, which raised £208.50.

We’re desperate for him to move. Being in Hereford will mean he can spend more time with us, his family, and again be involved. We can’t wait

Jack and his family

To support our Hereford Appeal you can make your donation at To find out more about the appeal email or call 01432 802925.

During his time at National Star Jack’s behaviour was transformed. He now eats with others, makes choices, can focus on one thing at a time and makes eye contact. He also socialises with his peers and understands what it means to take his turn.

Fundraising stars Whether you’re a company, school, community group, club or individual, there are lots of ways you can make a real difference to the lives of young people with disabilities. Here’s what some of our fundraising stars have been up to… Coventry Building Society

Bevans Chartered Surveyors

From bake sales and quizzes to Halloween parties and even walking on fire, the fabulous team at Coventry Building Society have pulled out all the stops for National Star over the last two years, raising £3,777 for our charity. They won the JELF Gloucestershire Local Business Charity award in recognition of their incredible support of National Star.

Businessman Nick Bevan, his wife Natalie and daughter Kim raised £1,982 for National Star when they took on the 100km Thames Path Challenge. Bevans Chartered Surveyors are long-standing supporters of our charity, regularly hosting business breakfast meetings at our venue.


Leckhampton Open Gardens

The St Phillip and St James Area Residents’ Association in Cheltenham organised a fantastic open gardens day in June. The event, in which 15 gardens took part, featured beautiful floristry displays and an expert gardener on hand to answer questions. The day attracted 200 visitors and raised over £1,000.

St Edward’s Senior School

St Edward’s Senior School made National Star their chosen charity for a term after we presented at one of their assemblies. The school’s brilliant fundraising activities, which included a Christmas concert and dress-down day, raised £1,790.

Cheltenham North Rotary

Cheltenham North Rotary have supported National Star with a variety of brilliant fundraising events, including a Christmas concert, beer festival and gardeners’ question time, raising £3,000. The club has also enjoyed a tour of our charity and lunch at StarBistro.

If you’ve been inspired to fundraise for National Star, contact our Fundraising team at or on 01242 524478. You can also visit 15

Student views help to shape new opera Students at National Star have been instrumental in helping to develop concepts for a new opera designed for audiences with special educational needs. Members of English Touring Opera worked with more than 60 students during a series of interactive workshops to develop script, song and soundscape ideas for a new accessible opera ‘The Extraordinary Adventures of You and Me’.

Students joined professional musicians and singers from London-based English Touring Opera as they tested out script concepts and soundscapes using a range of instruments. ‘There were many magical moments during the workshops,’ said Creative and Performing Arts Coordinator Paul Tarling. ‘Thomas Webb’s energetic drumming, Hannah Cope’s impromptu sing-a-long with the professional singer and Bea Maas stepping in to cover an

Students celebrating their involvement with English Touring Opera

acting part, to name but three. There was energy, enjoyment and input from all the students who can be rightly proud of their involvement.’ Student Bea Maas said: ‘October 15th was the sickest (coolest) day of the week, it was amazing. I can’t wait for the production in April.’ Jo Corrigan, Learning and Participation Producer at English Touring Opera, said:

‘Our mission as a company is to bring opera to as wide an audience as possible. It has been wonderful to work with National Star students and we really appreciate the unique contribution they have made to the project.’ English Touring Opera will return to National Star in Ullenwood to perform the opera in front of many of the students involved in its inception on 23 April next year.

Max gets in on the action

There was energy, enjoyment and input from all the students who can be rightly proud of their involvement

Jane plays a violin


Breaking barriers Two National Star students proved that having a disability need not be a barrier to supporting others when they organised fundraising events in aid of National Star. Callum Arnold, who uses a power wheelchair, is in his third year at National Star. The 21-year-old has Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome, a rare genetic condition caused 18

Abbie during her triathlon

by an enzyme deficiency. It affects just one in 380,000 people. To develop his organisation and communication skills Callum decided to organise a five-hour sponsored ‘bounce marathon’ on National Star’s rebound therapy trampoline. He promoted the event with posters, encouraged staff and fellow students to take part, organised a cake sale and arranged health and safety assessments for the day. 17

National Star has supported me to develop by making me feel more independent and learn how to make my own appropriate choices

Callum’s event raised a fantastic £217 for National Star. ‘It was really hard to organise but it was a really good event. I am proud of what I achieved,’ said Callum. Twenty-two-year-old Abbie Smart left National Star in the summer, but not before organising a mini fundraising triathlon as a way of giving something back to the college that had supported her for three years. ‘National Star has supported me to develop by making me feel more independent and learn how to make my own appropriate choices, whether it’s making a meal, going on a trip or deciding where is safest to cross a road,’ said Abbie.

To say thank you Abbie decided to swim 25 lengths in the pool, walk 500 metres using a specialist MeyWalker and cycle one mile – and all in one day. To encourage support for her fundraising challenge Abbie made posters, sent staff and students emails and shared training videos and photos on social media. Not only did she complete the challenge in less than the time she planned, but Abbie raised £1,670 for National Star. ‘On the day I found that I was able to achieve all that I wanted to. I was so excited when I achieved my target. ‘It was an amazing feeling and I achieved so much for National Star. I hope with the funds I’ve raised I can support National Star to help other students in the future.’

Whether you’re a company, school, group or individual, there are lots of ways you can help our charity transform the lives of young people with disabilities. Get inspired by visiting our website at You can also contact our Fundraising team at or call 01242 524478. Callum proved he could organise events


Futures full of possibilities

Twenty-three-year-old Alex Carmichael was offered a part-time job with GLL Leisure Centres after undertaking a supported internship with them. Alex, who has autism, began his placement in 2017 after becoming determined to develop his independence and work towards gaining employment. He was matched with GLL Leisure Centres and began working at the centre’s site in Mile End, London, before moving to their Hackney base. Alex Carmichael

As part of his internship Alex helped set up for events, supported activities, cleaned and performed administrative and reception work. He was supported by a tutor and a job coach. Alex said that the opportunity changed his life. ‘My confidence grew and I learned many new things,’ said Alex.

The support and encouragement I received gave me the confidence I needed to recognise my potential

Two young people with disabilities are realising their career aspirations after completing work skills programmes with National Star.

Tom Chamberlain

‘The support and encouragement I received gave me the confidence I needed to recognise my potential. The thing I am most proud of is that I do not allow my autism to get in the way of the things I want to achieve.’ Alex’s commitment to his placement not only earned him a job at the centre, but he was nominated for and won the Intern of the Year award from Barking and Dagenham College. Tom Chamberlain landed his dream job when he left college after facing barriers to learning and work throughout his life. Tom, who has autism and dyslexia, signed up to National Star’s Skills for Work internship programme and began working at BP Motors, a vehicle repair garage. He

worked within a small team and completed a range of tasks, including buffing and polishing cars, cleaning the interiors and sweeping the floor. Tom took responsibility for his own timekeeping and travelled independently to his place of work. Tom now has a paid part-time job at BP Motors. He is exploring his options for undertaking further qualifications in English and maths. ‘Tom worked extremely hard during his time on the supported internship which has paid off,’ said Catrin Garland, Supported Internship Job Mentor. ‘He has left college with a number of transferable skills that will hold him in good stead for his future.’

If you’re an employer who would like to offer National Star students a work placement get in touch with Sian Breeze, Job Mentor Team Leader, at or telephone her on 01242 527631 ext. 2744 21

Becki ready for her trip

Africa beckons for Becki

Becki will be the latest National Star member of staff to travel to Kenya as part of the long-standing cultural exchange programme ‘Connecting Classrooms’ run by the British Council. Not only will the trip hone Becki’s teaching skills in a new environment, it will also provide an opportunity for students in Hereford to learn about African culture and develop their awareness of the wider world. Social enterprise is at the heart of the cultural exchange and Becki will be taking cards, coasters, glassware and jewellery made by National Star students that will 22

be sold by local students from the Joyland Special School in Kisumu, a port city on Lake Victoria in the south west of Kenya. And in April next year a teacher from Joyland will travel to Hereford to work with National Star students, giving them the opportunity to sell items made by their counterparts in Kenya to people in Herefordshire. Sam making glass apples

Hereford Trainee Tutor Becki Perks is due to enhance students’ understanding of Africa and broaden her teaching experience after taking part in a cultural exchange programme in Kenya.

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Thank you National Star is a working name of National Star Foundation which is registered in England and Wales, company number 522846, charity number 220239. Registered office Ullenwood Manor, Ullenwood, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL53 9QU

Contact us today to find out more about National Star’s programmes • Day and residential education courses • Supported internships and a range of work–based learning courses, including work experience • Integrated therapies, including speech and language, physiotherapy, drama, music and hydrotherapy

• LiftTraining learning independence for travel • Assistive technology assessments • Adult learning courses • Education and social care training

• Medical, nursing and psychological support • Long–term living, respite and StarBreaks

Ofsted January 2018

Find out more To find out more email, call 01242 534928 or visit learning-programmes National Star is a working name of National Star Foundation, a charity registered in England and Wales number 220239

Ullenwood November 2017 Elizabeth House, Gloucester April 2018