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HCC’s mental health service: a beacon in further education

Posted 17th November 2010

Hackney Community College was in the limelight at the Association of Colleges’ national conference on Tuesday night when its pioneering Mental Health Education and Employment Service was honoured with the Association of Colleges Beacon Award for Widening Participation 2010.

John Mclean and Erica Thompson of HCC’s Mental Health Education & Employment team with principal Ian Ashman at the Beacon Awards ceremony

The award recognises over 12 years of development and partnership work between the college and partners including the East London Foundation Trust, NHS City & Hackney, and local community and voluntary organisations.

Ian Ashman, principal of Hackney Community College was at the awards event with John McLean and Erica Thompson from the Mental Health Education team. He said: “I am so proud of the team and their achievement. It justly recognises the professionalism, consistent high standards and hard work of John, Erica, and all the other individuals and teams that support the work and clients. I’m also thrilled that this is yet another accolade for the college that recognises our strong partnerships and the significant role we play in our local community, which was recognised with a grade 1 in our Ofsted inspection this year.”

The service has developed since 1997 and has evolved significantly to be one of a kind in the country, a beacon of best practice that can be disseminated to support the work of other partnerships.

It now offers a fully-rounded package to challenge stigma, provide full support and help people to achieve in and progress from further education. The service covers wide-ranging elements including expert advice and guidance to people referred from mental health professionals, specialist provision and support on mainstream courses, success plans and a new well being indicator plan. Mental health professionals hold the college service in high esteem, and thousands of individuals owe varied achievements to the professionals behind the service.

Tim Smit, Co-founder and Chief Executive of the Eden Project, announced Hackney Community College as the winner of the Association of Colleges Beacon Award for Widening Participation.

Competition for the 2010 Beacon Awards was stiff and the assessment process was rigorous. Martin Doel, Association of Colleges’ Chief Executive, said: “This is a superb example of how Colleges put extra effort into helping very diverse elements of society, including those who may need more help accessing education than others. Congratulations to Hackney Community College on this innovative and inspiring scheme.”

Chair of the AoC Beacon Awards, Dame Patricia Morgan-Webb, said: “Beacon Award winners raise the bar when it comes to finding new ways of doing things to enable Colleges to play a leading role in the communities they serve. They help contribute to social justice by widening participation in further education and play a key role in local economic and social regeneration by encouraging links with local businesses and supporting people, both in and out of work, in learning new skills.”

Hackney Community College will host a local celebration event in the New Year and will be presented with their Award by John Hayes MP, Minister of State for Further Education, at a national presentation ceremony due to be held in Westminster on 9 February 2011.