Class act, students from Harrison College, Doncaster, celebrate the end of another successful year with an awards night to remember

Posted on July 19, 2023


STUDENTS with specialist needs celebrated in style as they marked the end of college life one step closer to their dreams.

Teachers, students, family and friends were joined by mentors from local businesses as Harrison College, Doncaster, staged a glittering awards ceremony at The Crown Hotel, Bawtry.

The college is a specialist business, enterprise and employability provider for post-16 education for students with special educational needs. It was founded three years ago by principal Gemma Peebles with just one student and has grown to a roll of 62 from Doncaster and the surrounding area.

Mrs Peebles told guests: “This has been an incredible journey and you should all be so very proud of yourselves.

“It started at my kitchen table in 2019 with a strong desire to do something for young people. Since then we have won countless awards but it is the students who make the college what it is today.

“Our mentors have committed time and effort into helping us, partly because they feel it is the right thing to do but also because they know our young people are phenomenal.

“We have pushed our students massively outside their comfort zones and it has been hard and challenging. But we have got them to a point where they can leave and enjoy fantastic careers.”

She also had high praise for parents adding: “Your support is the reason why this all works so well. Without you behind them our young people would not be where they are today.”

Guests heard a host of student stories of how they had progressed through college, gained new skills and self-confidence and impressed employers during their work placements.

They were presented with a variety of awards with special accolades going to students who excelled in leadership, belief, achievement and exceeding expectations. Student of the Year was Katie Fell.

For mentor Jazz Jones, head of learning and development at Polypipe, Edlington, the collaboration with Harrison College remains close to her heart.

She said: “My sister lives with neuro-diversity issues and I just wish there had been something around like Harrison College when she was a young woman.

“She remains a little girl in a woman’s body and can’t work without supervision. Harrison College is an inspiration and I absolutely love what they do.

“We took on Lucas Platts and Kieran Ashton giving them a chance to work when otherwise they might have been overlooked just because they were a little bit different. They began very quietly but over 18 months developed into confident young men who knew their own strengths. It has been an absolute joy watching them blossom.

“I’m looking forward to taking on the next cohort, which we have increased to four students, and would urge other employers to take off the blinkers and see what these students can achieve with a little bit of extra support.”

Lucas said his college experience had helped him achieve his goal of working in the funeral service business. He added: “I would not have been able to get into my dream career working as a funeral service operative with J Steadman & Sons without it. I would never have had the confidence to even talk to other people and Polypipe gave me a really good reference.”