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We’re ready for the challenges ahead

Left: Student Alex Smith and Principal Simon Welch smiling. Right: Student sitting in front of tv screen cutting pieces of newspaper.

National Star teams have adapted quickly to the changes brought about by the pandemic.

That flexibility has enabled the charity to remain open and functioning throughout the crisis and to use that experience to prepare for a new academic year.

Keeping students and residents safe and reducing the risk of infection is constantly balanced with the importance of all those activities which make the National Star experience so enriching and valuable.

Student clusters

All students, whether day or residential, will work in cluster groups. To reduce the risk of infection each cluster group will have its own professional team of learning staff, therapists and facilitators (who provide personal care).

‘We have always been proud of our multi-disciplinary approach here at National Star and the pandemic has simply enforced how important it is for teams to work closely together for the benefit of the student,’ said Simon Welch, Principal.

‘By having a professional multi-disciplinary team with each cluster group of students, we can keep the mixing of staff and students to a minimum to reduce the risk of spreading infection while ensuring we have the right team with the right specialisms to work with the students and meet their needs.

‘If we have to quickly go into lockdown again, we can revert into the self-isolating households more easily.’

New facilities secured

To ensure there is enough room for the growing number of day students at National Star, the charity has secured additional facilities in Cheltenham and Gloucester.

‘We want to ensure that we can continue with learning programmes for all students in the most appropriate way, which requires the flexibility of locations we now have,’ said Simon.

During lockdown, National Star had several students who were shielding due to complex medical needs. As a result, the Learning Programmes team have developed an online learning offering which will become a permanent part of the charity’s provision.

‘We love working with students in a range of opportunities and locations, be that work experience or working in the community,’ said Mr Welch. ‘With the current coronavirus situation, that is going to be limited, particularly at the start of the year, but we will individually risk assess each opportunity and find the best options for each student’s outcomes.’

‘Outside the box’ thinking

Keeping long-term residents engaged and active remains the priority for care teams, though they have had to learn to think ‘outside the box’. Instead of outings or trips there have been danceathons, themed party nights and residence-based festivals.

‘Our priority is ensuring we have a good continuity of care whether it is the long-term residents or the students,’ said Megan Rogers, Director of Services for the South.

‘One of our ongoing challenges is to support residents and students to access community activities. This is important to them but it presents a challenge to make sure we do these activities safely. We have an ongoing process of assessing the risk so that young people can safely take part in the activities which are important to them.’

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