Thornbeck College

Thornbeck College is an Independent Specialist College providing personalised programmes to autistic and neurodivergent individuals

Working together to inspire, support, celebrate and equip autistic and neurodivergent people to fulfil their potential in life.

Last day of Term 

A fun filled week to end a difficult year with a range of sports, karaoke, water balloons, pie face and ice-cream; promoting positive mental wellbeing and social and community inclusion.

World Health Day 

The learners took part in a range of activities including creating cards of kindness, making healthy smoothies, entering the wheelbarrow race and planting sunflowers. These activities were part of a timetable pause to celebrate World Health Day and promote everyones health and wellbeing and community inclusion.


Learning Disability Week

To celebrate Learning Disability Week, learners and staff at Thornbeck College created a ‘Thornbeck Collage’ made up of hand, foot and finger prints to express themselves through art and creativity.

Learners also participated in a range of activities to develop awareness and understanding of the needs of others.

Learners increased their knowledge about a range of different ways to communicate for those who are blind and partially sighted and those who are hard of hearing. Learners wrote their names in Braille and signed their names in Makaton.

Learners participated in a group activity with each member of the group taking on a different role; one person to wear ear defenders to symbolise those hard of hearing, one to be blindfolded to represent those partially sighted, one to use only one hand to represent physical disabilities and one unable to speak to represent pre-verbal communication. Learners demonstrated fantastic teamwork and communication skills to transport the whole group across an identified area using a range of shapes as a path.

Learners participated in a game of bell football rounders. The learner kicking was blindfolded and chose a teammate to help them around each base. Learners marking each base used a bell to help guide the kicker towards their base. A great day of fun and awareness for all involved.

Volunteers Week

In June learners in the Maintenance group participated in a community litter pick to celebrate volunteers week. The learners accessed a local park in Newton Aycliffe and were proud to be helping to keep the local community clear of litter. Participating in Volunteers Week supported the development of their employability skills and promoted community cohesion.

Student Council has its say on staff recruitment

Learners at Thornbeck College have played an active role in staff recruitment for the first time, in a ground-breaking move by the North East Autism Society.

Student Council President Will Smith and Welfare Officer Kieran Wheatley were given the chance to interview candidates applying for Learning Support Assistant and FE Tutor positions.

Kieran, who started at the college last September, and Will, who is now in his second year of study, asked all candidates the following two questions: how would you help keep students safe at college, and what skills would you bring to the job?

When it came to desired traits, both Kieran and Will said they were looking for candidates who were calm, confident and qualified, but, most importantly, prioritised the safety of learners. 

“I liked one of the candidates because he was kind and approachable,” Will added. While Kieran said: "For me personally, the most important things were what are their morals, what they are skilled in and how do they act."

Principal Nicola Brown says the process, which was thought up by the Student Council, gave learners the chance to have a voice when it comes to the staff who support them.

Read the full story here.

Sun Awareness Week

Learners participated in a range of activities for Sun Awareness Week. They participated in an experiment using UV beads to identify which sun cream has the best protection, the weather was cold and rainy so learners participated in an indoor picnic and identified appropriate attire to wear at the beach followed by a quiz and an ice pop and they created a stained glass window to see the visual effect of the sun shining through.

Increasing their awareness of the sun and appropriate safety measures has supported learners to develop their personal safety skills.

World Health Day

Thornbeck College celebrated World Health Day by taking part in activities which supported physical health including a wheelbarrow obstacle race and making fruit smoothies. Learners also enjoyed a random act of kindness activity where they identified a peer and made a card to share a kind message. 

Participating in the activities had a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of learners.

Autism Awareness Month

Learners celebrated Autism Awareness Month by learning about the things that make us all unique. Learners tested their senses by participating in activities which tested their touch, taste, smell and hearing. They scored themselves and discussed the results as a group identifying each other’s strengths.    

Learners also participated in activities linking to communication including Lego Therapy, a Describe and Draw task and a Blind Folded Trust Walk. Learners evaluated their performance and shared positive messages about their peers performances during the activities.

National Careers Week

Thornbeck participated in National Careers Week, this year we looked at employability. We developed our soft employment skills including communication and following instructions, teamwork, problem solving and maintaining our health and wellbeing. Activities learners participated in:

  • Teamwork- Learners identified what teamwork is and how they participate in teamwork activities during vocational sessions, learners also participated in a range of team building activities including building the highest cardboard box tower, toast tower or marshmallow tower.
  • Problem solving – learners were given a range of clues to use to identify different job roles. Learners also participated in a task to create a safe vessel to protect an egg from a drop from a height.
  • Communication and following instruction – learners were given individual secret missions with varying degrees of difficulty, learners followed the instructions to use communication skills to gain relevant information from other peers and staff.
  • Wellbeing – Learners participated in a trampolining session and assault course session, to identify what effect exercise can have our health and wellbeing. Learners were presented with certificates identifying what level they are working towards in trampolining.

Feedback from learners was positive following the week's activities.

Safeguarding Month

In February, the learners developed their understanding of three key areas of safeguarding:

  • Internet safety
  • Bullying
  • Sexual abuse

The learners increased their understanding of social media and how discrimination can take place online, The learners created avatars to use and looked at how to change security settings and group chat scenarios.  Learners looked at how they can make their own decisions about their own bodies, and how to further protect themselves from sexual abuse. 

Remote learning

Adam has been busy developing his independent living skills at home, helping to cook soup and beans on toast for his family and helping to keep the house clean. Adam’s favourite thing to bake is cheese scones! Well done Adam for showing how many skills you can now do by yourself.

Remote learning

Joe has been busy working on his home learning activities. He has completed various household tasks including following instructions to take orders and make toasted sandwiches with increased independence at lunch time.

During recycling and sustainability week last year, Joe made a money box from a recycled tin. He has been saving his coins and finally opened it to count £20.05! He plans to combine his Christmas and birthday money along with this to buy a new smart TV for his bedroom.

Well done Joe, fantastic work!  

Thornbeck Reading Week

Learners completed a book report on their favourite book and learners working from home shared their favourite books via teams with their peers. Learners also created their own comic book of themselves and their chosen story line and took part in a team activity playing Mad Libs word game. Discussions around Reading week included the importance of reading and what we read in everyday life.

World Religion Day

Learners took part in group discussion and read slides from a presentation identifying different religions around the world, they identified what each religion believes, comparing similarities and differences between the religions. Learners also completed a matching activity linking religions to key words and facts.

Merry Christmas

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

A small group of student council representatives, held a meeting to discuss ideas of which charity we could support. This month’s theme is ‘being kind’. Learners identified two worthy charities and organised a whole college vote to identify a chosen charity. The 2 charity contenders were the local Foodbank and the Salvation Army. The votes were counted and the winner was the Foodbank.

A student council representative created a letter which was sent home with a list of preferred items to donate to the Foodbank. We had an excellent response from Learners, their families and the staff at college. Student council representative delivered our donation to the Newton Aycliffe food bank.

Christmas at Thornbeck College

The learners at Thornbeck enjoyed a festive filled day of Christmas films, a buffet lunch, party and activities. We turned our sports hall into a cinema with hire of an inflatable screen and all of the learners enjoyed their Christmas buffet lunch and activities. Although celebrations have been a little different this year it was great to see everybody with smiles on their faces and enjoying the festive atmosphere.

National celebration day for support staff 

Thornbeck College has recognised and celebrated the hard work of all their super star support staff. Our young people and adults surprised support staff today by presenting them with personalised certificates and goody bags to say a huge thank you for all that they do! 

See more highlights