National Star

National Star – Cheltenham, UK  

Website –

The National Star College is an independent, specialist college of further education for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities (LLDD) with 119 residential and 46 day “high needs” places for young people, aged 16 to 25 years old, from across the United Kingdom. Students have physical disabilities and/or acquired brain injuries, alongside associated learning, behavioural, sensory and medical difficulties. Most have complex learning difficulties and disabilities and the number of students with these requirements is increasing year on year. In 2015/16 59% of students were male, 41% female and 12% were from Black & Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. The college delivers part-time adult safeguarded learning (PCDL) with 260 enrolments, through a contract with Gloucestershire County Council (GCC). The college delivers work skills training via partnerships including a national alliance with EDF Energy, and businesses in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, London and Devon. The college delivers Learning Independence for Travel (LIFT) travel training programmes for young people and adults with disabilities in Gloucestershire, East Sussex, Derbyshire, Worcestershire and West Berkshire.

The college also offers a range of specialist training programmes and work for multi-disciplinary professionals to build expertise and capacity in education, social care and health sectors and has recently won one of the first National Princess Royal Training Awards for UK employers who have created outstanding training and skills development programmes resulting in exceptional commercial benefits. The college also offers assistive technology assessments and support for individuals, businesses and public sector organisations. The college was a finalist in a national Inclusive Technology Prize developing HandyClix, a one-handed wheelchair lap belt designed to improve the independence of people who only have the use of one hand. The college also won funding from Innovate UK, a Government Technology Develeopment Agency,  through the SBRI (Small Business Research Initiative) to develop Ember, a task-based learning system to support people with learning difficulties in work. Both products are now to be commercialised. The college won an `Accessible by Design’ competition funded by JISC to create MAP (My Access Passport) which allows users to change their accessibility settings profile on any computer automatically. The college won funding from the natioanl Equality Challenge Unit to work in partnership with Gloucestershire College to build specialist resources to support people with learning difficulties to gain a better understanding of sexual orientation and sexual identity.

The college curriculum offers four core pathways: Entry, Foundation, Vocational and Work, which ensures students focus on appropriate outcomes. The provision is based on core themes which are acquired and generalised across all individual learning programmes: Communication and Social Skills, Mobility, Health and Well Being, Positive Contribution, Staying Safe and Functional Skills. The outcomes for each student are focused on the development of autonomy, reduction in support and involvement/participation. Each student has an individual learning programme outlining their goals for learning, living and work which is developed in partnership with their Personalised Learning Co-ordinator (PLC). PLCs work with students to establish their personalised holistic programme and transition outcomes. They work with multi-disciplinary teams to agree and set core goals which are then contextualised across the curriculum activities.

Students gain from a range of specialist learning environments enabling improved multi-sensory practice. The college’s main campus at Ullenwood has an extensive range of facilities which have enabled improved progress in work-related learning through the College Bistro, Star Print, Training Office, Shop and Box Office. The sensory curriculum is delivered through the use of multi-sensory spaces, improved therapeutic spaces, purpose built creative and performing arts resources. The college has three sites, the main site at Ullenwood plus residential accommodation off-site at Elizabeth House in Gloucester and at Bradbury Gardens in Cheltenham, where the college completed a £6 million build to replace outdated rental property for 25 students.

The college is operated by National Star Foundation, a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee. The charity has recently developed a strategy designed to extend its reach beyond education provision, by providing appropriate living and occupation opportunities for college leavers and other individuals with disabilities, which has been firmly based on student and family feedback and experiences. The overall charity is governed by a Board of Trustees, whilst a cross-disciplinary Board of Governors has been established to evaluate and support the college’s performance. David Ellis was appointed as Chief Executive of the overall charity in 2010.

The college is an active member of the AoC (Association of Colleges), the FGC (Federation of Gloucestershire Colleges) and NATSPEC (Association of National Specialist Colleges).

The college is a member of a national peer review and development group and meets regularly as part of a regional practice development group.

Ember task learning system

Contact info All Aboard

Project Lead – Jane Finch

Director – David Finch

Contact – +44 1242 527 631

The Education System in United Kingdom:


European Agency