‘It’s a bit like being in the A-Team’ - Stevenage college students quiz town’s MP after he drops in for surprise visit

PUBLISHED: 17:32 08 January 2016 | UPDATED: 05:21 11 January 2016

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland visiting students on the Springboard Programme at North Herts College.

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland visiting students on the Springboard Programme at North Herts College.

Archant

Students from North Hertfordshire College were delighted to get a surprise visit from the town’s MP Stephen McPartland today.

The pupils – most of whom are on the autistic spectrum and are studying on the college’s Springboard programme – were only told to prepare questions for a visit by ‘an important decision maker’.

The aim of the session at the programme’s Swingate House base was to help the students from Stevenage and North Herts improve their employability skills, and once they had been introduced they asked some surprisingly tough questions.

They quizzed Mr McPartland on why it’s so important for them to get a GCSE English and maths to get a job even if they are skilled in other areas.

The Conservative MP said it was up to local businesses to decide their recruitment criteria but offered to contact employers to ask them about it.

He said afterwards: “I think Springboard is a fantastic organisation that’s doing a great job for the students. It is helping them build their confidence.

“It was a really tough Q&A which is fantastic. It’s a great experience for me and a great experience for them.”

Students also asked Mr McPartland what his toughest debate has been in the House of Commons and what his role is as an MP.

He replied: “It’s like being in the A-Team. If people can’t help you then I will try to help. I can speak to the Prime MInister or even the Queen to try to get things done.

“We can’t always help but we will try.”

The students previously met Mr McPartland last year when they shared their packed lunches with him on a visit to the Houses of Parliament at Westminster. They are scheduled to make another trip to London to see him next month.

Lucy Godshaw, the college’s learning difficulties and disabilities partnership manager, said Mr McPartland’s visit helped the students develop their confidence and learn how to react when faced with a challenging situation.

She said: “The benefit is they build confidence in social situations and in work situations and also their friendships.

“It’s taking them on the journey towards getting work.”

The Springboard programme was founded six years ago and caters for 29 students at centres in Stevenage and Watford.

Places on the course are funded mainly by Herts County Council.

Ms Godshaw said almost all students go on to work or apprenticeships after completing a one-year programme which covers areas including life skills, wellbeing, English, maths and ICT.

All students study for Level 2 qualifications which are equivalent to five C grades at GCSE level.

Ms Godshaw said the numbers of young people being diagnosed on the autistic spectrum is on the increase, but said she could not be sure if this was due to improvements in diagnosis or changes in society.

For more information about the Springboard programme email enquiries@nhc.ac.uk or click here to visit the website

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