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Where special needs education meets employment

Where special needs education meets employment

Cafe Van Gogh’s social mission centres around connecting all members of the diverse local community together.

Nurturing marginalised individuals into the workplace with training and employability skills is one of the ways in which we achieve this...

Our partnership with Highshore School, the special needs education state school down the road from from us, gives us the chance to support young people avoid becoming another statistic.

Approximately 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability. In 2015 only 6% of people with learning disabilities were in work.

It is estimated that 65% of people with learning disabilities would like a paid job. Unfortunately, those with learning disabilities face a raft of challenges including sustained employer prejudice and lack of awareness and education about how to support employees in the workplace.

Well aware of the realities their students will have to overcome, the team at Highshore school actively seek out opportunities to give their students a taste of working life and support progressive employers integrate work experience students into their workforce.

They lay the groundwork initially within the school environment, with a select number of students helping out within school to prep and deliver lunch service. As these individuals build confidence, they get to test out their new skills in a real world environment.
Where better to get their feet wet but at south London’s finest vegan social enterprise cafe! 

Work experience students, Highshore School
Before starting at the café I felt shy about asking questions, I felt more confident afterwards and I’d like to work there again
— Jamil, year 10

Over the summer term, Jamil, Isaac, Abdee and Mohammed have been polishing up their hospitality skills with our team here at Cafe Van Gogh. You might have seen them front of house on a Friday afternoon, taking your order or clearing tables. 

I felt a bit scared of working with the public. When I started work I felt happy and began to enjoy it
— Isaac, year 10

Much more than the basics of waiting tables, having them as part of our team for a few hours each week provides routine, opportunity for further skills development and contributes to their overall independence as young adults. For example, Abdee progressed in leaps and bounds with personal confidence and resilience after having to take public transport to and from his placement. 

It’s been our pleasure to welcome these students into the cafe over the last few months. We’re very much looking forward to continuing our partnership with Highshore School as the Autumn terms resumes this September!