Learning Programmes

At Oakwood we provide learning programmes for learners with a wide range of abilities and that require differing levels of support according to their individual needs.

We work with learners aged 16 and upwards including those working at the earliest stages of entry level qualifications to level 2.

Our Curriculum offer is not defined by a qualification, and is structured around the Post 16 Study Programme model which includes a learning programme, work experience, maths and English and other non qualification activity to enrich our learners experience and prepare them for adulthood.


Our unique approach at Oakwood is that we work with the learner, their families and other people involved in their lives to decide what and how they should learn. The content of the learner’s programme is driven by the targets in their EHCP and their own personal goals and aspirations, and we use the curriculum as vehicle to deliver this.

The first six weeks of the College term is an initial assessment period, where we design activities and learning to assess the learner’s starting point in relation to their targets, and where we can, we use a measurement tool so that we can track the progress that they make through the terms.


At the end of the 6 week period we review the information we have gathered about the learner’s strengths and areas for further development. The teachers then use this information to design these targets to further personalise the learning they undertake

The learner’s targets are captured and recorded on their own Study Programme Overview or SPO, which is reviewed regularly with the learner. every week through a tutorial. We encourage learners to contribute to this, uploading pictures and videos of their work and achievement. Teachers and support staff also provide assessment evidence and progress comments as these are achieved.

Reports about the progress that learners make here are shared with the learner, their families and other people involved in their lives on a half termly basis. A full review is conducted usually in the spring term where the learners are able to present what they have achieved so far, and informed discussions are had about their next steps. It is really important that discussions about what the next academic year will bring are had at this stage so that we can prepare the learner for a further year of study, or start to undertake preparations for transition to another setting or on to the next steps if this is what is agreed, in a timely way that is fully supportive of the learner and their families.

The learning that learners undertake is delivered in a fun and motivating project style – with learners getting involved in local events, enterprise activities and being part of the community. We also weave in as many opportunities as we can to actively promote the development of social skills, communication, self esteem and emotional regulation.


All learners have access to an exciting enrichment programme, with dedicated time for physical activity, craft, art and drama to name but a few. These are important opportunities for them to put in to practice their social and communication skills and building confidence and a sense of enjoyment in learning.

Many learners enjoy the incredible achievement of undertaking their Duke of Edinburgh award whilst at Oakwood. We pride ourselves in providing this opportunity for our young people to undertake fun and adventure through three progressive Award levels (Bronze, Silver and Gold). We value the chance this provides for them to push their personal boundaries, gain new skills and be recognised in their development.


Our curriculum is informed through the input of our specialist in house team of Speech and Language therapists, Counsellors and Psychologists. Whether through direct delivery by the team, or through co-planning of learning, all of our learners benefit from our blended model that is evidence based and created to fit the needs of each individual.


Almost all of our learners undertake work experience as part of their programme. This is structured at the pace and level of the learners – so for some this may mean skill development initially and an in-house placement, for others this could mean full days in a work place that is of interest to them for the future.


The College day begins at 9am, where learners arrive and are provided with structured support to transition in to the learning environment. We run activities such as mindfulness and exercise to warm them up and prepare them for the day ahead – this is called “positive start”.

The day then consists of 5 lessons of 50m with their group teacher, who is dedicated to working with a specific learner group to ensure they can really know and understand the learners well to maximise their learning. Learners access Maths and English throughout the week in dedicated lessons, as well as the skills being applied and developed throughout the curriculum.


Each learner has a dedicated personal Tutor, who is also their class teacher – they will see them for the majority of their college programme. Parents and carers will have the opportunity to meet the teacher at the beginning of term and also at the 6 week person centred review.

Each of our campuses is overseen by a Head and Deputy Head of campus who are responsible for the day to day running of the College. They lead on areas such as curriculum, behaviour, safeguarding and attendance.

The College Principal leads our three campuses in Dawlish, Torpoint and Yate. The College Principal is responsible for managing the direction of the college, developing our provision and leading our staff.

Curriculum Intent

Our curriculum is designed to meet the principles of Study Programmes in a highly individualised way that enable students to make substantial progress against the outcomes stated in their Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). 

The principles of the study programmes are that they;

  • Enable students to build on existing skills and knowledge, and represent progression (lateral or vertical) from their assessed starting point.
  • Provide stretch and challenge and support students to progress towards their intended outcomes
  • Include relevant aspects of English and maths
  • Include work experience to support the development of employability skills and create potential employment options (except where this is demonstrably inappropriate)
  • Enable students to develop the skills, attitudes and confidence that support progression

Autism Accreditation

  • Autism Accreditation is an autism-specific quality assurance programme.
  • It was set up by the National Autistic Society in 1992 to improve the support available to autistic people in organisations throughout the UK and across the world.
  • Over 500 organisations in the UK and around the world are now accredited, including: adult services, colleges, inclusion units, local authorities, playgroups, prisons, schools, short break services and more.
  • To achieve Autism Accreditation, provisions have to meet a standard of excellence and follow a framework for continuous self-examination and development.
  • For more information about Autism Accreditation or to get involved, please visit:

Esther Williams

I have been College Principal at Oakwood Specialist College since 2018. It is an absolute privilege to lead a team of dedicated and caring people that put the learner at the centre of everything they do.

Prior to joining Oakwood, I held a number of senior posts in large Further Education Colleges in the Southwest including Head of Faculty and Assistant Director with responsibility for Quality and Student experience. I have led and taught on teacher education programmes and worked with schools and prison education. In my early career I was lecturer in Sport, and my first teaching role was in foundation learning working with young people with SEND. I have extensive experience in quality improvement and teaching, learning and assessment and am passionate about supporting teacher development.

Wanda Green

Throughout my life I have enjoyed supporting children in a variety of settings. I started out as a Cub Scout Leader, moving onto an Officers position in the Army Cadet Force. Whilst at University, I took advantage of the long holidays working for a children’s adventure company as an activity instructor. I started work in the children’s residential sector in 2000. Since this time, I have worked in several roles including Support Worker, Children’s Homes Manager, Project Manager and Regional Manager. I held direct responsibility for Safeguarding working as Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) within several of the settings I was allocated to.

I joined Phoenix in June 2018 as an Area Manager. Moving into a Quality role in 2020 my involvement across our settings increased to include adults and education. Currently I support the Senior Leadership Team education and care to review safeguarding policies and procedures, provide consistency of systems for the management of safeguarding concerns and oversee wider aspects of safeguarding such as training.

My role within governance is to support and review the processes of Safeguarding within the College. I have regular direct contact with the DSL and Deputy DSL’s across the campus’s in order to reflect on safeguarding approaches with Learners and our Team Members. I oversee that actions set within Internal Safeguarding Quality Audits are completed and that training and mentoring for the College teams is appropriate. It is our responsibility working within a multi-disciplinary team to ensure the safety of the Learners and Team Members both within the College Campus and in their home locations.

Darren Jackson

I have been involved in the governance processes for specialist residential colleges, schools and health care settings from 2004. I joined Phoenix in 2021.

My role within the governance team is to support and challenge the College Principal in ensuring that the highest quality of outcomes is achieved. This includes day-to-day operational efficiency and a culture of continual improvement and self-refection. I have specific responsibility as Link Governor for RSE.

I commenced my educational career in 1998. I helped to create one of Wales’ specialist flagship schools for pupils aged 3-19 with profound and complex needs, including autism. My inspirational approach to teaching and learning was recognised by the Welsh Government and as such I became a standard bearer for the teaching of learners with complex needs. I was instrumental in opening and developing Wales’ first Residential Specialist College for young people and adults with Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) and behaviours that challenge.

I am an experienced Director for educational services and Responsible Individual which has included formal education, residential care and the day-to-day operations of clinical services, within a team of almost 1600. I was accountable for leading governance and quality assurance proceedings and developing clear robust systems and process for service wide self-evaluation and risk management resulting in a strategic and transparent vision for growth and development. This included scribing company policies, oversee all safeguarding procedures management of teams to fulfil requirements that ensure pupil safety. I remained actively involved in further promoting the understanding of autism within mainstream education and the wider community; delivering training on ASC for schools, colleges and general public as well as the initial teacher training students at The University of South Wales who are studying on the post-graduate certificate of education programme.

I constantly seek to raise awareness of specialist education, including autism amongst professionals and the general public, speaking on TV and radio and writing articles for the local, national and specialist media.

Tom Massie

I joined Phoenix in 2017 as Group Quality & Service Delivery Director with a direct remit for our care operations and quality teams. In 2019 I joined the team of Governors for Oakwood Specialist College with a focus on Teaching & Learning. As an organisation we have during this time developed the robustness of our internal management structures by introducing an Operations Director and a Quality Manager to support in the oversight and governance of the college.

I am educated to Master level with degrees in Economics and Statistics & Management Science. I have worked as a Director within multiple companies spanning a range of care and education services giving me significant familiarity with regulatory and governance standards across multiple regulators and countries.

My experience working with people with additional learning needs gives me the determination that the quality of their education must be inspiring and innovative to meet their individual needs.

François Delbaere

Having joined Phoenix in 2013, I have been involved with the governance and strategic oversight of Oakwood Specialist College and our other education settings in my role as Chief Financial Officer for the Phoenix Group of companies.

My role as governor is primarily focused in working with my fellow governors to help support and challenge our senior leaders in developing, shaping and delivering the best education and care services to aid our learners thrive and flourish. My key area of experience, drawing on my many years working in a strategic financial capacity, is to review and provide counsel on the College’s financial performance and health ensuring we strive to deliver value for money to our local authority partners. I also act as the lead governor for our careers and futures activities within the College.

Educated to degree level and through ongoing formal professional qualifications, I have witnessed and been fortunate to personally benefit from the positive effect a good education can provide which gives me passion to ensure all the learners in our care have access to the positive impact education can bring to our long term wellbeing and development.

I have held various trustee roles in charitable settings and previously held committee roles in local sport groups; combined with my many years of senior leadership experience at director level, I have a broad understanding in the effectiveness and importance of good governance.

Jon Pain

On joining Phoenix in 2015 I became chair of Governors at the Oakwood Specialist College with a remit to improve financial stability and the quality of the setting as part of overarching improvements to the Phoenix organisation in my substantive role as Chief Executive.

Today the focus is on facilitating high quality education by, in part, improving curriculums and teaching and ensuring Learners are best equipped with communication skills and experiences to ensure they are participative members of society.

I have held senior appointments across a range of sectors including manufacturing, media, logistics, tourism and healthcare with a number of respected well-known companies both at International, national and regional levels. I have worked with numerous regulators including; Care Inspectorate Wales, Care Inspectorate Scotland, Ofsted, Estyn, CQC, The Office of Rail & Road and Ofcom.

I have experience of trusteeship with a range of charities including Ltd, CIC & PLC structures.

I have a daughter who is now in her late twenties who successfully passed through private primary and then secondary state education, college then university and a partner who is an artist.

I strive for our Learners to enjoy their time at Oakwood, to strive to achieve the best they can and to be productive and contributing members of society. I also want to see our Team Members experience fulfilling careers making a positive difference to the People we Support and to enrich in turn their own lives.

Feedback from last Academic year

Philosophy on feedback

As part of our approach to reflective practice Phoenix Learning and Care recognise and embrace the importance of developing a culture of continual learning and development.  We welcome feedback on our achievements and the opportunity to share best practice, however we equally understand the importance of learning from our shortfalls. As such we welcome hearing about where we may have not lived up to our high standards and we truly value the opportunity to reflect and learn about areas that we need to develop further.

Within the last academic year we have received the following number of compliments and complaints.  


If you would like to provide feedback to the school or wish to make us aware of a compliment or complaint then you can email the school direct.

Alternatively, you may contact our Operations Director for Education, Darren Jackson on: [email protected]

We treat all concerns appropriately and all complaints are investigated thoroughly following our complaints policy and procedure which can be found within the Policies section of this website.  


Our proprietors Phoenix Learning and Care, welcome enquiries for placements in any of our services.

Please call us on 03330 150331 or email [email protected]

We will provide an initial response to all enquiries as soon as possible, advising the options available and indicative dates of admission.

The referrals team can discuss the local offer and where appropriate, put you in contact with the respective Registered Manager or Head Teacher to discuss the practical areas in greater detail.

The Young Person and/or Student are openly encouraged to visit along with parents, guardians or Social Workers to see if the placement is suitable.

Once the placement is confirmed, we work to ensure a smooth transition including the completion of required documentation.


We work closely with our children/young people, their families and professionals to create bespoke programmes of learning for students, which are tailored to their educational and social and emotional needs, supporting them to achieve their full potential. This means that we deliver a personalised curriculum, which, where possible, acknowledges the national curriculum and meets the individual needs of our students, whilst also supporting them to meet the outcomes identified in their EHCPs.

To achieve this, every student has an individual education plan which identifies their areas of need and how we can best address them, both in terms of staff approach and the curriculum that they are provided.  Our goal is to provide access to the best academic outcomes possible as well as preparing our students for adulthood and the next stage of their education by equipping them with the skills required to achieve personal success.