Helping people with learning disabilities into jobs

CHRIS JENKINSON has posters of wrestling stars on his walls, likes to cook burgers and is about to start work in the kitchens of a Hilton hotel in Surrey, England. Emily Martin likes to cook Victoria sponge, is doing work experience at the Hinkley Point nuclear station, and eventually wants to work in a “front of house” role in hospitality. 

These may look like typical life ambitions. What makes them remarkable is that Chris has Down’s syndrome and Emily has learning difficulties. Only 6% of the 1.5m British adults with learning disabilities are in paid employment. Chris and Emily are students at the Foxes Academy in the seaside resort of Minehead, which specialises in helping young people with these conditions.

In recent years, eight out of ten graduates from the academy have taken jobs in hospitality. Students take a three-year course which allows them to learn how to live independently and develop the skills needed to hold down a job. Bartleby was given a tour of the facilities by Cameron Corrick, a student who has cerebral palsy and is starting as a commis chef (doing food preparation work) in Devon in August. The academy has its own hotel, as well as a teaching centre and a number of hostels in the town centre.

Early teaching focuses on basic skills. Cameron took Bartleby to a session on...

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