Last week I visited Derwen College in Gobowen which is a huge asset not just to our area but to the whole country. The collegepromotes the vocational, educational, social and personal development of a wide range of young people with learning difficulties and disabilities. They offer residential and day placements, a post-college living and work programme, apprenticeships and supported internships. They have a number of practical businesses competing locally and as Secretary of State for Defra, it was really good to open the Bradbury Food Production Centre which provides work experience for students using college-grown produce to make and sell jams and chutneys.
I was given a tour of the campus and updated on the excellent work that the College is doing to prepare students for the workplace and saw how they are building up some excellent onsite businesses selling quality products to the public. I spoke to the staff about promoting the college locally and I hope that people from Oswestry and beyond will take time to support the college’s work by visiting the excellent restaurant and making a purchase in the farm shop or garden centre. All these businesses operate on a completely commercial basis and are a great local resource.
I was encouraged to learn that the Work Experience Team have well-established contacts with a wide range of work experience providers in Oswestry and the surrounding area providing the opportunity for supported placements, such as the grounds maintenance project at ABP.
I learned that by working with local community partners, students have undertaken placements with national chains such as Premier Inn, Co-operative Food and Tesco, as well as in local libraries, catering firms and shops.
The chief reason for my visit was to speak to the Student Council, an elected body who meet every Friday to discuss issues affecting students. I was asked to talk about the forthcoming election beginning with a short talk about my work as an MP and how I got involved with politics. We then had a lively question and answer session with a range of questions from the students about issues affecting them and their peers.
I was struck by the enthusiasm the students demonstrated for politics and the opportunity to exercise their right to vote. They were genuinely interested in the issues and understood the importance of playing their part in electing the Government. I finished the meeting by making clear that, whoever they vote for, they must vote. I believe that this is the most important election in a generation and I hope that everyone will follow the inspirational lead of the students of Derwen College by voting on May 7th.