WATCH: How to support students with Down's syndrome

Down's syndrome campaigner Sam Ross has worked in a college for over a decade - and has some ideas on supporting learners

Julia Belgutay

Down's syndrome campaigner Sam Ross explains how to improve access to FE colleges

Sam Ross has missed her workplace during lockdown. Prior to lockdown, the general assistant (food) at City of Glasgow College served students and staff in the college's Cafe Zero, engaging with hundreds of people on a daily basis – and she cannot wait to get back to that. 

"I love it," she tells Tes. "I can't wait to get back. I meet different people – it makes me feel independent. Everyone knows me there and I love customer service. I have worked there for 12 years and I love my job."

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Ross has fought for more support for those with Down's syndrome for years, and was a keynote speaker at the World Down's Syndrome Congress in July 2018. That year, she was also named one of the BBC’s 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world. Earlier this year, she threw her support behind a campaign to end the historical misuse of the word "Mongol". 

Colleges helping students with Down's syndrome

After over a decade of working in an education institution, Ross has plenty of ideas of how they could become more welcoming to learners with Down's syndrome.

"I would give [prospective students] a tour of the college, and I would also get someone from the college to go into schools and tell them about college life. I would also show [future students] a short video, and give them a welcome package," she says.

She adds that, for learners with Down's syndrome, finding their way around the campus could be a challenge. "So give them a map, and maybe also a mentor to be with them for the first few weeks," Ross says.

Her own start in her job at the college was straightforward, she explains: "I found them very helpful and welcoming. I was treated the same as everyone else, and working as part of a team was great."

Ross' experience of school had been a wholly positive one, too, she says: "I had a fantastic experience at school. I went to a mainstream school and really enjoyed it. I made good friends and I enjoyed my lessons."

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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