An industrial unit on the back edge of a trading estate isan unremarkable situation for a motor trade business, although it is an unusual place to find a college. Rallysport Engineering in Colchester is both. Formed 10 years ago with the intention of providing a good qualification for youngsters that found school challenging, the project was originally based in Action Park, Wickford. In time, a move was made to a different site and the town, and a second campus was opened here in Colchester.
When students are referred to the project they typically start on an IMI-accredited Level One course which meets the requirements of Key Stage Four. Those unable to finish the course are awarded for the modules that they have completed, while those
that have completed the modules typically go on to apprenticeships or further vocational training.
While this sounds rather academic, it really isn’t. While there is written work, the majority of the course is centred on practical work
– and the workshop is full of kitted-out rally cars, or at least projects that will become them.
On our visit we were impressed to see a Focus that had started off life as a lowly diesel model, but had been completely rebuilt by the students to RS spec, along with a whole load of non-rally additions, including a ground-shaking speaker system. Students are referred by local authorities. They came from a variety of backgrounds that might find the traditional school environment challenging and Rallysport is notable for having a large number of pupils on the autistic spectrum. “It’s mainly about giving them more time”, explains Academy Manager Jon Reynolds. “Autistic kids in the main like to do the practical tasks, but written work they struggle with, so we give them more time with that and give them more one-to-one time”. One-to-one attention to find out what the learners have picked up is important.
“Once we do the group work, we ask the individual learners what they’ve understood from the lesson. Then we can give them that little bit more tuition so that they’re all at the same level and they don’t feel like they are being left behind”, says Reynolds, adding that some students with autism find it easier to concentrate more on the task in hand. “Engineering is brilliant for people with autism, really. Some will go into doing programming, and really enjoy the logic of programming. For others it is electrical work, and then others still it is engineering,” he says.
With such a student-oriented focus, it is perhaps no surprise that Rallysport’s approach has been attracting the attention of the motor industry. The project won the CAT Award for Rising Stars in March, and various suppliers support the project. On our visit we met Suzanne Howlett, the Area Sales Manager from TMD Friction, whose firm supports the initiative with parts and advice. Not every learner goes on to work in the motor industry of course, but it is good to see an organisation providing those who want to learn with a pathway to success.