Northern Regional College

Northern Regional College is one of six colleges of Further & Higher Education within Northern Ireland.


With campuses in Ballymena, Ballymoney, Coleraine, Magherafelt and Newtownabbey, it is the main provider of education and training across a diverse catchment area which serves a population of over 429,000 people.

The College provides over 400 courses on a full-time and part-time basis within a range of professional and technical areas, including work-based learning, including apprenticeships. The provision is designed to provide learners with a life-changing, supportive and innovative experience, which equips them with the skills to compete successfully in the global employment market.

What Northern Regional College did

Northern Regional College realised that there was a gap in the provision of support for parents of children with special needs in its local area. To address this, it developed The Empower Project which is based on a previous community-based lottery-funded project Living & Learning Together.

It is a five-year Big Lottery funded initiative through the Reaching Out Supporting Families Programme. Its focus is to support children under 12 with Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia (ADD), their parents and the wider family circle to enhance confidence and learn together to develop skills to support their children in the Magherafelt and Antrim areas.

This novel project engages with health professionals, schools, childcare providers and other groups to raise awareness of autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia, encourage early diagnosis and referral to specialist services and educate on best practice.

The project focuses on areas of concern in relation to the children and identifies the specialist training required including autism and anger, sensory workshops, food/diet and ASD, dyslexia, developmental co-ordination delay, managing emotions etc.

The project provides 23 hours per week (after school) of Learner Buddy Hub activity in partnership with schools and community groups, working in small groups with young people who have been identified as struggling at school. Attendees are able to develop their literacy and numeracy skills in a relaxed environment, using games and group activities. It aims to make learning fun and build the confidence of the young people taking part.

Impacts and Outcomes

  • Year 1 (2015/’16) 80 activities 694 participants
  • Year 2 (2016/’17) 202 activities/courses 1985 Participants
  • Year 3 (2017/’18) to date 120 activities/courses 662 participants (figures for this year still to be completed)

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