03 Aug 2015

OU/BBC: Life Begins Now – new documentary reveals the challenges faced by young people with learning difficulties

Best friends John, Aled and Aled - posing outside Derwen College

Best friends John, Aled and Aled - posing outside Derwen College

Leaving college and entering the real world is never easy, but for students with learning difficulties the transition raises unique challenges. As part of BBC Three’s ‘Defying the Label’ season, The Open University (OU) has co-produced ‘Life Begins Now’ - a film about the last few weeks of term for students at Derwen College – a residential college for students with learning difficulties and disabilities, as they prepare to graduate and enter the real world.

Life Begins Now will be on BBC Three at 21.00 on Tuesday 4 August 2015 and will show how moving on from the security of college life raises unique challenges for people with learning difficulties.

This sensitive one hour film spends the last few weeks of term at Derwen College in Shropshire with six students as they prepare to graduate and enter the real world. The film follows three young men, Jon, Aled and Aled – inseparable for the past three years, united by their Down’s Syndrome but also their love of mischief and girls. Gang leader Jon has cultivated a reputation as a hard man on campus. He doesn't want to get a proper job once he leaves college; instead he's going to pursue the life of a gangster "fighting, hot-tubs, strippers". His two trusty companions Aled and Aled are also signed up to this hedonistic lifestyle but as the time approaches for Jon to say goodbye to college and his best buddies, reality bites and his hard man mask begins to slip.

Daniel and Lissie also met three years ago and fell in love within just a few days of term beginning. They're the college sweethearts, Derwen's Posh and Becks, and are rarely seen out of each other's company. During the final term Dan bought Lissie an engagement ring and proposed to her in front of his college friends. But they're keeping their marriage plans a secret from their parents. Will their relationship endure living two hundred miles apart when they return to their family homes?

And then there is Stephen. He's struggled to create a close friendship at Derwen College because of his autism and challenging behaviour. Now as he is preparing to leave there are concerns at the college that he will struggle to integrate back into mainstream society.

Leaving college is a daunting time for anyone, but the staff at Derwen have added concerns for our students. Because of their learning difficulties they are less likely to be able to anticipate the changes that await them. The future really is a journey into the unknown.

To accompany the series OpenLearn - the OU’s home of free learning, has created a range of content to help you expand your knowledge of learning disabilities including a special 'What do you know about living with a learning disability?' quiz. To find out more please visit: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/whats-on/tv/ou-on-the-bbc-life-begins-now

The series is part of the BBC’s Defying the Label season of compelling, untold stories revealing a glimpse of life as a young, disabled person will air on BBC Three this summer. Through 15 specialist documentaries, current affairs features, a factual drama and a comedy panel game show, the season will explore issues ranging from invisible injuries to acquiring a disability later in life; sex and romance; poverty; bullying; hate crime and role models.

The Defying the Label supports the OU’s ambition to offer education to help people living with disabilities to live life to the full and to enable those without disabilities to support them. The faculty is also working to offer career pathways to young people in the health and social care sector. For further information please visit The OpenLearn website.

Life Begins Now is on BBC Three on Tuesday 4 August at 21.00
The series is made by Platform Productions
Producer/Director: Richard Macer
Executive Producer: Jane Merkin
BBC Commissioning Editor: Clare Paterson
OU Broadcast Commissioner: Dr Caroline Ogilvie
OU Academic Consultants: Janet Bardsley


Notes to editor

About The Open University
The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.8 million students and has almost 200,000 current students, including more than 15,000 overseas.

The OU has a 41 year partnership with the BBC and has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to co-producing prime-time series such as Frozen Planet, Bang Goes the Theory, Britain’s Great War, I Bought a Rainforest and Business Boomers. Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes over 800 free courses on OpenLearn, which receives 4.5 visitors a year, and materials on YouTube, Bibblio, AudioBoo and iTunes U, which has recorded over 69m million downloads.
For further information please visit: www.open.ac.uk

The BBC has implemented ambitious plans to increase diversity on and off air, and aims to quadruple on screen portrayal of people with disabilities by 2017 as part of this.

For more information on BBC Three’s ‘Defying the Label’ season please visit:
• For Previews of the programmes, click here, and use your BBC Press Previews account here to search for individual titles
• For BBC Pictures please ask your picture desk to contact the team here
• www.bbc.co.uk/defyingthelabel

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