by Author musicmakingsense

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Arts Awards and young people with special educational needs

Our experience of delivering the Explorer Arts Award for young people with special educational needs

Upon receiving news of our Youth Music grant we were overjoyed, ecstatic and motivated! So when asked would we consider delivering the Arts Award as part of our activities we said “Of course!”, little knowing the impact the scheme would have on us and the schools we work with. 


As complete newcomers to the Arts Award, my colleague Kirsty Keogh and I attended the training for the Discovery and Explorer stages with optimism but also quiet trepidation. How would the award work? Would it complement the ensemble music-making activities at the heart of our project? Would the scheme of work be flexible to the needs of our participants (who’s additional needs range from severe to profound and multiple learning disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder). 


I’m pleased to say the training was excellent! The Arts Award programme is incredibly flexible to the needs and passions of all young people. Within our creative tasks we have been able to weave together the ensemble and musical learning aims of our project, incorporate curriculum themes from the schools, and harness the creative ideas of the participants. By documenting the participants work through photos and video we have been able to explore musical preferences and enter twenty-four students for the Explorer Award. 


Sharing their creativity and experiences is the final chapter of the award but also an important step for us. We decided to hold a presentation for the whole school: students, staff and parents. This enabled everyone to delight in the music achievements of our ensembles and hear the wonderful music they had created. It meant we could show video of musical responses from workshops that occurred in the moment - e.g. a vocal improvisation or when a student got up to dance in the excitement of hearing the music of a local carnival group. Staff could see another side to the students they work with everyday - one teacher cried as she heard one of her pupils sing for the first time (she only does this in music). Also we could talk to parents about the opportunities and support available across the music hub they either didn’t know existed or would be accessible for their child. 


And importantly, the award provides an accredited qualification. Due to the needs of the young people we work with there aren’t many qualifications open to them. So all credit to the Arts Award. Their programme is flexible to special needs, open enough to be able to combine different aims and strands of work, and provides young people and schools with accredited qualifications - an achievement which schools and music hubs can build on to gain funding and support for further projects. 



The Arts Award has been incredibly useful for us. We would love to hear about how other organisations have approached the Arts Award. 




Kim Perkins, Director of Music Making SENse. 


Music Making SENse is the lead delivery partner of Lambeth Music Hub’s ‘Banding together: Developing learning pathways for young people with special educational needs’ project. The project has encouraged the development of ensemble learning in SEN schools, shared the benefits of group music making, and broad the musical experiences of its participants.   


Music Making SENse

Arts Award