by Author Steve J Jinski

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Discover to Bronze: A Journey in Arts Award with SEND Students (Community Music Spark at Sage Gatesehead)

A short blog discussing the use of Arts Award in a SEND setting. Community Music Spark is Sage Gateshead’s community music training programme for young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities. It was first established in 2005.  As part of their Youth Music Fund A project they engaged as a group and as individuals with Arts Award. Through this process they were able to expand, evidence and reflect uppon their learning beyond musical engagement and into transferrable personal and social skills. 

The Sage Gateshead is an international home for music and musical discovery. Young people can take part in all types/genres of music and music education in our building and via other Sage Gateshead projects across the North-East region.

Arts Award is now embedded in our Creative Learning programme across all five levels and our Arts Award team engages daily with a diverse range of young people including young carers, looked after children and young people who are NEET, SEND.

Over the past few years we have worked very hard to use Arts Award to its full potential, champion it within the organisation, experiment with new ideas and ultimately utilise Arts Award as the great creative learning experience it is.

Historically one area that we found difficult to integrate it into was within our SEND programme. We have had varying degrees of success in the past, but felt that it wasn’t fully used to its potential and we needed a fresh start.

Community Music Spark (CMS) is Sage Gateshead’s community music training programme for young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities, established in 2005.  

It was originally intended that participants would be working on different Arts Award levels. However, we decided that the group would work together in the first instance on Discover level. This would help to ease them into working with the Arts Award leader (Sage Gateshead’s Arts Award champion Paul Martin) and of course with each other. They would then progress to Bronze accreditation. The approach we took was as follows…

We saw value in the structure that Arts Award can offer and recognised that it can benefit and compliment other elements of our training programme as well as providing a space for our students to explore their own creative interests, ideas, and get a chance to share and reflect.

We wanted to integrate Arts Award throughout each term and get our students to be familiar with Arts Award and its process. We believe that having the space to be creative and reflective is invaluable to learning and the fact that accreditation can be achieved through Arts Award is a bonus!

Paul Martin was responsible for planning, delivering and working with other team members to integrate Arts Award into the CMS Programme.

We felt it was necessary for Paul to be introduced to the group by attending the regular music sessions and taking part in activity. This gave everybody a chance to get to know each other. The group were made aware before the sessions began that they would be working on Arts Award and we discussed how it would/could be integrated into our normal musical activity. This approach worked on many levels, it helped the planning of sessions, how we structured Arts Award delivery and helped reduce any potential confusion for some of our young people with Autism and other needs. It also gave the group ownership of their Arts Award activities.

We hosted focus sessions with the group about their individual interests (e.g. favourite band/movies/colours/ etc) which was a way for Paul to get to know them more, but also of informing the design element for the bespoke Discover Awards that were created by everyone in the group.

We found that by involving them in this way, gave them ownership and they were very happy to work on their bespoke booklets as a result. The entire group passed this level.  

We noticed a rise in confidence from participants especially in areas of public speaking when sharing to the group.  This is a huge milestone for these young people, who have communication difficulties and confidence issues.

We moved onto the Explore Arts Award, which was a step up in terms of work, content and commitment.

We continued the group approach, and during focus sessions they decided they wanted to create a song and an accompanying short film based around the theme and lyrics.

The introduction of film to our programme was well received by the young people and was enjoyable for the whole group to work together on something different.  It brought new and fresh energy to the sessions. None of the group had ever made a film before! So, they were all very excited.

Following discussion about one participants reliance on their mobile phone the group decided that the song would be about technology, and how we have succumbed to social media, our phones and what effect it has had on us and society. The accompanying film was called ‘E ZOMBIE’

During our group sessions we discussed the various roles that were needed to create both these pieces and individuals were given roles/responsibilities and creative tasks to help provide evidence for their booklets.  

Each participant had a specific and necessary creative role, we had song writers, a special effects team, props team, cameramen, lead actors, story boarders, we tried to give everyone a role and show the variation of jobs/tasks. The group also wrote, composed, sang and recorded the song.

Having a wide range of job/roles was useful as it was a great way to encourage teamwork but also individual responsibility and focus. Not to mention a lot of fun!

We completed the music/film over a number of weeks and even had a showing of it on a big screen, as part of the end of year graduation celebrations. We felt it was important to do this, to show them their hard work and creativity was being noticed, and give them a sense of achievement.

We sent the film to a local arts organisation, who recommended that we submit it in a regional short film competition in 2018! The group were thrilled.

With the success of this project and the unexpected outcome that all the young people passed the Explore level and committed to a longer creative process outside their/our comfort zones, we decided that we would start the next level of Arts Award. Bronze.

Bronze Arts Award is a Level 1 qualification on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) and requires more work than the previous levels. One of the sections is sharing/leading a session.

CMS felt with all the experience they had gained through the programme, and the Arts Award journey they had already been on, they were more than ready to tackle the Bronze level.

As part of their Bronze Arts Award the group went on a visit to a contemporary local Art Gallery (Baltic). This was a first for many of the group. Another part of the Arts Award Bronze requirements was 'Skills Share Activities' and these ranged from ice breaker games, drum workshops to a Cosplay Make up session!

The group’s confidence and abilities have grown so much because of Arts Award. The variation of the work load, the creative tasks and the freedom for individuals and the group as a whole to explore their own interests has had a huge positive impact on learning and social skills.

Another surprise outcome of this work was that the group have submitted a Keyfund application, for other small projects that they want to do. This has involved writing plans, budgets and creating a pitch about their idea that they can present to a panel!

For more information on Keyfund please follow this link

The group love music and films, they have put together a presentation which uses music, drama and comedy. Selecting their favourite and iconic film soundtracks, creating a medley, that is accompanied by some funny sketches and physical theatre. Think Star Wars, Jaws, Mission Impossible and much more. They are scheduled to pitch to a panel in January 2018. The aim is to move up through the Keyfund levels over the next year!

This whole year has been an amazing journey of learning, creativity and personal triumphs for CMS. There has been a lot of inclusive learning, new experiences and a lot of fun.

It is vital for us as educators to provide new and exciting experiences for our young people, try new things and experiment. We hope to continue on this journey of creativity with our students, learning, creating and having fun along the way.

Check out the CMS blog here

Follow our Arts Award adventures on Twitter @Sage_ArtsAward