Arts Award as a Key Stage 4 option for older SEN students

Arts Award as a Key Stage 4 option for older SEN students

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BY: Guest Writer
04 Sep 2023

Launching our ‘Arts Award in the curriculum’ theme on the blog this month, Emma Starling, Head of Drama and Productions at High Close School in Wokingham shares with us how, with a bit of planning time and lots of creativity, she has embedded Arts Award in the KS4 curriculum for their older Special Educational Needs (SEN) students, to suit their varying needs and interests…

Going from running Arts Award for 70+ children, to a cohort of 6 was quite a shock! But being able to run the Arts Award at High Close, a SEN school, as part of dedicated curriculum time was a wonderful opportunity. Our school caters for students with complex social, emotional and mental health needs and Arts Award works so well for them due to its flexible nature and focus on creativity, which can provide such a valuable escape.


One of the many reasons I love teaching Arts Award is that it is so flexible - with a bit of creativity on the part of the adviser, any student can succeed. At High Close students come to us with mixed abilities and varying degrees of experience in the arts. Many of them have never experienced arts events before, and being able to take them to our local arts centre to see smaller scale exhibitions and productions is just as valuable as taking them into London to see a West End show!

Developing a curriculum

As I am the only adviser in my school, it falls to me to develop a curriculum that suits the varying needs and interests of my cohort. I make links with activities and events run in school that students may also be able to use for both Bronze and Silver levels. For example, students can use the Coram Shakespeare Schools Festival performance for part B at Bronze (explore the arts as an audience member), or the arts challenge for unit 1 of Silver.

I have also made links with local Arts Award Supporters to help with Bronze part A (explore the artsBand as a participant). This has been invaluable as they provide a range of opportunities for the students, far beyond what we could offer at the school. I recommend that other advisers take a look at their local Supporters as they are such a useful resource. This year we went to music workshops at a local music charity; students needed to form a band within 20 minutes which was something they really enjoyed! So much so that they performed in our school talent show. It was incredibly special to see students playing together in front of the whole school, just a few months after their first band experience.


Part A music workshop portfolio pageI have moved over to online moderation since the Covid-19 pandemic. I love the flexibility of digital portfolio options; using a combination of written word, photographs of their work and progress, video and audio clips. The students’ work is documented in a variety of creative ways that meet the Arts Award criteria. I used to enjoy documenting the students’ work in more traditionally ‘artistic’ ways. For example, creating giant guitars out of paper and documenting Limp Bizkit’s rise to fame along the frets! But now I could just photograph it as part of an online portfolio. I also worked with one student who was severely dyslexic, so his Silver Arts Challenge was documented entirely through a video diary. Computer literacy can present some barriers to learning that I support the students to overcome, however, working online gives students options about when and where they choose to complete their learning - if they are away from school, they are still able to complete the work from home.

CreativityTeaching a graphic design logo workshop for part D

I count myself very lucky to have dedicated curriculum time for Arts Award. There are also lots of other ways to complete Arts Award within curriculum time, for example through projects in arts lessons or through cross-curricular projects. What I love about Arts Award is how, once I had taken the time to plan effectively, it afforded me the chance to really be creative in both my delivery and the programme of study that I put together for the students, which changes every year. All that is needed for Arts Award to succeed in your school is a bit of planning and a lot of creativity.


All by High Close School

Image 1 (top right): the student band

Image 2 (middle left): Bronze part A music workshop portfolio page

Image 3 (bottom right): Teaching a graphic design logo workshop for Bronze part D 

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