Arts Award Gold supporting career opportunities in a SEND setting
BY: Guest Writer
02 May 2023
Jo D’Amiral, Music Teacher at City of Rochester School, a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) setting, shares with us how their first Gold Arts Award achiever was so inspired by the Unit 2 work he did that he has since embarked upon his career to become an employee at the same school…
'I no longer settle for the minimal amount required of me’, reflects a young person upon completing and gaining a Gold Arts Award at City of Rochester School. The school works with pupils with a main diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Louie was the first young person to complete this qualification at the school, and in fact, the first to achieve any Level 3 qualification – quite the achievement! Before working on his Gold Arts Award, Louie only did the bare minimum of work required of him, but he now has an improved work ethic.
Before starting his Arts Award journey, Louie was finding coming to school challenging. He was experiencing issues with his mental health and the social side of school and felt there was no point in attending. Working towards Silver Arts Award enabled Louie to feel more confident and positive about returning to school post-pandemic. Louie was also working on BTEC Level 2 First Award in Music which he finished at the same time as his Gold Arts Award.
Working in a specialist setting comes with several challenges – pupils often come from a variety of settings and starting points, can be lacking in confidence and sometimes find just attending school tricky. One of the reasons we have chosen to deliver Arts Award at all levels across all Key Stages (1-5) is so that we can offer a qualification to all pupils, no matter where they are in their educational journey.
Confidence was a challenging factor for Louie whilst completing his Gold Arts Award, particularly in communicating with unknown practitioners as part of research or work experience. We are working on our approaches to this area of the award with our current Gold participants and they are finding ways that suit them, such as online courses and workshops which make it easier for them to access this part of the qualification.
For Unit 2, Louie planned, delivered and evaluated a complete six-week scheme of work for teaching music to primary pupils in our school. He took on the role, teaching a variety of skills and was supported by the support staff. Everyone involved in this project found it a valuable experience. Louie was able to practise his communication skills in a safe and familiar setting, receiving regular feedback from Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) and myself, his adviser and music teacher, throughout the process. The younger pupils enjoyed learning from a peer, and this helped to further enhance the sense of community in our school.
Louie says participating in Arts Award has helped him to view situations from differing perspectives and he cites that he no longer settles for the minimal amount required of him; he has worked on developing detail in his written work and feels more able to articulate himself. He feels the skills learnt in Unit 2 have made him more empathetic and aware of how to handle different situations.
Louie has now made the successful transition from pupil to a full-time member of staff at our school. The six-week scheme of work for teaching that Louie planned and delivered contributed to him gaining the experience required to secure the position as LSA and gave him points to discuss at interview. We are proud to have Louie employed in our school as an LSA in the primary phase and he hopes to work towards training to be a teacher in the future. It’s clear that Louie’s involvement in Arts Award has enabled him to develop several skills to support him in his new role and he demonstrates these daily when working with the pupils.
Since launching Arts Award in our centre, we have put forward young people whose work has been successfully moderated across all levels. We love that the pupils lower down the school are excited to achieve a qualification for doing what they would normally do in their arts lessons. They’ve enjoyed their arts lessons and are excited when older pupils show an interest in moving on to the next level. This academic year we have several participants at all levels, including two working towards Gold. We think the key to our success is thinking flexibly and finding ways to meet the criteria of Arts Award through our pupils’ varying interests and needs.
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