SEN work experience and Arts Award at artsdepot

SEN work experience and Arts Award at artsdepot

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BY: Guest Writer
12 Jul 2022

Emma Chiplin, Creative Producer at arts centre artsdepot in London tells us about their work experience programme for young people with Special Educational Needs and how the participants can develop employability skills alongside building confidence, new friendships and achieving a Bronze Arts Award. Read on to find out about the programme and how embedding Arts Award enriches the experience for young people.

artsdepot is a cultural hub rooted firmly in the community of North Finchley and the local borough of Barnet. We provide opportunities for people of all ages to enjoy the arts and explore their creativity through our vibrant year-round programme of performances and exhibitions, as well as our wide range of participation and schools and outreach project. One of our flagship programmes is SEN (Special Educational Needs) work experience which we have been running since 2018. This programme enables disabled and neurodiverse young people aged 16-24 to develop their understanding of potential routes into careers and opportunities in the arts, as well as developing both creative and employability skills through working to achieve their Bronze Arts Award.

The SEN work experience programme is adapted from our mainstream work experience programme, with workshops specifically tailored to the individual needs of the group. A parent or carer fills out an access form ahead of the programme which details what recommended strategies or adjustments we should factor into the planning. A carer or support worker may attend with the young person and activities are broken into smaller chunks with plenty of opportunities for revisiting. All activities are supported with visual aids and we create a visual timetable for each day and share a social story ahead of the workshops.

An insight into creative careers
Participants are referred by local schools. We begin with two taster sessions so applicants can get a sense of the programme, we can ensure their suitability and that we are prepared to support their access needs. They then get stuck into a 10-week programme where participants visit artsdepot weekly, spending time with each department in the venue and learning what is required to run a busy, professional arts venue. From a tech workshop in our studio theatre, to designing posters with our marketing team, the programme provides an insight into creative careers and supports young people to develop content for a CV or volunteering/further education application.

Embedding Arts Award
Arts Award is embedded in the programme and for the past two years we have worked with Tiger Monkey UK to facilitate this. Their role has been to support the young people to complete each part of the Bronze Arts Award; recording and collecting evidence of all their activities, experiences, responses and reflections. Arts Award is a brilliant addition to the programme as it provides recognition of the young people’s hard work, helps them move onto the next part of their journey and creates a real sense of achievement, particularly as for some of them this may be the only qualification that they gain.

Through Arts Award, the young people develop employability skills such as communication, organisation, planning and team working as well as building confidence to explore their own interests and reflect on their own personal progress. Evidence for their portfolios can be collected in any format so we can really tailor it to the individual needs of the group.

Feedback about one of the participants from 2021–22:

‘Sayed developed his confidence and communication skills as a result of taking part in the SEN Work experience programme. He became confident enough to voice his thoughts and would always speak when having group discussions. This behaviour carried through into his skills share for Part D of his Arts Award. Which he again did brilliantly, and you can see his growth in confidence in his ability to take on more of a leadership role.’ Emma Ghafur, Project Manager

What next?

Following the programme, some students go on to carry out work experience placements with partner organisations and all participants have access to a series of creative careers workshops with leading arts organisations.

Applications for the 2022 SEN Work Experience programme will open in early September this year. If you are interested or would like to find out more information, drop us artsdepot an email at

Photo by Hayley Maden

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