Showcasing creativity through an accessible Arts Award programme

Showcasing creativity through an accessible Arts Award programme

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BY: Guest Writer
10 Jun 2024

We hear from Marcelle Steenkamp, Art Lead at Montem Academy in Slough as we launch our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) theme on the blog this month. Marcelle shares with us how working collaboratively with other organisations enabled them to make Arts Award Discover accessible for their vision-impaired pupils so that everyone was able to engage with the same opportunities and enhance the experience for all as a result.

At Montem Academy, we have been very fortunate to work closely with Berkshire Sensory Consortium Service for the last couple of years so we can make our school as inclusive as possible. Due to this wonderful partnership, Montem has established itself as a centre of excellence for visually impaired pupils.


Angela Azzopardi, a teacher and our expert for vision-impaired pupils from the Consortium, has been dedicatedly working with our children for the past three years. Her main goal is to ensure that our three vision-impaired pupils, who are in Reception, Year 1 and Year 4, can fully engage with the curriculum using braille, touch and their other senses. She supports teachers and pupils to access art and Arts Award through tactile or adapted visual ways. This year, we were thrilled that one of these pupils, Arwa from Year 4, was able to take part in the Arts Award Discover programme for the first time. We strongly believe that opportunities like this are incredibly valuable for all our pupils as it allows them to express themselves and perceive the world in a unique way. Moreover, it has given Arwa the chance to explore her creativity alongside her peers. Angela has worked tirelessly to develop inclusive methods for Arwa to actively participate in all the Arts Award Discover activities.

Tactile skills

During our collaboration, we drew inspiration from the amazing charity, Living Paintings. This organisation is dedicated to providing visually impaired young people with picture books that include tactile pictures and raised plastic copies of famous paintings. They generously provided us with an art kit and some fantastic ideas to build upon. To create raised pictures, Arwa used German film for mark making, allowing her to work alongside her peers (Discover Part A). This was a wonderful opportunity for all students to consider texture as a means of adding interest to a picture especially for those who cannot perceive colour. By drawing in this unique way, Arwa was able to experience art through touch. She was particularly amazed by how braille can be used to label pictures or create shapes, as well as the use of swell ink and a special machine, called a Zyfuse, to produce raised outlines. For our next Arts Award journey, we are planning to explore collage work and further develop our tactile skills by working with clay. We are excited to delve into art that goes beyond just colour on a page.


Arwa’s participation in various Year 4 workshops was truly wonderful as she lacks confidence and hasn’t really been able to take part in any activities of this nature before. During an oil painting workshop (Part A – Discover) on the theme of Remembrance, we used a tablet to zoom into the details of an example picture. This allowed Arwa to work in the same way as her classmates, and she thoroughly enjoyed learning to mix paint and confidently apply it to her canvas (Part A – Discover). Creating the final artwork helped her develop her spatial awareness, sensory perception and fine motor skills and it was proudly displayed in the main school entrance.


Artist research

During Arwa’s Discover journey, she learnt that numerous renowned artists had eye conditions that influenced how they perceived the world, much like herself. For example, Georgia O’Keefe, an artist who inspired her during the Discover course (Part B – Find out), was blind in her later years but persisted in painting. Despite keeping her condition hidden, O’Keefe continued to create beautiful artwork.

Although our two younger visually impaired students are not yet ready for Arts Award, we are confident that with the support of Angela and her dedicated team at Berkshire Sensory Consortium, they will be able to enrol in both Discover and Explore as they progress to Key Stage 2.

Learning journey

It brings us immense joy to see all our visually impaired students included in activities that bring them so much happiness and allow them to nurture their creativity alongside their peers. Arwa has been so inspired by her successful Arts Award journey that she is currently participating in a bracelet-making club.

We have found that by making Arts Award available to all our students, we have witnessed how they support each other and showcase their creativity through art. This has led us to reconsider our approach in working with visually impaired students, ensuring they have the opportunity to explore their creativity despite the challenges they face in a curriculum that is already packed with learning requirements.

We anticipate that our younger visually impaired students will also take pride in their unique perspective of the world and in their ability to express it through art. We are thrilled to continue our Arts Award learning journey with them as they progress through the school.

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