Support for young people with learning difficulties

Support for young people with learning difficulties

Picture of Kat Stapley-Smith

BY: Kat Stapley-Smith
10 Jun 2024

Arts Award is designed to be accessible to young people with a range of abilities, backgrounds and individual learning requirements. Because it measures and supports each individual’s personal progress, it is ideal for young people who face barriers to learning or who may not be able to access other qualifications. Young people can collect evidence for their Arts Award in a range of formats, meaning that non-verbal or less confident communicators can be supported to achieve the qualification.

Flexible framework

The framework offers a degree of flexibility so that young people can take part in arts activities that they are interested in and are appropriate for them. As an adviser, you can support your young people to access and take part in arts activities.

Creative evidencing 

Young people need to show evidence of their participation and progress at each level of the awards. They need to demonstrate a level of communication, but this doesn’t need to be verbal or written. Evidence can be captured in a number of ways, such as using signing and symbols to indicate preference, choice or enjoyment (eg PECS and Makaton); photographs; audio/video recordings; scribed work; sketches; witness statements. 


There is no time limit for doing the awards, so advisers can plan timetables and session times appropriate to the needs of the young people they are working with (but remember the awards are only open to young people aged 25 and under).


Find out more about the benefits of using Arts Award with young people with learning difficulties in our SEN leaflet

What next?

Get inspired

Read a range of case studies on the Arts Award blog from centres working with young people with learning difficulties and hear what other advisers have to say about the awards.

You can also find out about the work of our current Arts Award Trinity Champion Centres.

You can find more stories from young people on Arts Award Voice, our online magazine for young people aged 13 to 25. You can search for case studies, and the young people you're working with can also post their own stories to share. 

Some useful posts on the Arts Award blog for centres working with young people with learning difficulties:

  • Mark Harrington, the Lead of Creative Arts at Manor Green College in Crawley West Sussex, a special school for children and young adults between the ages of 11 and 19 tells us how their delivery of Bronze Arts Award has been life-changing for many of their students.
  • Emma Rucastle, Freelance Theatre and Creative Professional from TramShed Inclusive Theatre Company shares her tips and techniques to help ensure the reflective work required of any of the five Arts Award levels is accessible for all.
  • Silver & Gold Arts Award can help make a difference to how people with learning disabilities are perceived and increase the opportunities that are available to them. This blog post summarises the key points and tips discussed during our webinar 'Arts Award – Silver & Gold for young people with SEND', including how to evidence some of the more challenging aspects of these levels as well as a number of case studies to give advisers some ideas and inspiration.
  • 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.
  • Jo D’Amiral, Music Teacher at City of Rochester School, a 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.
  • 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.
  • Beth Sedgwick, Community Programme Manager and Arts Award adviser at Oxford Playhouse shares with us her delivery of Bronze Arts Award with Rona Smith, who is a young person who identifies as Blind. She describes how her approach is not about disability, but about facilitating ability.
  • We hear from Michael Smith, Tour Manager at PaddleBoat Theatre Company in Exeter who shares his experience of delivering Gold Arts Award as part of an Access Fund grant project with a college aged young person attending the Deaf Academy in Exmouth. This is a great example of how Arts Award can be personalised to young people’s specific circumstances and enable them to respond to and process experiences.
  • We hear from Sarah Allen, Learning and Access Officer at Abbey House Museum and Kirkstall Abbey (part of Leeds Museums and Galleries), who explores positive impact of museum objects on children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

'In working towards Arts Award our students learn more about themselves and their peers and begin to understand where they fit in the world around them, which is often a confusing place for a person with learning disabilities.'  Sharon Ainscough, Teacher, Chatsworth School

'It is unusual to see a qualification that is fully accessible to all different sorts of learners. It measures their personal journey. We offer Arts Award from Year 10 onwards; timetabled and supported by lunch-time and out of hours clubs.'  Keith Youngson, Deputy Head, Fox Hollies Special School

Get started

Information about SEN adviser training and planning your Arts Award delivery.

Get support

Information on how we can support you including case studies, resources, webinars, support sessions, materials in accessible formats and our Access Fund programme.

For in-depth advice and support on planning and delivering Arts Award in your setting, contact the Sector Support Team on

Image: Manor Green College by Daniel Tidbury

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