It is widely evidenced that participation in structured arts activities boosts children's cognitive ability, supports their emotional and physical wellbeing, contributes to prosocial behaviour and increases their employability. However, children with SEND are statistically least likely to take part in creative experiences outside school as families can be deterred by emotional, medical and logistical challenges as well as by the perception that cultural venues may not be accessible and welcoming.
The innovative partnership between GLAM and Iffley Academy sets out to challenge this accepted norm. It aims to create equitable access to cultural venues for children with SEND so that they feel comfortable and confident in these spaces. Cultural learning is placed at the heart of the school curriculum so that it informs teaching across all subjects, including both maths and science. The partnership also encourages students to actively consider careers in the arts and cultural sector.
Led by GLAM arts engagement officer Miranda Millward in partnership with senior staff at the school, the co-constructed programme is designed to familiarise the students with cultural venues in an accessible way and facilitate their participation in creative projects.
The students are first introduced to the museums and libraries through virtual walk-throughs of the galleries and objects being brought into the school. This enables the students to familiarise themselves with the venues and the collections in a supportive environment. Guided visits then follow, led by members of GLAM staff who have spent time in the school getting to know the students.
Following their visit, the students undertake a range of creative projects, often with the support of artists who run workshops at the school. The students then go on to design their own exhibitions and organise private views, which are attended by school and GLAM staff as well as members of the wider school community.