When phone rang and I was offered a job at Leeds Museums and Galleries (LMG) to manage Careers for All I remember being stunned and silent. I was both incredibly excited but also apprehensive about entering a role so specific to SEND. I have a specialism in AEN (additional educational needs) which I picked up from my teaching degree at University but in such a diverse world I could never consider myself a specialist. This blog is me summing up why my apprehension was misplaced, my thoughts on SEND careers programmes and why I found it inspiring.
I started the post in January 2019. The post was created in response to teacher feedback given to two of my colleagues who had done great work creating an Arts Award programme for local SILC’s (specialist inclusive learning centres). During the initial set up of the project I wanted to gain as much consultation as possible. I visited local schools, colleges and SILC’s to establish what could work. I was amazed by the feedback. The concept of the project was incredibly popular and managing demand whilst learning the job was tricky in my first 6 months. Nevertheless the support I received from teachers was colossal; many schools are crying out for projects like Careers for All and want these projects to succeed. The teachers I worked. Despite being busy individuals, were willing to give their time to listen and give advice for worthy projects. This consultation led to the creation of four main activities, each designed for different pupils I had encountered on my tour of local schools. I am going to put my formal hat on now and give you more detail as to these activities.
Outreach; this involves LMG staff going into schools with objects to explain peoples job roles. For some pupils within the programme leaving the safe environment of school is highly stressful and can be overwhelming. The main schools that found outreach useful were those with pupils with SEMH (social, emotional and mental health) needs and some schools with autistic pupils.
Sensory outreach; Sensory outreach workshops were devised for pupils who would find placement and career taster days difficult to access. The main benefit of sensory outreach was the ability to engage pupils with more profound needs and pupils with low or no verbal communication.
Career fairs; early on in the project I attended school career fair events representing the museums and heritage sector. LMG also ran a SEND specific careers fair at Leeds City Museum with SEND friendly partners from across Yorkshire. Numbers were controlled and timings assigned to pupils to make the event as relaxed and predictable as possible. These events appealed to a broad variety of needs.
Career taster days; one day work experience for pupils who are on the way to independence. Taster days offer a structured day of activities that reflect several roles people do in museums including archaeology, curation and conservation.
Work experience; typically one day a week for a school term, this varies however depending upon the direction given to us from our pupil and their school/ college. Work experience is for young people looking to bridge the gap from learning in school to earning in the workplace. Placements are designed to help improve confidence and life skills of a young person. A pupil on placement records their experience in a reflective journal which can then be used to update a CV and help them have easy access to examples of work when writing an application or partaking in an interview.
What struck me about the programme is how much of a difference it was making. I have had several pupils who had never done work experience before, who have left us with a huge boost to their confidence and a want to move forwards with their lives in the world of work. It has also been great to see LMG staff exposed to pupils with additional needs, which has helped grow their confidence in working with SEND. Pupils that have engaged have been incredibly positive and willing to work hard and this has also raised staff spirits. I am also proud to say many of the pupils from our Careers for All programme have put our mainstream work experience pupils (including University students) to shame by their sheer enthusiasm and willingness to learn.
In autumn 2020 the development of the project got its reward through winning the Learning Programme of the Year at the Museum and Heritage Awards. I again was stunned into silence (but they cut that bit from the video shown online!) Although the project is young I feel the award is proof that if you place resource and time into working with SEND then the support you will receive will return twofold. Thank you all who were there for me, I truly believe that working together can make a difference greater than the sum of us as individuals.
So what now? Well, Careers for All is in a new digital age (but that is a subject for another time), my aim for the project is to continue to run the programme into 2021 and beyond, but also encourage you to do your bit and make a difference. For this reason a toolkit has been created which is available to download from our website. The toolkit covers in more detail what Leeds Museums and Galleries delivered in the first 18 months of the project and lessons learnt from it.
If you would like to know more about the project or are interested in doing something similar then get in touch with me.
Carl Newbould – Learning and Access Officer, Leeds Museums and Galleries