Case Studies

Attenborough Arts Centre

SEN (ages 7 - 16)

A pioneering project supporting non-verbal students with profound learning difficulties from Ashmount School, to experience new language and produce visual poetry with creative writer John (Owen) Berkavitch.

  • Supported children with the most complex Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) to achieve an Arts Award
  • The project identified new ways for the cultural sector to deliver Arts Award to children with complex SEND. It developed new education and exhibition practices at Attenborough Arts Centre
  • Developed skills and expertise for creative practitioners using augmented communication technology as part of a child-led pedagogy
  • Created a new public resource to support gallery learning and agency for non-verbal visitors to exhibitions: Gallery E-Tran Frame
  • Engaged the public in the creative lives of children with PMLD through a public exhibition of their visual poems

Attenborough Arts Centre is the University of Leicester’s arts centre, with a studio theatre; art studios and purpose built contemporary art galleries. The gallery has a dedicated Learning and Outreach team that create programmes to engage people, including dedicated work for people with SEND.

John (Owen) Berkavitch, the Creative Writer, brought a package of skills that were a unique fit for the programme. With a background in theatre, performance and creative writing, he was able to determine how to perform feelings, even those complex ones, such as ‘curiosity’. As a visual artist he understood the role of galleries, materials and visual processes as communication aids. Finally, as an event producer, he was able to stage poetry slams in the school, with non-verbal people.

John worked closely with pupils on a one to one basis, supported by teaching staff, helping them to create their own visual poems.

The children were all very different with complex levels of needs, so pre-visit activities were led by the Creative Writer and teachers and tailored to the requirements of each pupil. Pupils visited AAC in small groups of six to eight at a time. They engaged with tactile tours, thematic props and a range of exercises covering a cross section of sensory engagements.

The team needed to manage physical and learning access, ensuring that all of the young people were comfortable with all staff.

John introduced the exhibition using words and images in Makaton, imprint3 and facilitated creative responses using Eye Gaze Edge systems and Language Acquisition through Motor Planning for children with ASD.

AAC created a public exhibition of the visual poems, along with Makaton versions. A launch event was held for pupils, teachers and parents, with pupils who were largely non-verbal taking part in a slam poetry session.

Attenborough Arts Centre
Venue Lead
Marianne Pape, Education and Outreach Officer
Creative Writer
John Berkavitch
Ashmount School
School Lead
Abi Steady, Deputy Head Teacher
24+ SEN pupils
  • developing vocabulary
  • non-verbal

Resource produced

Gallery E-Tran Frame

Downloadable PDF

The Gallery E-Tran Frame is designed to support communication and agency for non-verbal people in art galleries.

Lightbulb Moment

Students gain confidence in expressing their creative voice through visual poetry in the Gallery.

Explore more ideas in the resources

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Key Stage 1 and 2 (ages 5 – 11)

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  • developing vocabulary
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The Whitworth

Key stage 4 (ages 13 - 14)

Raising self-esteem and building young people’s resilience, The Whitworth worked in partnership with Trinity Church of England High School and creative writer Johnny Woodhams, to increase levels of literacy across all subject areas.

  • mental health

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