Village School – barriers to access

The Village School session at the Cultural Inclusion Conference asked 'How do we make things that are not happening happen?' They explored the barriers for disabled people accessing culture and arts, these are some of their responses:

nasen Connect on Cultural Inclusion

Have a look at this article on the Cultural Inclusion Manifesto in nasen Connect. The magazine from the National Association of Special Educational Needs is published every two months and is sent to it’s Silver and Gold members who are made up of SENCO’s, School Leaders, Educational Psychologists, Local Authority Specialist Teams, Classroom Teachers, Learning Support Staff, School Governors and Trustees.

nasen has now extended it’s membership to cultural organisations. See more and join nasen here. For specific support around cultural inclusion, try nasen’s one-day workshop: Working effectively with children and young people with SEND: a one-day workshop for arts, culture and heritage organisations.

Cultural Inclusion Conference – 18th October 2018

We were delighted to hold the inaugural Cultural Inclusion Conference on 18 October. Over 100 delegates from across education, arts and cultural organisations and disability bodies came together to explore access to arts and culture for people with young people with disabilities. It was a powerful and thought provoking event.

With a choice of twelve practical workshops, provocative key notes and opportunities to work together on solutions, this was a chance to both learn from others and to be at the front of developing a National Cultural Inclusion Strategy. See the programme for the conference here.

The key note from Stephen Unwin was hard hitting, difficult to hear and for many attendees at the very core of why cultural inclusion matters so much. Stephen has launched 10 things that he would like to see in any drama that portrays learning disabilities and we are supporting a call for funders to consider more commissions in this field.

Andrew Miller, UK Government’s Disability Champion for Arts & Culture, gave an impassioned speech on need for practical approaches to see people with disabilities have better access to the creative industries. This is one of the areas that we want to consider as part of our next steps with great support from delegates.

Adam Boddison, CEO of NASEN, talked about the practical benefits of collaboration and networking and particularly how cultural and heritage institutions can work with and sharing learning from inclusion practice in schools. Following requests over the last months and feedback from delegates at the event NASEN have opened a new membership offer for cultural organisations.

And Cultural Manifesto author Paul Morrow opened the event with a background on where we came from, the rapid progress we made and where we might go next. See Paul's speech here. On the day of the Conference we passed our 100th signatory with 2 of the Deputy Mayors for London adding their support.

The conference had a wealth of wonderful practice that we will be sharing over the months ahead. Our thanks to the presenters and workshop leaders who all gave their time freely. It also prompted a passionate level of discussion. Over the weeks ahead we will update on next steps ahead of our parliamentary reception in January where we will be launching our Cultural Inclusion Plan.

Many thanks to Lyric Hammersmith, nasen, GEM, A New Direction, all the presenters, schools, the helpers on the day, the delegates and the Every Child Should team working behind the scenes.


Anita Kerwin-Nye,
Lead Every Child Should (who is incubating the Manifesto)

NASEN offer for cultural organisations

At the cultural inclusion conference at the Hammersmith Lyric last week, I promised to send you some information about how you can engage with nasen moving forwards.  Our offer around cultural inclusion continues to evolve, but there are two ways in which you can get started.  At the simplest level, you can sign up as a nasen member, which will give you access to nasen’s online resources, webinars as well as give you access to the latest research and effective practice.  Whilst the context is very much about schools, much of it is directly applicable to learners with SEND in any context.  My advice would be to join as a gold organisational member, which only costs £299 and gives every member of staff and volunteer in your organisation access to the resources.  You can find more information and join nasen here:

For those of you who are looking for specific support around cultural inclusion, please can I recommend our one-day workshop: Working effectively with children and young people with SEND: a one-day workshop for arts, culture and heritage organisations

You can find full details of this course and information about how to commission it here:

All good wishes,

Dr Adam Boddison
Chief Executive (nasen)
Chair of Whole School SEND Consortium

State of Museum Access 2018

VocalEyes, in collaboration with Stagetext and Autism in Museums are delighted to publish the State of Museum Access 2018 and launch the Museum Access Pledge. See more

Support for the arts in schools

Labour and Prince Charles vow to support creativity in schools, the Guardian reports. Artists and politicians at Royal Albert Hall event voice concerns over slide of arts in school. See more

Link: Rhythmix ending talking about SEN/D

Rhythmix are joining others in moving away from using the term SEN/D – they are going to END talking about SEN/D! See more to find out why.

Link: The Unusual Suspects

Colouring books for all ages and abilities by Dan White. See more

Link: RA Summer Exhibition

Author of the Cultural Inclusion Manifesto and Lead Practitioner of the Creative Arts at Westminster Special Schools, Paul Morrow, leads a curated 30-minute tour of five works from this year’s Summer Exhibition. 2nd August 2018. See more



Blog: Cultural Inclusion Response to the Draft Culture Strategy for London

The Cultural Inclusion Manifesto is a recently launched initiative which aims to ensure that the cultural offer in London is both inclusive and sustainable. We are passionate about the rights of disabled children and young people to access a broad range of high quality cultural experiences. We firmly believe in the transformative power of the arts and the impact that engagement and participation has on the education, health and wellbeing of children and young people with disabilities.

We warmly welcome the Mayor’s vision that:

Every Londoner should feel that the capital’s cultural riches and diverse heritage belong to them; culture should not be out of reach for anyone.”

We agree with the strategy’s assertion that:

Engaging with culture can help build communities and raise aspirations. All Londoners should be able to enrich their lives through culture, especially those who face barriers to participating.”

We believe that disabled children and young people face the greatest barriers to engagement with and participation in artistic and cultural experiences and offers. The barriers disabled people face are recognised in the strategy. However, it feels like disability is an afterthought that gets lost in the diversity and inclusion amalgam. The quote below is an example of this:

Yet throughout the city there are Londoners for whom the capital’s culture is out of reach or who feel excluded from the city’s success. Over a quarter of the capital’s children live in poverty. An adult Londoner living in poverty is more likely to be working than not, living in outer London rather than inner, and renting from a private landlord than in a council or housing association property. For the children of these Londoners, travelling across London to enjoy concerts or cultural events may be impossible. Tickets to West End theatres or cinemas are likely to be beyond their reach entirely. Factors like mobility or disability are also barriers to participation for many Londoners.”

Disability feels tagged on the end of a discussion which is primarily about poverty and economic disadvantage in the capital. Similarly:

“London is an innovative and strong world city, and culture plays a big part in this. Our creative industries supported the economy during the financial crisis. London’s cultural offer was centre stage at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Culture has long brought different communities together in times of celebration and hardship. Yet, at the same time, too many Londoners miss out on the city’s success. It can be expensive to travel to cultural events. Mobility or disability factors can also mean people can’t take part.”

We do appreciate the specific commitments made regarding disability such as the Mayor’s intention to “improve access at events, aiming for all Deaf and disabled people to be as independent as they want to be at live events and festivals.” Similarly, we applaud the aim of achieving the bronze standard Charter for Best Practice in Event Accessibility for all outdoor public events within his events programme and the longer term plan to achieve the silver and gold standard.

We do feel, however, that disability isn’t embedded in the strategy to the extent that it could be. It should be a thread that is woven into the whole document and there is definite potential for this to be achieved in several areas.

An example is the following commitments around the built environment:

Across London, good architecture, design and high quality art will combine to create public space that works for and inspires all Londoners. The Mayor has launched Good Growth by Design to encourage the best design solutions. A new social enterprise, Public Practice, will place designers and planners in local councils. The Mayor has also appointed 50 Design Advocates, who will work to set standards and look into the challenges facing London’s built environment.”

We would welcome explicit acknowledgement of the barriers disabled people face and assurance that there is a specific focus on this by the design advocates. Do any of the 50 Advocates have particular expertise and experience in this area?

A second example is in the section dealing with getting the right skills in the creative workforce:

“The Mayor’s Digital Talent Scheme is investing £7 million to help 18 to 24-year-olds, particularly young women and Londoners from diverse ethnic and disadvantaged backgrounds, get the right skills to fill digital, creative and technology occupations. The Mayor has already contributed £300,000 for three projects focused on developing digital skills that support the visual arts, marketing and games industries.

There is an explicit focus on women and BME, alongside those from disadvantaged backgrounds, but no specific mention of disabled young people. Similarly, the discussion around the importance of diversity in the workforce has a specific focus on woman and race:

The creative sector is still very white. As such, it can be hard for people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds to get in. Many women still find the glass ceiling stops them from progressing too.”

We feel that disabled people get lost in the diversity agenda and, as such, will not benefit from the programmes proposed to ensure the creative workforce is more reflective of the population it serves. This would be a missed opportunity because one of the most powerful signifiers that disabled people are welcome in cultural spaces is to see disabled people working there.

It is heartening that the Mayor wants young Londoners with creative talent and entrepreneurial flair to have the chance to develop creative careers and businesses. It is vital that the new creative leadership programme for young people from diverse backgrounds, supported by mentoring and investment, is accessible for disabled young people and they are actively encouraged to participate.

Similarly, we welcome the commitment below regarding apprenticeships:

Many creative roles can be well served through apprenticeship training. Working with Film London, the agency for London’s screen industries, the Mayor is supporting traineeships for film, television and animation. The Mayor’s Cultural Leadership Board has made diversity a priority, bringing together industry leaders to develop recommendations to boost diversity.”

We very much hope that these traineeships will be available to disabled young people and that boosting diversity includes disability.

Interestingly, the quote from Sir Lenny Henry on page 119 of the strategy applies equally to disability:

We live in a world where matters of race and ethnicity are down played in order to fulfil the more abstract ‘creative diversity’. We all know that ‘if you can’t see, you can’t be.”

We are very encouraged that the increasingly recognised link between culture and health and well-being is acknowledged and celebrated in the strategy:

There is mounting evidence, commissioned by both arts and health bodies, that creativity and the arts make a significant difference to people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. Culture can play a role within clinical settings and in the wider community. It can help people maintain good health and wellbeing or recover from illness.”

We could not agree more and this is central to our Cultural Inclusion Manifesto. Arts and Culture can have a transformative impact on everyone’s health and well-being. However, disabled people have the most to gain in this regard. This is why we are excited to see the following commitment from the Mayor on page 62 of the strategy:

In his Health Inequalities Strategy the Mayor sets out his vision for a healthier and happier London. He sees a role for arts and culture in supporting his vision. The arts can have a profound and positive impact on health and well-being and the Mayor will bring together experts from the health and arts sectors to broker better understanding about the benefits. He will map arts and cultural activity aimed at improving mental health and wellbeing across the capital to identify opportunities. He will help identify and overcome barriers that limit the use of arts in commissioning health programmes for all communities.”

This initiative is invaluable and we would like the mapping of opportunities to include activities aimed at improving physical as well as mental health. That would enable us to get a fully rounded picture of the health benefits of arts and culture.

Similarly, we wholeheartedly agree with the follow:

Children should have the opportunity to engage with many art forms at school: to learn how to play musical instruments, read a variety of books, write creatively, draw, paint and dance. Culture in schools helps young people from different backgrounds work and socialise together. It develops our future creative talent pipeline, but the impacts go further. The Cultural Learning Alliance has used large-scale cohort studies to demonstrate that learning through arts and culture improves attainment in all subjects with music boosting academic performance and theatre education improving reading and writing.”

The impact that engagement with art and culture has on disabled children and young people is even more dramatic. Experience in SEN schools demonstrates that it is often the tool used to teach pupils almost all aspects of the curriculum.

We agree with the Mayor that the arts have been downgraded in schools in response to growing pressures on school budgets, changes in how schools are rated in league tables and difficulties in teacher recruitment and retention. In fact, the Cultural Inclusion Manifesto was born out of a desire to tackle these challenges for disabled children and young people. The author of the manifesto is an arts practitioner for the Federation of West London Special Schools. He formed strategic partnerships with cultural organisations including The Lyric Hammersmith and The Wallace Collection to deliver a West London Inclusive Arts Festival funded by John Lyons.

The festival, which is now an annual event, demonstrates what can be achieved through strategic partnerships and how collaboration between schools and cultural institutions can be vital at a time when funding challenges preclude the necessary investment in art at school. This inspired us to draft the manifesto and it has now been signed by a range of arts and culture organisations, teachers, Peers, MPs and London Assembly Members.

Finally, we are striving towards the same vision as the Mayor:

London is a city of immense opportunity, in which every child, young person and adult deserves the chance to enrich their lives through culture. Every Londoner should feel that the capital’s cultural riches and diverse heritage belong to them; culture should not be out of reach for anyone.”

We very much hope that the Mayor will sign up to the Cultural Inclusion Manifesto and use his profile and power and profile to help champion it across the capital and beyond.

The Cultural Inclusion Manifesto

For more information please contact Rachael Christophides on 07968 194385 or