Dr Adam Boddison
Chief Executive for nasen (National Association of Special Educational Needs)
Welcome everybody and congratulations for making it here to this wonderful place! Here we are in a packed room, which I think we should probably rename (I don’t know if I’m allowed to say the B-word? But I think we should rename it) the Brexit Room, because ‘freedom of movement’ is most definitely limited in here!
But in all seriousness, I am absolutely delighted to be here today with Paul, Rachael, Anita and James (and all of you!) to celebrate and share the cultural inclusion manifesto, which you will hear more about as the evening goes on. For those of you who may not have heard of nasen before, we are a charity that supports professionals to better support children and young people with learning differences. nasen also hosts the Whole School SEND consortium, which is delivering the DfE’s flagship programme for developing the school workforce nationally. So, if you are not already a member of nasen, then why not?! Please do make sure that joining nasen is the first thing you do when you leave today in addition to signing up to the cultural inclusion manifesto.
So why is nasen supporting Cultural Inclusion?
When I talk about cultural inclusion, I am talking about ensuring that all children and young people have access to the arts, to heritage and to culture in the broadest sense of the word. And nasen’s interest is particularly focused on ensuring cultural inclusion for those groups who are too often marginalised in society, for example Looked After Children and those with SEND.
I know first-hand the impact that having access to culture and the arts can have, not least because I have seen the impact on my own children. When I told my 10-year old son Antonio that I would be speaking to an audience about cultural inclusion, he said “Yes, I know all about that. It’s about people who speak lots of languages”. “It might be about more than just languages”, I said. “Dad, what do you call somebody who speaks 3 languages…”, “Trilingual”, What about somebody who speaks 2 languages…”, “bilingual”. “What about somebody who only speaks one language?”, “They are called English!”. The point here is that he got the joke. He was able to engage fully in a humorous and social situation, which might be easy for some children, but it is not always easy for Antonio.
Antonio is exceptionally able in terms of his academic ability, but he can struggle in some social situations. He has autistic tendencies and doesn’t always pick up on social cues. So you may be surprised to hear that he recently performed as the central character in Neverland at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End in front of 2000 people! And he was not nervous or anxious at all.
Antonio explained to me that this was easy because his script gave him all his social cues; it told him what to say, how to feel and how to respond. This was my son Antonio, who can struggle in some social situations in the school playground, excelling in the theatre. In that moment I was immensely proud. In that moment, it was clear that the arts (in this case dance and drama) had helped Antonio to feel included and to shine in society more broadly. Yes, we need to include a diverse range of young people in the arts, but we also need to recognise that the arts can lead to inclusion in their own right. It is a two-way street.
Cultural inclusion is a catalyst for inclusion in its broadest sense.
And of course, the diversity of the arts world has a particular synergy with the diversity and creativity of children who think differently and see the world differently. My 5-year-old daughter, Rafaella, is highly inquisitive about the world around her, to the extent that my wife and I felt we needed to do some work with her on how to keep safe around the kitchen. We asked her “What would be dangerous in a kitchen?” She said “a motorbike!”. The point here is that cultural inclusion is not just about making sure that children with SEND don’t miss out on having arts, culture and heritage in their lives. It is also about ensuring that the we don’t miss out on their talent and their creativity.
And for me personally, the theatre was a key access point to the world of disability.
When I was growing up, I was always taught to respect difference and disability, and I was told not to stare if I saw somebody in a wheel-chair or with some other form of disability. And it was on a school trip to a theatre in North Wales when an actor with significant physical disabilities was performing on stage when something stirred within me. All of a sudden, far from actively not looking at the person with the disability, I felt it would be rude not to look. This was one of the first occasions when I was really invited to look. It was a point when I made a connection with the world of disability that likely put me on the path to the role I am doing now. And the truth is, it was the theatre was the main catalyst for that.
Inclusion supports culture and culture supports inclusion. This is why nasen wants to be at the forefront of leading the way on cultural inclusion.
So what is nasen’s Cultural Inclusion offer for cultural organisations and schools?
Well for schools, we offer a cultural inclusion leadership development programme designed to ensure an inclusive and accessible curriculum. And for arts, heritage and cultural organisations, we offer a one-day workshop on how to maximise the effectiveness of your educational programmes for learners with SEND and to make them truly inclusive. Again, there is some more information in your packs, but please do speak to me or any member of the nasen team here today if you want to know more.
Cultural inclusion is the obvious next step to ensuring that all children and young people have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Thank you very much.
I would now like to introduce you to Anita Kerwin-Nye, Director of Every Child Should. I have had the pleasure of working with Anita on the Whole School SEND programme, which she founded, and I am delighted to be working with her again through the Every Child Should campaign. Anita has a wealth of experience spanning education, rural affairs and cultural inclusion and these are just the areas I know about – there are probably a heck of a lot more! I for one am very interested to hear wat she has to say.
Please do give a warm welcome to Anita Kerwin-Nye.
Author of the Cultural Inclusion Manifesto
My names Paul Morrow and I co-authored The Cultural Inclusion Manifesto. Firstly I'd like to start with some thank yous: to James at 31 Dover and their generosity for making this event possible. To Rachael Christopides for helping to fashion the manifesto into the document that has brought us all here tonight, and who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes. And to Anita, Matt and Adam who have been key in moving the manifesto forward.
So why the manifesto? There are numerous reasons as to why this initiative is important, one of them being, is that it offers a fundamental shift in how we can ALL work collectively in supporting young people in accessing high-quality arts and culture. The manifesto offers US that chance, the chance to work strategically across a number of sectors and spaces to effect real, meaningful an sustained change. To bring a cultural shift that will benefit all of us.
The manifesto was born out of the West London Inclusive Arts Festival, a festival I coordinate and kindly funded by The John Lyon's charity. The festival was developed in Westminster Special Schools; my home school. Initially a partnership between four special needs schools and two cultural partners, we now have six special schools and four cultural partners, an extraordinary increase in just two years, and the 2018 festival saw nine special needs schools accessing the festival - clearly demonstrating a need and appetite to work together.
This presented the question: how could this model be replicated, or extended because it is widely acknowledged that this isn't the common experience for the majority of young people. a statement supported by the dismal statics displayed here tonight.
The cultural Inclusion manifesto seeks to answer this.
I'm now going to hand over to Moshtaba, a young man I have the pleasure of teaching and who will tell you what access to high-quality arts and culture means to him.
My names Moshtaba Mubarak and I have autism. Arts and culture is important to me because it's about expression and everybody can! Expression is about being human, I get to express myself in art lessons. in drama, I get to be different people and in music, I get to express myself. My experiences so far have been to visit galleries like the Wallace collection, where I got to see art from the past. I have acted at the Lyric Theatre, and this year I'll be doing it again.
I have a question, why should all young people with special needs be included and why is it important? The answer is simple - we are all human and it is a human right!
Thank you for listening.