By | March 6, 2018

Like so many areas being considered through Every Child Should the positive impact of engagement with cultural and heritage education is well evidenced. A positive impact on learning, on health and well-being, on belonging, on career opportunities and on the joy of a rich cultural canon.

However, access to arts subjects and museum learning are becoming an increasing issue in mainstream schools. For a range of reasons these activities are becoming narrowed as part of curriculum time and are often becoming extra-curricular.

This matters for all learners but we know that children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities are potentially further marginalised. School transport and care issues can make extra-curricular provision harder – as can longer days for children and young people who are already finding the school day exhausting. Additionally the link between poverty and families with children with disabilities is well established and the additional costs of clubs or extra-curricular activities can be a significant barrier.

We also know that data from cultural, heritage and museum sectors shows that children and young people with disabilities are less likely to access these than their peers.

Addressing these issues Paul Morrow – one of the AND Advocates and an artist and teacher at a leading London special school – has launched the Cultural Inclusion Manifesto.

The Manifesto is rooted in a rights-based approach and this notion of an entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum for all is one that underpins Every Child Should.

Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which confers on children and young people the right to a wide range of cultural, artistic and other recreational activities.

Your support for the Manifesto is important and you can sign up here.

Cultural Inclusion is more than just physical access – although that is still an area that needs significant consideration in galleries and museums across the country.

It is about:

  • An appropriate and accessible arts, heritage and cultural education delivered by teachers who can include, support and differentiate for learners with SEND. This is something Every Child Should is exploring with NASEN and others as part of wider work on subject specific inclusive pedagogy.
  • Children and young people with disabilities being able to see themselves – their cultures and heritage – in art and museum collections. It is timely that this blog coincides with an Oscar win for The Silent Child – raising not just the profile of hearing impairment but showing the importance of a deaf actor playing the role and allowing young deaf people to see themselves represented in popular culture.
  • Proactive support for access to heritage and cultural collections. As part of our work for GEM we are identifying museums that are looking beyond the physical access to museums including quiet sessions for children who struggle with noise, sessions led by a Guide who signs, reviewing the language level of exhibit information displays and ‘touch’ sessions for children with visual impairments.

This is of course part of the wider inclusion agenda and in our presentation next week at the NEU Conference we are exploring ways that the cultural curriculum of a school can contribute to inclusion. Nancy Gedge’s powerful blog for example shows the importance of the books we choose to read and the views of disability that they represent.

Moreover, while the Cultural Inclusion Manifesto and wider work in this blog focuses on inclusion of young people with disabilities – drawing as it does on the spirit of the Salamanca agreement – there is if of course direct read across to wider inclusion agenda and that is something we will be coming back to in future blogs.

For now though a celebration of schools and cultural organisations working together in practice. If you are in London next week do come and see the work of the AND Special Schools Network at the TATE Modern in this year’s TATE Inclusive. Cultural inclusion in practice.