This short film documents Saul’s journey through the Bronze Arts Award. I began working with Saul in April 2010 after responding to an advert in Sound Sense from Saul’s mother Susan, seeking a ‘special needs music tutor’. Susan informed me that due to the current lack of accessible and accredited music education pathways for SEN/Disabled young people, she felt she had no choice but to hire private practitioners to create an appropriate music curriculum for Saul. I took on the work through my freelance ‘Garden of Music’ project and the sessions were funded through Saul’s DLA (Disability Living Allowance).
Saul has learning difficulties, severe communication difficulties, autism and other complex and high level needs. He has potential to achieve in music, but his barriers to learning highlight the current gaps in appropriate, accessible music education. One example of this was when Susan and I attended a meeting at a FE music college in London to discuss Saul’s enrollment onto one of their part-time drumming courses that welcomed beginners, with no prior qualifications. We were told that their staff were not appropriately trained to work with SEND students, and that they were concerned what impact it would have on the other students if they accepted Saul onto the course. They were not willing to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for Saul even though he would have attended with one-to-one support from his own carer. How many more FE colleges might currently be operating like this?
The Bronze Award was accessible to Saul because it provided a flexible framework and because his portfolio of evidence was compiled through making video recordings rather than submitting in the usual written formats that would be inaccessible to Saul. The Arts Award team were also very supportive and clear about acceptable ways of collecting and documenting evidence of achievement.
Part A: Taking part
Saul took part in individual lessons at home and played drums in a Klezmer band. His mother set up a music group, which evolved into a rock band, which became known as ‘The AutistiX’ as it includes musicians with autism. I supported Saul’s musical development by developing a structured music programme with relevant activities through which we could gather evidence for Saul’s’ Bronze Award.
Part B: Arts Events
Saul also really enjoyed being an audience member as well as performing. Saul and his family attended musical events very regularly and during his Bronze Arts Award he went to a variety of different musical events including rock concerts, music festivals, opera and musicals. Saul would very happily go to a different concert every night if possible!
Part C: Arts Hero
Though Saul loves many performers he chose Simon and Garfunkel as his arts heroes. Through his research he found his own personal reasons for admiring his arts heroes, such as similarities between their backgrounds and that of his family and him. He spent time looking up different songs and albums online and watching documentaries about the duo.
Part D: Arts Apprenticeship
Saul led an activity with a small group of friends and family at home, demonstrating how to play a clave rhythm. By getting feedback and asking audience members to demonstrate the rhythm after hearing it played and scoring their performance, he knew he had been successful in communicating with the group.
By capturing the evidence of his learning of the many experiences that Saul had, in each part of the arts award, on film, and building up a video portfolio, it became an effective way to record Saul’s achievement.
Saul is constantly developing his musical skills. He is currently studying music as a part of his curriculum at St John’s College in Brighton where he is working towards the Rock School grade 1 drumming exam. Saul also plays in a rock band called The AutistiX www.theautistix.com who are releasing their debut EP early in 2014.
Through doing the Bronze Arts Award, Saul has developed greater awareness of his musical progressions. By listening back to audio recordings and watching video footage it has helped to reinforce his learning.
From steering Saul through his Arts Award journey, it has highlighted to me that with appropriate support we can structure the learning and record evidence of achievement for young people like Saul, in a way that is accessible and supports them to gain the recognition and accreditation that they deserve.
To watch the full length version of Saul’s Bronze Arts Award portfolio please visit http://www.gardenofmusic.net/arts-award.html