Creative Bridges: Teaching work skills in the museum
Only 6% of people with a learning disability are in paid employment; Creative Bridges seeks to change this statistic and enable neurodiverse people to develop fulfilling professional lives.
Creative Bridges, Culture Coventry, uses culture to engage young people (16–25) with a learning disability or barrier to learning to aid transition to independent adult life. 10 participants are referred by three local special schools. The programme runs one day per week at the museum for the full academic year.
Culture Coventry is an independent arts and cultural heritage charitable trust established to manage Coventry’s award-winning and accredited museums: Coventry Transport Museum, the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum and the Lunt Roman Fort.
The digital team, Herbert Media, runs an accredited vocational learning centre specialising in working with excluded and marginalised young people. Creative Bridges uses creativity and cultural engagement to develop the necessary skills, confidence, experience and qualifications to prepare young people with learning disabilities for further education, the workplace or volunteering.
The focus is learning outside the classroom, working with new people in a professional environment. Each academic year, a group of 10 students achieve Arts Award and an OCN WMR Level 1 Award in Employability and Development Skills, covering a unit in group work and multimedia. Each group co-produce a film to evidence their skills, inspired by the collection.
When the programme was set up, it also aimed to achieve:
• Enabling participants to act with increasing independence.
• 20% of programme graduates to move into and sustain work.
• 20% to become volunteers.
• 60% to attend further education.
The world of work is very unfamiliar to young adults in special schools and results in the vast majority wanting to go into further education rather than a job. The tools for adapting your work skills for neuro-diverse people will only develop with exposure to these groups and the resulting experience over time. You develop teaching skills for that person, at that time for that task only. Each person is different and therefore staff must feel they are on a journey and equip themselves with a very wide range of techniques which they can apply according to the situation.
Furthermore, traditional feedback methods won’t always work. Reflection over long periods can be a challenge; in our experience groups tend to focus on the here and now. We trialled a wide range of techniques to including scaffolded questions, dot voting, zines, rating scales and visuals to support memory and reflection.
Programme graduates all achieved Arts Award Bronze, 9 achieved Level 1 Award in Employability and Development Skills. 30% of graduates have accepted supported internships and 70% are continuing in education. Outcomes are affected by the personal choice and age of the participant. The project will track those who leave education in the coming years. The group produced “Love Lost in Space” a sci-fi romance featuring ideas developed in response to a gallery tour of the permanent collection. Learners chose collection objects that could be used creatively, rather than based on the facts or context of the object. A Sikh wedding dress resulted in a love story theme. The Blitz experience sparked the idea of time travel. Mystery play masks led to a theme of masked identity.
The project has highlighted the need bring together departmental expertise to formulate a practical inclusion strategy, to sit alongside our inclusion policy. We are producing a blended learning programme to enable museums to develop work in this area with increased confidence. The training programme will support and respond to the “Open to All” Autism Awareness
Access Audit programme commissioned by West Midlands Museum Development to consider in more detail how museums can improve access to collections for visitors with autism.
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Kerrie Suteu, Creative Media & Digital Manager, Culture Coventry