Arts Council of Wales | Ysgol Cedewain, Newtown

Ysgol Cedewain, Newtown

Wales’ pioneering creative learning scheme improves academic and social skills amongst pupils with learning difficulties

Ysgol Cedewain based in Newtown, Powys, is a school for children aged 2 ½ - 19 years with a wide variety of physical and learning disabilities and autism. The school became involved with the Lead Creative Schools Scheme three years ago to develop creative techniques to improve pupils’ literacy, numeracy and digital skills.

Ysgol Cedewain Newtown_Lead Creative Schools project

Last year North Wales based poet, Martin Daws, worked as a creative practitioner alongside teaching staff and pupils for two days a week over 10 weeks. They developed a project about the sustainability of resources from around the world that we rely on, using creative practices such as spoken word, music (particularly drumming) writing poetry, soundscapes, photography and artwork.

Lauris Palshis, project coordinator at Ysgol Cedewain says the creative work that was done as part of the Lead Creative Schools project at Ysgol Cedewain had a monumental effect on the learning and personal development of the 30+ pupils involved. She explains why it had such a positive impact and how they hope to continue this approach to learning moving forward.

"Pupils with learning difficulties face many challenges in school. Learning for these pupils can take time, patience and persistence, and the development of their communication skills and self confidence through our creative learning projects has been invaluable. We have been embedding creative practices into our school curriculum for sometime now, as we find it helps pupils engage more easily than more traditional teaching practices do.

"The Lead Creative Schools Scheme has allowed us to advance our creative teaching methods even further. Having a creative practitioner come into school and work directly with the pupils and teachers has had a profound effect on the development of the pupils both academically and personally, as well as inspiring staff to develop their own creative techniques and find new ways of working with the pupils.

"By focusing on the topic of the environment, particularly the sea, in which they’re genuinely interested, and engaging with the pupils using various creative techniques, we found the pupils were more engaged, their concentration improved and they were able to retain more information, all life skills which are invaluable to them.

"At the end of the project, we held an exhibition at a local gallery in Newtown. Lots of important local people came, including the Mayor, which gave the pupils a huge confidence boost, and really helped improve their self-esteem. And now to be given the opportunity to go to Tate Exchange and have our work displayed in one of the top galleries in the world is immense! The effects of this project will be long-lasting at Ysgol Cedewain"

Martin Daws explains that as well as being as being a fantastic opportunity for teachers and pupils, Lead Creative Schools has had many benefits to him as practicing artist.

"It was a real pleasure working with the pupils and teachers at Ysgol Cedewain, and it was evident throughout the project how much the pupils gained from working creatively in this way. One pupil in particular stands out – a young lady in year eight, who at the beginning of the project struggled to make eye contact and speak to me, by the end volunteered herself to share her work in front of the class. This was such a big moment as this was huge transition for her.

"I’ve worked at a number of schools across mid and north Wales as part of the Lead Creative Schools project, and it’s been great seeing how much the pupils and teaching staff have put into and taken from the project. However, on a personal level, I’ve gained a huge amount through working collaboratively with teachers and other creative practitioners. I’ve learnt planning skills from teachers, new creative techniques from other artists, and because it’s been an on-going project, I’ve had to develop new creative teaching methods, which work over a longer period of time."

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