Arts award first for Beechlawn students

Beechlawn pupils pictured at the new Tate modern. INUS Beechlawn
Beechlawn pupils pictured at the new Tate modern. INUS Beechlawn

Beechlawn School, based in Hillsborough, is the first school to take part in the MAC’s Arts Award and one of the first groups through the doors for a preview of the newly refurbished Tate Modern.

Arts Award is an accredited programme run by the MAC offering a range of qualifications open to those aged up to 25 years to develop creativity, leadership and communication skills through arts, culture and media.

The young people from Beechlawn have successfully completed the Entry Level 3 ‘Explore’ award, making them the first cohort in Northern Ireland to graduate on the scheme.

There are four levels starting at Entry Level and progressing to Level 3, a Gold award which is worth 35 UCAS points. Delighted with the result, teachers at the school are hoping many of the young people will continue on to the next level, to achieve their Bronze award.

As the first school to take part in this award, Caroline Harris, Music Co-ordinator at Beechlawn School said: “As a school catering for pupils with multiple learning difficulties, which can range from Autism, ADHD, anxiety and behavioural issues to more complex problems, it is just amazing for our pupils, some of whom find reading tricky, to come away with a qualification in Year 9. It is clear to see that our pupils’ confidence has increased and parents are so proud of what their children have achieved.

“The MAC Arts Award provides a fantastic platform for our pupils and the MAC has been mindful of our pupils’ challenges and unique requirements throughout.”

To achieve an Arts Award, young people complete challenges and take part in a range of arts activities.

As part of their qualification with the MAC, the pupils of Beechlawn took part in African drumming workshops and a singing workshop with MAC Artist in Residence and local star, Katie Richardson.

They learned to create beats, control rhythms and play together. They also got to experience a theatre production, completed independent research and took part in a music workshop, creating a video of themselves singing and playing drums as part of their final presentation.

With the introduction of the MAC’s signature MACtile tours in 2015 (the initiative which introduces children with Autism Sensory Disorders (ASD) to theatre in a relaxed atmosphere), the accredited Arts Award is another addition to the MAC’s superb education and outreach programme.

Speaking about her role in delivering the Arts Award, MAC Learning and Participation Officer, Clare Lawlor said:

“I am absolutely delighted that our Beechlawn pupils have completed the first Arts Award at the MAC. I was involved with the group throughout and was lucky enough to accompany them on our special visit to the Tate, which was just amazing.

Their response to the art works was a pleasure and I can see how they have grown in confidence and life skills throughout the course.

“The fact that a mixed ability group are the first to successfully graduate and can add this excellent qualification to their CVs is testament to how great Arts Award is. I would encourage other schools and community groups who are thinking about a different route to qualifications to get in touch with us.”

To round off the project, last week some of the Beechlawn pupils accompanied Clare and other staff from the MAC to visit the newly reopened Tate Modern for an exclusive preview. As a Plus Tate partner, the MAC was invited to nominate a local school in the region to be among the first to visit the new Tate and it was only fitting that Beechlawn were chosen.

The 26 pupils from Hillsborough were among 3000 other schoolchildren from across the UK to be the first to experience and explore the Tate Modern’s four new floors comprising a staggering 250 artists.

For more information on the MAC’s Arts Award and Learning and Participation programme, please visit themaclive.com or contact Clare Lawlor at the MAC on 028 9023 5053.