SENsory Atelier

We believe that everyone is creative and we celebrate the creativity of everyone.

We specialise in tailoring access for disabled children and young people with special educational needs (SEND), both in school through our SENsory Atelier programme, and out of school through our Inclusive Youth Arts programme.

SENsory Atelier

Since 2016, Attenborough Arts Centre’s SENsory Atelier programme, funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation, has developed an innovative model for SEND education by putting arts, creativity and culture at its heart. SENsory Atelier and its subsidiary Atelier Labs project have won the HEIST Gold Award for Best Widening Participation Initiative 2023 and the international Falling Walls Science Engagement Award 2023.

Inspired by our founder Lord Richard Attenborough, Attenborough Arts Centre believes that creativity is a human right. Inspired by Reggio Emilia (, we see disabled children and young people with special educational needs (SEND) as ‘Children with Special Rights’ and campaign for all children and young people to have access to culture.

SENsory Atelier works in partnership with nine Leicestershire Special Schools and their teachers, support staff and leadership. We support teachers without specialist arts subject or cultural education expertise, giving them the skills, confidence and capacity to devise creative programmes informed by children themselves and in doing so reframe our understanding of how they learn. This collaborative approach shifts the schools’ reliance on external peripatetic staff.

We work with artists who bring varied sensory practices based on sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, proprioception, interception and vestibular senses to collaborate with young people and their families through artistic residencies and visits to our art galleries and performances at Attenborough Arts Centre. We bring the gallery to the classroom and the classroom to the gallery.

The core programme is funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation until October 2024 and has been further supported by Arts Council England, Bruce Wake Charitable Foundation, Royal Society of Chemistry, Ashley Family Foundation, Rix-Thompson-Rothenberg Foundation, Baily Thomas Charitable Trust and Maud Elkington Charitable Trust.

Click here for the SENsory Atelier website, which provides further information, case studies and contact information.

Click here to learn more and download The SENsory Atelier Group Observation framework which allows an observer to capture narrative information about a small group of young people and to score their engagements against a set of indicators from one of five outcome areas. The tool has proved very useful in helping to capture a young person’s interactions, to give importance to their choices, and to create a rigorous way of assessing their actions, interactions and engagements.

To read and download the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Code of Practice for Arts Organisations, Artists and Educators, visit the University of Leicester FigShare Webpage.

Atelier Labs

Atelier Labs is a new subsidiary programme of SENsory Atelier which sees collaboration between artists, chemists, teachers and young people attending formal SEND school settings to explore the world and develop their interest and learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Maths (STEAM) subjects beyond GCSE level. The programme aims to develop enquiries around how creativity can be used to unlock skills for wider learning across 9 special schools in Leicestershire and to provide a platform to those who are often not heard or represented, enabling stories to be told and learning to be self-directed.

More information on the pilot Atelier Labs project can be found here