SEND Arts and Education Symposium

9am - 5pm

  • Venue Attenborough Arts Centre
  • Price From £125
  • Event type Special Events
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Attenborough Arts Centre

SEND Arts and Education Symposium

Showcasing the Award-Winning SENsory Atelier programme

SENsory Atelier, works with disabled children and young people with special educational needs (SEND) to pioneer new ways of learning and communicating through art. Attenborough Arts Centre’s award-winning programme, funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, gives space for children to lead their learning journeys, express themselves and access the world.

The pedagogy of SENsory Atelier puts arts, creativity and culture at the heart of SEND education. This innovative model has won the HEIST Gold Award for Best Widening Participation Initiative 2023 and the international Falling Walls Science Engagement Award 2023.

This Symposium will launch our SENsory Atelier Code of Practice, a guide to how creativity can transform SEND education nationally and internationally. It will bring together educators, artists and policymakers to shape the future of inclusive arts education, addressing key topics such as:

·         What is the role of arts in education?

·         What is the nature of learning in SEND education, and how do we know it is taking place?

·         What can mainstream education learn from arts in SEND education approaches?


When: Wednesday 8th May 2024 9.00am to 5.00pm, Attenborough Arts Centre, University of Leicester.


What does the symposium involve?

·         Learn how SENsory Atelier provides an innovative model for the future of SEND education

·         Hear from internationally acclaimed experts in the field of arts and creativity in SEND education and develop your understanding of social pedagogy

·         Take part in practical workshops and explorations of creative activity with SENsory Atelier participants, teachers and artists to inform your own professional practice

·         Network with fellow educators and creatives from around the UK

·         Join interactive roundtable sessions to answer the future needs of SEND education nationally and internationally.

Who is it for?

The symposium is tailored for educators, artists and sector professionals, bringing together teachers, support staff, freelance artist practitioners, academics, senior leaders, policy makers, funders and arts organisations.

The symposium programme links to the DfE’s Teachers’ Standards (1, 2, 4, 5 and 8)

1. Set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils

2. Promote good progress and outcomes by pupils

4. Plan and teach well-structured lessons

5. Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils

8. Fulfil wider professional responsibilities


“We have benefitted so far from two residences which have had a profound impact on the schools’ arts offer allowing for the students to be exposed to different learning and performance opportunities as well as expanding our network within the sector. Staff and students have all reported what a benefit and a pleasure these experiences have brought.”

Chris White, Head Teacher, Birkett House School


“It’s a spine-tingling sensation where adults and children are truly listening to each other, working together in anticipation of creatively solving what’s going on. It’s that ‘creative flow’ where the energy and artistry could take the ideas anywhere and no one knows where it’s going but everyone’s on board for the ride. There are no leaders, just listeners and we are lost in that moment together. These moments can’t be measured with the usual school monitoring, yet everyone can see its value, it’s worth. It’s an opportunity for teachers and pupils to see each other differently, to realise our humanity and connect in a different way.”

Mark Anderson, infuseDANCE


“The residency broadened our experience, gave us opportunities to grow and thrive, exposed us to new processes and gave license to experience ‘art’ in different ways. It taught me that, if we truly listen to, observe, and try to understand what a person experiences with natural joy and then respond to this fully, the magic can happen!”

Pasha Kincaid, Ash Field Residency Artist

“The Sensory Atelier programme has offered copious amounts of high quality CPD in our school. Teachers are becoming more confident to deliver Atelier sessions and our Early Learning Pathway classes are now offering Atelier sessions in their classes every week. We have seen an increased level of engagement from the children as they are exploring in their own way and teachers are following their lines of curiosity.”

Gemma James, Ellesmere College


Complete our online form to send us your access requirements here:

Download our SENsory Atelier Symposium Access Pack by clicking here 303KB.


About 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.

We provide comprehensive programmes for teachers and artists to develop practice and skills and to share their learning together through reflection and evaluation.

SENsory Atelier is inspired by the Italian Reggio Children pedagogical approach which is child-centred and co-created and believes that children communicate in 100 different languages. We also draw on the related work of the Sightlines Initiative and House of Imagination organisations.

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.

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