Northern Counties School Teacher Finalist for Unique Art Awards

The Unique Art Awards are looking to recognise the work done by teachers in the arts in special education and would like to offer an award to highlight excellence in this field which includes Art, Drama and Music.

Our very own Lauren Tate is a finalist in these awards and will be off to Middlesex in September with a chance of winning £2,000 in vouchers.

Lauren is an Art Teacher at Northern Counties school. Lauren took a learning support role at school initially, to learn more about our very complex young people.  When the opportunity arose to apply for the art teacher role, she was able to step into the role naturally. Lauren did need to learn how to teach using British Sign Language (to Level 2 standard), to enable her to teach in our Deaf department and so she gave up her own time after school, in order to attend classes in BSL.  She also works very closely with our therapy team (Speech Therapists and Occupational Therapists) to ensure she incorporates the right level of structure and correct equipment into her lessons for young people with autism and complex needs.  She has attended a vast amount of additional training in PECS, Autism, Teaching pupils with Visual Impairments, PMLD and Sensory Integration to equip her with many additional skills.

Lauren works across the whole of school and ensures that art is accessible for all.  Some of our young people, who say they ‘don’t like art’, don’t realise they are actually doing art through Lauren’s skills and techniques.  When pupils are unable to transition to her own art room, she takes her lesson and art resources to the child, supporting them to learn where they feel most comfortable and safe.  She is often seen around the school, transporting all her art materials in a trolley!  We see her teaching outside, in school corridors, in the Forest School and she is able to adapt her lessons to the needs of every single young person in school.  She effectively models how to make art accessible to our 200 support staff.  One of the ways in which Lauren goes above and beyond, is working as our sole art teacher, yet having such a large impact with so many staff. Being able to manage such a large number of staff, is way over and above what most teachers need to do. Some of our classes have 15 staff members to coordinate, manage and develop.

Lauren plans her work and uses teaching styles to engage our young people.  Her methods need to involve a high level of differentiation, choice (for our pupils with Pathological Demand Avoidance) and individualization.  She uses a variety of medias and celebrates each pupil’s achievements through floor books, accreditation and sharing with parents on our social media platforms. Lauren plans for communication, science and numeracy skills across learning tasks and builds up each young person’s self esteem through their art.

As we were unable to hold our Christmas performance this year, due to Covid measures in place. Lauren filmed our young people taking part in their own version of Shrek-The Musical, which was broadcast to parents and carers.  This was a huge project, in terms of costume design, sets, use of computing and green screen technology. Mollie’s parents have said that they have never seen Mollie take part in anything like that before and they were thrilled to see her engagement and enjoyment.

Jan, one of our complex non-verbal young people, with autism and OCD, will often just take himself up to Lauren’s art room and sit.  It is the only classroom in school where he will specifically choose to go to complete ‘work’.  He designed his own way of taking part in Shrek, blowing tissue paper flames through a tube to become the dragon.  Lauren edited the film in such a way that all the pupils took part and felt a sense of purpose and pride in their work.

Lauren also gives up her lunch break, once a week, to run the school art club.  She plans a series of fun sessions, which is open to everyone in school.  Another example of how Lauren goes above and beyond.

We wish Lauren every success in her trip to the Unique Art Awards finals in September!