Nick Birch explains how intuitive creative technology can help SEN students develop lifelong skills.

The beauty of creative subjects is that they are inclusive in a way that other parts of the curriculum sometimes aren’t—particularly for SEN students. Those who struggle with written or verbal communication, concentration or cognition, can discover new talents and ways to express themselves, helping to support their wellbeing and enjoyment of school. School leaders know the value of a creative education, but it is increasingly under threat as budgets are tightened. Students who receive additional support could also be missing out on the resources and opportunities to build their creative skills too.

Whatever a student’s individual needs, the hands-on nature of painting and crafts can help them to gain transferable skills, including fine motor skills. But it’s not the only way. Just as valuable is the opportunity to produce computer-generated graphics, animations and other design work using creative software.

Working with SEN schools and mainstream schools with SEN students, we’ve developed our own creative software to be as easy-to-use and inclusive as possible. Everything in the apps are customisable, while non-destructive editing allows users to play and experiment, without worrying their hard work will be undone, or lost completely. The fact that it’s app-based means that SEN students, who normally already have access to a tablet, can work on projects at their own pace at home or in school.

■ The power of creative software.

Nurturing creative and digital skills can greatly improve employability and bring much-needed diversity to the creative industries. Currently, people with disabilities face barriers to entering and progressing in creative roles. Having the right software and opportunity to develop creative skills during their early education could reverse this.

Of course, diversity should never be viewed as a tick-box exercise but something that adds value to any organisation. The National Autistic Society points to some of key strengths associated with autism, including ‘intense focus, creativity and attention to detail’. It’s not just the creative industries where these skills are highly-prized either. Many roles today require some design skills, like editing and resizing pictures or simply presenting a professional-looking LinkedIn profile.

While there is still plenty of work to be done to tackle prejudice and increase representation in the creative industries and beyond, schools can play their part in supporting SEN students to build creative skills that improve their employability and confidence. The good news is they don’t have to rely on expensive professional software, only available on a handful of computers, or outdated or free versions of the software. When budgets are tight, site-wide licences help to make the software affordable for schools and accessible to more students. You need to democratise the tools for design so that people are able to unlock their creative talents and reach their potential, no matter what their background or ability.

Nick Birch
Author: Nick Birch

Nick Birch
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Nick Birch is the head of educational licensing at Serif, whose Affinity creative software is used in schools.

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Facebook: @affinitybyserif
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