Posted on Friday 13th July 2012
RCT pupils at Unity
Young people with disabilities and/or special educational needs have showcased their talents – and secured qualifications - at a prestigious Cardiff Bay festival, thanks to Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Building The Future Together (BTFT) scheme.
Audiences were moved to tears and laughed out loud as the children, including some who had previously been unable to participate in such activities, take to the stage at the Pierhead Building, as part of the Unity Festival, Wales’ international arts disability celebration.
The confident and professional performances from young people who attend Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s four special schools were made possible thanks to a series of accredited workshops they have been attending, through the BTFT Special School initiative.
BTFT operates across the county borough using dedicated key-workers and personalised support plans to ensure young people, especially those at risk of disengaging, receive the opportunities, experience and training they need to follow their ambitions and thrive.
During the workshops, they worked with professionals and organisations in a series of accredited workshops covering visual art and design, large-scale puppet-making for the theatre, poetry, digital media and film-making, drama improvisation and musical theatre inspired by the Hit TV show Glee and photography.
All the new skills, which have led to them securing accreditation in a number of the areas mentioned above, were put to good use at the performance.
The day began with an exhibition to celebrate the work of the special schools project in the Wales Millennium Centre attended by Education Minister Leighton Andrews AM, before they took to the stage to perform Belonging, which explored Wales’ community and society and the importance of inclusion.
Following their breathtaking show in Cardiff, the pupils returned to Rhondda Cynon Taf to perform Belonging again, this time at Garth Olwg Lifelong Learning Centre.
Feedback from parents whose children have taken part has been extremely positive, with one mum saying she had been increasingly concerned her Autistic son was refusing to take part in things both in and out of school and was showing seriously reclusive behaviour.
This changed with the workshops and every Thursday, his workshop day, he would excitedly check she had prepared his sandwiches ready for him to go on the project.
Another mum said: “I have been to a lot of performances that my daughter has been involved in, but this one is, by a long mile, the best thing I have ever seen!”
Cllr Eudine Hanagan, Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning at Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, has taken a significant interest in the Special Schools project and is a keen supporter of the BTFT work.
She said: “The project has been a success from the beginning, because it was designed with the needs of the young people at the forefront of every decision and has shaped and informed the way we will work with young people with disabilities and/or special education needs in the future.
“The feedback I have heard about the performances has been very positive, and it must be remembered that the entire production was delivered by the young people, using the skills and confidence they have secured through the BTFT Special School initiative.
“I hope they are as proud of themselves as we are of them, they have truly flown the flag for Rhondda Cynon Taf and its young talent and passion.”
Leighton Andrews AM concluded: “I am delighted that pupils from special schools in Rhondda Cynon Taf have been given the chance to showcase such a broad range of talent during part of a nationally-recognised artistic event.”
The project is being delivered through the Council’s Building the Future Together programme, a £14m initiative part financed by the European Social Fund through the Welsh Government, which aims to support young people to aquire the right skills to prepare them for further learning or employment and to maximize their potential.
For more information on the BTFT Special School project or to find out more about the summer holidays programme it is delivering with the Council’s Arts Development and Families First teams, contact Lowri-Mair Owen on 01443 490205 or Email Lowri
See how the pupils went from workshop to festival in the Unity Picture Special
Find out more about Building The Future Together