Written by Karen Cotton, Parent of a young person attending Castaway:
I came across Castaway when initially looking for a Drama group for my daughter some 9 years ago. At the time, I had not realised that Castaway was anything more than an inclusive theatre group for children which ran classes on a weekend. Fast forward to 2 years ago when my son was then transitioning from his secondary schooling into 6th form within his specialist setting that I began to consider that he needed something called a “blended curriculum”* with opportunities outside of his 6th form environment to enhance his opportunities to engage in the community, learn life skills and which fit in with his own interests of acting, film and writing.
Upon searching for opportunities nearby to both home and school, I came across Castaway again and discovered that not only do they support inclusive classes for under 16’s but also young people and adults with additional needs and/or disabilities aged 16+, offering classes that very much fit with my son’s desire to pursue his interest in everything and all things around Film and Story Writing. This came in the form of The Arts Award which covers a variety of arts based courses leading to levelled qualifications. As my son is keen to have certificates to show what he has learned, it seemed a perfect fit.
Once I had gathered information about the courses, I approached both his 6th form provision and our local SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) Team who, after some back and forth conversations, agreed to fund the courses (including provision of his own 1-2-1 Assistant from his school and transport costs included), via my sons EHCP (Education Health and Care Plan) as part of his education provision to meet his need to access the community in a “real world” environment to support development of life skills and independence, as well as giving the opportunity to support his continuing educational needs surrounding Literacy and SALT (Speech and Language Therapy) goals in the process.
Now having almost completed his first year of The Arts Award at Castaway, the impact of attending is clear to see. Being able to access classes outside of his regular environment and interact with different people has improved his confidence in speaking in class and contributing ideas to the projects as they progress through them. He is really fired up about what he is learning and always looks forward to his one day a week where he can get stuck in to his passion of all things film and story related. He has also now gained the confidence to also start a weekly off-site work experience at a local cinema via his 6th form setting which has been set up to support his interest in films and in line with The Arts Award courses as a result of his positive experience at Castaway.
The great thing about the Castaway Arts Award is that the course is able to be accessed nationally and offers a continued pathway over a number of years. It is my sons goal to continue with The Arts Award after he leaves his current 6th form and moves on to a Specialist Education College at 18+ where he wishes to study Acting and Film Making. The foundations laid whilst at Castaway will go a long way to supporting his future goals and choices for his own education.
*A blended curriculum can be implemented for any child with an EHCP aged 14+ and can be used to access other suitable educational opportunities and experiences that are not always available within their school setting.
N.B Castaway activities are also able to be funded via Short Breaks Funding, a Personal Budget or a Social Care Budget via your local Children's Disability team.