Arts Award with young people with learning disabilities

We have found Arts Award to be a particularly appropriate and effective framework for creative practice with young people with learning disabilities. The following descriptions of DIY projects are offered examples of how we have introduced each level of Arts Award into our ongoing educational practice.

Watch the video to see DIY working with young people with a PMLD on their Discover and  Explore Arts Award journeys

Arts Award: Leading the Way! from DIY Theatre Company on Vimeo.


Discover is an introductory award, available for anyone up to 25.  DIY often uses Discover in sensory, immersive projects with children and young people with PMLD. For example, to accompany our “Give Me Space!” tour we are working with a number of schools to deliver Discover Arts Award with PMLD learners:

  • For Part A – discover – at a pre-show-workshop young people are introduced to the themes in our “Give Me Space!” show using musical instruments, sensory props and songs. Because “Give me Space!” is such a sensory show, it offers lots of opportunities for learners to experience lots of different art forms.
  • For Part B – find out – the group finds out about DIY Theatre Company by participating in our “Give Me Space!” performance and taking part in pre- and post-show workshops co-facilitated by DIY performers.
  • For Part C – share – at a post-show workshop, young people share space objects (puppets and planets) which they have made in school. We use the structure of a song and movement section from the “Give Me Space!” show to enable learners share their objects with each-other and with DIY actors.


Explore is an Entry Level Three qualification. DIY often uses Explore to encourage children and young people with PMLD to express creative choices and preferences. For example, at Bury College, Sue, Joanne and Anna worked with a group of four post 16 learners.

  • For Part A – inspire – the group was introduced to different art forms; drama, music and visual arts looking at the theme of water. They expressed which activities they liked best.
  • For Part B – explore – the group found out about Picasso and other visual artists in their practical art sessions. They found out about DIY Theatre Company as an organisation by participating in our “Following the Thread” show and devised questions, using PECS, which they asked DIY actors.
  • For Part C – create – participants created their own sensory performance, based on DIY’s Following the Thread show, which they shared with another group
  • For Part D – present – they were supported to create a powerpoint about what they’d liked about, and learnt from, the project which they showed to another group of students at the college.

Photo: Arts Award bronze


Bronze is a Level One qualification available for anyone between 11 and 25. DIY has delivered Bronze with young people with learning disabilities in a range of settings including Special Schools, Youth Clubs and Youth Theatres. For example, at Oakwood Academy, Amy and Jen worked with a group of nine Post-16 learners:

  • For Part A – explore the arts as a participant– The group took part in drama workshops led by Amy and Jen – which explored techniques including freeze frames, human machines and mime exercises. They thought about what leadership looks like and created images to go with their ideas.
  • For Part B – explore the arts as an audience member – The group decided on a film to watch in their classroom. They saw “Beauty and the Beast” – and shared ideas about what their favourite part was and why, which characters they liked and what they thought about the set and costumes.
  • For Part C – arts inspiration – participants created a shoe box to show their research into their favourite artist. Artists ranged from Michael Jackson to Vincent Price. The young people carried out their own research into the artist who inspired them and included facts and drawings in the shoe box about their life and work as an artist.
  • For Part D – arts skill share – members led a workshop for their peers. Arts skills ranged from leading the whole group through a series of street dance moves to one to one teaching of how to draw a cartoon character.

Photo: You Can


Silver is a Level Two qualification. DIY uses Silver primarily in our work with young people with learning disabilities in transition to adulthood. For Example, at You Can Community Club, Jen, Angela and Rob worked with a group of seven young people.

  • For Unit One – arts practice and pathways – the young people developed themselves as artists by planning undertaking and reviewing a personal arts challenge. One young person who wanted to integrate sign language into teaching a song learnt the signs to a song and taught the group how to sing and sign at the same time. Another young person set himself the challenge of developing his photography and filming skills. With the support of a professional film-maker he created and edited a short film all about the You Can Silver Arts Award project. The group attended and reviewed a number of performances and hosted an artists evening, where practitioners in different art forms (a theatre- director, a designer, a film-maker and a musical theatre specialist) were asked questions about their own career paths and work.
  • For Unit Two – arts leadership – the group planned a series of drama workshops exploring the theme of ‘space’ and what space means to different people. Whilst this was a shared project, which the young people planned as a group, each of the young people had their own role and their own leadership challenge which they planned, undertook and reviewed. The group also led a workshop as apart of DIY’s At Home event – where they worked with people they hadn’t met before using image work and drama exercises to explore people’s feelings about spaces where they feel safe.


Gold is a Level Three qualification. It has 2 units.

Unit 1 – Part A : Extend Own Arts Practice

Young people set themselves an arts challenge using an art form which is new to them. They create a new work which is influenced by their original art form and their new art form practice.

DIY Young Leader Amy was working with advanced practitioner film-maker Hilary Easter Jones before Lockdown as part of her Arts Challenge. Suddenly training sessions had to move online. This short video gives an insight into how Amy worked with film-maker Hilary Easter-Jones during Lockdown as part of her Unit 1 Arts Challenge for her Gold Arts Award.

Unit 2 – Leadership of an Arts Project

For her Unit 2 Young Leader Amy has been running a series of drama sessions online, which have been shared with DIY membership via our private Facebook Group. This second short video was created by Amy and film-maker Hilary Easter-Jones and provides Top Tips for how to film experiences of Lockdown on a mobile phone.

Arts Award : Top Tips for filming with a mobile phone. from DIY Theatre Company on Vimeo.

Amy also created a paper-based version of her Top Tips which could be sent out in a resource pack to those who have limited access to digital platforms.