Teachers, employers and support

Raising Aspirations at East Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre

Raising Aspirations at East Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre

Raising Aspirations Pilot 2 (RAP2) is an employability programme funded by West Yorkshire Combined Authority, and supported by the Burberry Foundation.

The programme provided over £75,000 in funding for five schools in West Yorkshire to develop projects aimed at increasing student awareness of creative industries and skills through offering opportunities to experience the workplace and meet employers. The funding was specifically made available to schools for young people with special educational needs (SEND).

We Are IVE was commissioned to support schools as creative education consultants. Our interventions focused on supporting schools to produce creative projects. This included pre-application support, bid-writing and idea generation workshops, reflective labs and one-to-one consultancy to formulate projects with the maximum impact for young people.

The School 

East Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre (SILC) is a multi-site school for learners with special educational needs (SEND) in East Leeds. They aim to meet the needs of a wide range of pupils with a variety of complex learning needs, ranging from moderate to severe.

East SILC has a strongly developed careers programme with a focus on meeting the individual needs of each student. Careers-related learning is a core part of the school's curriculum, focusing on the 'preparation for adulthood' element within their learning.

Their ambitious Raising Aspirations project aimed to develop an onsite facility to teach creative subjects. Their aim was to enable employable learners to develop key skills for their next steps into adulthood, whilst granting access to other learners who may never be able to enter the world of work, allowing this group the opportunity to experience work as a valuable benefit to their life skills.


  • Staff develop workshop skills that support learners' ability to explore working in creative industries.
  • Extend curriculum offer for pupils to gain additional qualifications.
  • Provide an offer that meets the skills and abilities of pupils at their current levels.
  • Develop pupil talents and skills.
  • Give employability skills to pupils who may move into employment in adult life as well as giving experience to those who may not.
  • Create an adaptable workshop space on campus to enable students with additional physical needs the opportunity to access activities previously closed to them.


East SILC applied for RAP2 funding in order to create a workshop space that could benefit not only pupils with the potential to work, but also those without the ability to enter the world of work in adulthood. As a generic special school, East SILC work with a range of student needs and abilities. By developing a specialised space and undertaking extensive staff CPD, students would gain employment skills, qualifications or valuable life skills through interacting with creative industries.

The school also sought to increase pupil's access to arts and creative experiences. The Covid-19 pandemic had significantly reduced the number of art activities the school could deliver projects with the maximum impact.



  • New local partnerships formed with local creative practitioners to work with staff and students.
  • A comprehensive and in-depth staff CPD programme of training in creative skills for 50 staff members.
  • Creative pupil workshops delivered by newly trained staff to 116 East SILC pupils.


The Project

The project at East SILC aimed to set up a creative workshop for students to develop craft skills and the opportunity to make commercial-grade items across a broad range of creative industries, including crafts, textiles, ceramics, marketing and product design.

It was planned that a group of 150 students aged 11-19 would access the workshop over the academic year. The workshop would also be functional and accessible to students with physical disabilities and benefit all learners across the site through supporting events.

Workshop Space Challenges:

East SILC encountered a number of barriers to completing their original plan.

Following a safety inspection, the chosen workshop space was found to have a dangerous amount of asbestos. The Covid-19 pandemic also resulted in high levels of staff absence, delaying progress on the project. East SILC worked with West t Yorkshire Combined Authority and IVE to create a solution, and reallocate funding towards more resources, equipment and staff training. This new plan would take staff through a comprehensive training programme to meet the original aim of boosting capacity to deliver to learners on site.

The Solution:

East SILC partnered with local employers and practitioners to rollout a CPD programme across school sites. Over 50 staff members attended training sessions to learn various craft skills. The skills and knowledge developed by staff within these sessions were then put into practice with workshops for 60 students in Years 10 to 13. Creative practitioners also delivered several skills sessions directly to students in Year 6 or below. In total 116 East SILC pupils benefited from this new programme.

They were able to experience craft sessions within familiar environments and learn new skills.

Increased training sessions also equipped staff members with the knowledge to begin applying craft skills into their broader curriculum. With more specialised knowledge, staff have been able to create opportunities for a variety of different pupil abilities and age ranges, adapted across each of their three sites.


Although the project activity deviated from original plans, the rerouting of funding into an extensive staff training programme had significant and lasting positive impacts for the school.

In total, 116 students directly benefited from the skills sessions delivered by staff. The impact on staff was particularly strongly felt. Staff feedback on the training sessions was consistently positive and led to a range of positive unintended outcomes such as:

  • Improved staff wellbeing
  • Staff from different sites and different roles have
  • had chance to interact at training sessions.
  • Unearthing existing skills.
  • Feeling empowered to deliver sessions to students.


Lasting Legacy....

East SILC remains dedicated to increasing capacity to deliver creative workshops. All school staff have now been trained in craft skills. Plans are underway to deliver craft-making sessions across all of their sites from September 2022. The impact of RAP2 will inform the school's development of an 'employment village', which will now include space for pupils to sell their creative products and provide sustainable learning opportunities.

The expertise and strong engagement from local employers and practitioners from the creative industries were viewed to be invaluable to the current project.

Not only did they embed key craft skills and knowledge for staff, but they also proved the value of creative skills and employment opportunities within the creative industries.

Staff held the view that the project had "woken up the arts" at the school after the pandemic had significantly reduced the number of art activities they could deliver.

Although the project's main aim of creating a permanent workshop site on school grounds was changed, East SILC were still able to meet many of their original aims. Staff knowledge has increased demonstrably, and the process has already begun of cascading this knowledge to pupils in creative, fun workshops that link creativity with future skills, employment opportunities and current enterprise opportunities.