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Thinking Differently – Our Journey at Chadsgrove (Part 1)

9th April 2020

Thinking Differently is a research project that examines the link between the way that contemporary artists think, how they work and the unique ways that neurodiverse children might respond to a theme. The aim is to find out whether really amazing, stimulating artwork can help children in SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) schools to achieve. The Paul Hamlyn Foundation has funded the two-year-long project that takes place in three schools across the counties of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire. We've already published two blogs by Fliss O'Neil on here and now we're going to hear from Sally Harper about her experiences...


"I’m Sally Harper, I’m a creative practitioner working with a variety of schools and community settings throughout the Midlands.

I was lucky to be offered the residency at Chadsgrove School for part of the Thinking Differently, Paul Hamlyn Foundation funded Project. I knew it was going to be a fabulous project to work on because of the people involved: the wealth of knowledge, skills and experience meant that we were all going to be on a learning journey.

The heart of the project was to give the young people involved the chance to work in a different but inspiring way, so that we were able to measure how their skills, confidence and self-esteem had improved and developed. The background to the project was to use principles from Early Years education from Reggio Emilia, which I have worked with for many years and is at the centre of my education practice.


Class 9US was the group selected to work on the project, alongside Julia, the art teacher. We had discussed initial activities to kick start the project, workshop-based sessions seemed to be the best way forward to keep the students interested and 'on task'. For our initial workshops, we used the theme of 'ourselves' so we could explore painting, collage and mixed media, allowing the students to guide us through their ideas. I wanted to give the students the chance to create something for themselves to start with, so we decided to make sketchbooks using recycled materials. All the books were different shapes and sizes, photographs, drawings and images were added that we referred to each week. We also created a large group-sketchbook to add our journey to.

Our journey continued week to week…………………….."