An Exhibition titled Young Art was held at Dulwich Picture Gallery from 17-21 May 2005 in association with Cancer Research UK, with the theme "Everyday Life". Work by a number of South London schools was on display and that of Turney School was exceptional. We asked Sid Robinson, Head of Art at the school to tell us about the school.
Turney School opened at the end of the 19th century although the original building was replaced in the 1960's. It would seem that Turney has always catered for children and young people with special educational needs and today the school has pupils aged between five and sixteen years, who have a range of needs including Down Syndrome, ADHD (attention deficit hyper-activity disorder), EBD (emotional behaviour disorder), but increasingly with Autistic spectrum disorders. For those students who lack effective language skills, a variety of communication approaches are taken, including Makaton, a variant sign language, and PECS, a pictorial (symbol) exchange communication system.
Turney School draws pupils from a wide catchment area; from Maida Vale, through Westminster and on to Croydon, though increasingly, as special needs schools are closing and more of the children with moderate learning difficulties are catered for within mainstream provision, the demand is great for the few places offered each year at Turney School.
As in all schools, Turney children and young people follow the National Curriculum and enjoy extra curricular activities such as after-school football club and sporting tournaments. The pupils enjoy music and have performed four successful musical productions. Visits to art galleries and visits from artists enrich the curriculum for all our pupils. The pupils are encouraged to learn in every way. We have 150 children on role and the school offers a calm and nurturing environment, which allows the pupils to learn in small classes to achieve success in examinations and develop personally. There is a heavy emphasis on life skills and independent learning and the children are supported not only by the teachers and support staff, but also by speech and occupational staff and physiotherapists. The school endeavours to make learning both meaningful and enjoyable.
We at Turney School were thrilled to have three pieces of work chosen by "Young Art" in aid of Cancer Research UK, to hang alongside work by some of the best and most able students at schools across London. Some of the students who exhibited at the Royal College of Art also had their work shown at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. This was a fabulous opportunity to meet representatives from other local mainstream and independent schools and see the standard of work achieved by their students. In addition it was wonderful that one of the Turney students was able to attend the Private View and enjoy the attention paid to her and her work, which was a real boast to her self-esteem and confidence. Two of the students featured in the exhibition, one highly commended, have since expressed an interest in courses at college involving art.
Art is such a rich sensory experience for our students, not only because of the enjoyment and learning, but also because it enriches their lives and challenges their thinking. Our children deserve quality experiences. Because of this, art plays a major role in the curriculum and the school regularly collaborates with a variety of organisations including "Children's' Art for Children", for which we supply artwork for display in the children's' wings of local hospitals. We are currently involved in a project with "Arts Community Exchange" who came to the school over the autumn term to work as artists in residence with three class groups.