Case Studies

Distington Community School.

“This year as a school we have seen a dramatic rise in our SAT’s results.  One of the key projects we have been working on is our collaboration with Prism Arts and the social and emotional development of our children. The projects specifically targeted children who had low self-esteem and very low confidence.
As a result of this work the children have excelled in their recent SAT’s and our disadvantaged pupils have achieved above the national average in all areas. The progress I believe is a result of these children being given a voice and they are now more confident to tackle challenging situations and they have become more resilient” – Angela Jones Headteacher, Distington Community School

Studio Theatre West Coast (STW)

Studio Theatre West Coast - Saga of Ernest Performance at Beggars Theatre Cumbria


STW is a theatre group of young people with learning disabilities and autism working alongside experienced artists and theatre practitioners. Since 2014 Prism Arts Studio Theatre West has been resident in Distington Community School.  The residency is a two way exchange, in return for space and support Prism Arts supports Distington Community School’s staff and students artistic development. It has resulted in an annual performance in the school for parents and children, access to workshops led by emerging diverse artists and artists.

“Thank you for the wonderful performance and workshop.  It gave people with disabilities the chance to do something they love” – Catlin

Recently one of the Prism Arts emerging diverse artists, John Lake, was asked to create a couple of drawings for the school as they celebrated Harry Potter. He thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to share his work with the school.

John Lake also helps run workshops with the students which he really enjoys as it gives him an opportunity to meet people which is something he particulairly enjoys.

A Curious Minds Diversity Grant in 2015 allowed Prism Arts to run a one-day seminar at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal 2016 which explored how learning and development can be enhanced through diversity and creativity.
The seminar included performance, film, discussion and practical workshops led by; Students from Distington Community School, Mayfield SEN Physical & Sensory Specialist School and Holme St Cuthbert School, artists and teachers, young learning disabled people from Prism Arts Studio Theatre, and young people from Brewery Youth Arts.

Click here to see the full Seminar Programme

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“This seminar was very worthwhile, it was engaging, informative and inspiring.” – Delegate

“A great, thought-provoking day – and I even picked up an idea for getting my ‘non-drawers’ drawing!! – Thank you very much!” – Delegate


West Cumbria Schools Consortium

Prism Arts - CFC - Seascale Jan 2017 11

This project gave Prism Arts the opportunity to work with groups at 4 west coast schools including Distington Community School to explore the effect the creative arts have on pupils with additional learning needs, emotional and behavioural issues. 10 students were picked from each of the 4 schools to receive 10 creative sessions led by artists.

The Seascale School group created a theatre performance, Holme St Cuthberts School created a book of paintings and short stories, Westfield Primary School created their own saga and Distington Community School designed a sign for the school and wrote a story which was read to the reception class who created a response work about it.

Outcomes from the project:

  • 1 boy has come off ‘Early help’ (Early Help –– defined support – hopefully preventing formal Social Services engagement)
  • One boy who had been exposed to very violent films (+18) at 6 yrs. old. Because of the project, he is much more outgoing and changed over the period of the project quite remarkably.  ‘Even popping into the head teacher’s office for a chat’.
  • Disclosures increased: As children found it easier to talk to teachers through the project. This supported Kids Safe work.  One x young boy has been able to develop a sense of security.  This is helping him to be more confident at home saying that he does not want to watch 18 films at home and going to his bedroom to draw instead.
  • The project allowed children time to work by themselves, outside of the formal curriculum.


“29% of Children are on Free School Meals.  This means that nearly a third of our children are coming from low income homes.  The majority of these children are vulnerable, lack parental support and have significant emotional needs 83% of our current nursery intake are not meeting age related expectations.  We are therefore playing catch up from the outset.  Social and Emotional issues need to be addressed before we can start the learning process.  We find that creative engagement is essential in enabling us to support children and parents so that they can learn.   We work with Barbados, Health Specialists and Social Services.  We now deliver an integrated arts and cultural engagement plan that supports and nurtures children.” –  Angela Jones Headteacher, Distington Community School

“The school has established strong links with external agencies to make sure that the children get the support that they need” – OFSTED

“The school has further enriched the curriculum by working with artists. Highlighting how the school is working in partnership with arts organisations to develop children” – OFSTED


Give Us A Break – Mayfield School, Whitehaven

Give Us A Break was a film project involving Mayfield School students and the Haltwhistle Film Project. The end result was a short film featuring children and young people from Cumbria who have disabilities.

The production, which took several months to complete, gave the children and young people the chance to show what they like to do in their spare time and during breaks for themselves and their carers. It was part of the Aiming High for Disabled Children programme which was given £2.7 million to give a voice to youngsters in Cumbria who have disabilities. There have already been consultations about the sort of short breaks people would like and now pupils have added their voice.

Mayfield School pupil, Tom Wren, said: “It was good. I went into the pool with an underwater camera.”

Fellow pupil, Michael Sessford, said: “The shadow puppets were good.”

Lynne Brownrigg, Headteacher of Mayfield School in Whitehaven, said: “I believe that Haltwhistle Film Project and Prism Arts have achieved the objectives in giving our young people the opportunity to share what they want from short breaks and to present images of young people with a range of disabilities being involved in a range of short break opportunities. The work by the young people at Mayfield School has offered fantastic opportunities based on creative arts enabling young people to explore their creativity, develop self-belief and expression. This has been a very worthwhile project.”

Moira Swann, Corporate Director of Children’s Services with Cumbria County Council, said: “Everyone seems to have had a lot of fun and there are some brilliant ideas about what they’d like short breaks to offer. Many thanks to those who put in so much hard work. We are all very proud of Give Us A Break.”

The film premiered at Theatre by the Lake which included a DVD showing, a live performance and opening and closing addresses from Councillor Anne Burns and Lynne Brownrigg.

In February 2011 the film was nominated for a prestigious Osprey Short Film Award at Keswick Film Festival. The awards celebrate local film making and recognise and reward talented film makers from, or working in, Cumbria.

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