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CIT - Community Inclusive Trust. Where learning comes first

Pupils at Ambergate Sports College held their first ever Photography Exhibition. The event took place at the school on Dysart Road in Grantham on April 1st 2022 and was well received by the school community.

The school caters for pupils between the ages of 3 and 19 across two sites with moderate to severe learning difficulties and complex needs.

Photography lessons were added to the 14-16 options three years ago and have become very popular with the pupils. Whilst working towards a qualification, pupils take part in a range of practical lessons including black light, light, small world and sphere photography, Holi powder and themed lessons including Christmas and Halloween. Pupils also take the official school pupil photos once a year as well as special school events such as Sports Day.

Photography Lead Carly Whitbread said: “We started with just three pupils who were passionate about photography and wanted to take a qualification in it. We always try to cater for pupils’ interests and over the three years, the subject has grown in popularity with over 40 pupils taking the qualification this year. The uptake and interest in the subject have been incredible.”

Mrs Whitbread added: “It was actually the pupils’ idea to put on the exhibition. They said they wanted everyone to come and see their work and I said why not?!”

Over the last few weeks pupils have been busy choosing the work they want to exhibit, mounting it, and working out the best way to display it. They have also taken some exclusive photos just for the exhibition and created a wide range of merchandise to sell at the exhibition shop. The exhibition, held in the photography room, was visited by all 16 classes and all staff members over the course of the day.

The show consisted of three corridors full of mounted work that the pupils have taken since last September and a shop selling the work in the form of keyrings, magnets, bookmarks, note cards and framed prints. All the money raised will go back into the Photography Department to purchase new resources for practical lessons.

Mrs Whitbread said it has been all hands-on deck to get the show ready: “Getting ready for the exhibition has been our sole focus for the last few weeks because there has been so much to do. The pupils have made all the decisions and discussed everything themselves because it was their show and I wanted them to really get stuck in.”

“As well as making creative decisions the pupils have worked on their maths skills needed for the shop and taken part in role plays to anticipate what the exhibition might be like and what to expect.”

“Pupils with additional needs can feel unsure about things others may not even consider, so it was important we prepared them for what to expect. We discussed all their potential worries, from how noisy it may be on the day, to taking money and being confident in talking about their work.”

“All the preparation paid off on the day when I saw my team proudly and confidently showing off their work to their peers and staff, answering questions and even adding funny anecdotes from the lessons they have had.”

“Their hard work and determination have made me so incredibly proud of them, they really sparkled today and to see that confidence in them was inspiring and made us all a bit emotional!”

One of the many visitors to the exhibition was Parent Governor, Mrs Katie Bennington. She said: “As soon as I first walked in to the first corridor I was taken a back by just how much work was on display. You could tell from the very first moment just how much work had gone into the exhibition. The photographs were phenomenal. The pupils had worked so hard during their lessons and you can tell that they have thoroughly enjoyed it and have a very passionate teacher who supports their ideas. Congratulations to the whole team, you should be very proud of yourselves.”

One of the pupils on hand to show Mrs Bennington around was Year 8 Photography pupil Arthur Cook. He was only due to work on one of the exhibition ‘shifts’, but enjoyed it so much that he stayed all day! He said, gesturing to the exhibition: “I mean just look at this, it has been absolutely brilliant. I just love it. Everyone got involved today and came to see our work. I feel really energised by today.”

Arthur added: “I like learning how to use a camera and enjoy the coursework. The lesson gives me a chance to be creative and I love trying new things. I will definitely take photography again next year. It has been so much fun and I have loved the experience.”

Mrs Whitbread said that the support of the whole school community was greatly appreciated: “Thank you to all the staff who supported us and helped us get ready, the parents who supported us with donations of additional merchandise to sell and the teaching staff who took time out of their day to bring their classes along. Thank you to the pupils who came along, asked questions and had huge smiles on their faces!”

“We would also like to thank management for letting us take time out to put on the show and for coming along for a guided tour! The support, kind words and interest in the work from the school community has meant the world to myself and the pupils.”

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