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Keeping up the Karnival

Our school's African-Caribbean themed Arts and Culture week grew, with the help of funding (pound;3,000) from the LEA's African-Caribbean project, into the Kingfisher Karnival, a full term of arts events.

Although we are a special school we still have differentiation according to pupils' needs: issues include communication for the autistic pupils, sensory access for those with profound learning difficulties and how to maximise the experiences of our own gifted and talented strand. With performing arts advice from Tameside LEA we brought in Disdance, a Stomp-trained dance team; Taste of Paradise - a sensory food show featuring touchy-feely fruit explorations; and Peter Kalu, a story-teller steeped in the traditions of West Africa and the Caribbean.

We had an arts training day for all 68 members of staff and organised visiting artists doing batik and tie-dying, costume making, drumming and scenery design. Each curriculum co-ordinator provided their colleagues with a one-term planner which identified cross-curricular links to Africa and the Caribbean. Every last free resource that related to these themes was found and resource boxes were set up before Easter.

Teachers from a local college who had been to Jamaica to learn how to make carnival costumes came and helped school staff to make a wheelchair-mounted Kingfisher bird costume to lead our parade. Steel bands from local primary and special schools played concerts and when it came to our own finale in Big Arts Week, July 2003, we had the Mayor of Oldham along with LEA top brass, watching with parents as teachers, support staff and pupils danced, sang, and drummed.

Dominic Wall, headteacher, the Kingfisher Community Special School, Oldham, Greater Manchester

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