From 2017-2019 a very special project from South East Museum Development took place: SEND in Museums South East.

Samantha Bowen, our Museum Development Officer for Kent/Medway, has worked in museums for over twenty years, and during this time she became a parent to a child with severe physical and learning disabilities. This experience led to her obtaining first-hand experience of the lack of inclusion or appropriate offer to SEND audiences by many museums.

Samantha soon gained the backing of the South East Museum Development team to develop a pilot project around improving provision, and she got to work setting up the pilot in Kent. Partnering with a skilled museum and heritage learning consultant they worked with three museums and three special schools to create low cost improvements to make museums more welcoming accessible to SEND families and schools. The idea for a useful toolkit for museums to start their SEND journey was at the heart of the project, and work soon began in earnest.

South East Museum Development launched its Special Schools & Museums Toolkit in 2018, which aims to provide museums with practical support to create inclusive and accessible experiences for people with special educational needs and disability (SEND). The toolkit provides practical, jargon-free advice such as how to take a fresh look at your museum’s accessibility, how to approach SEND schools and develop partnerships, and top tips for creating a successful Special Needs school visit.

Between April – June 2019 the SEND in Museums Project was then rolled out to a larger pool of 20 museums across the South East, who were supported in the development of a SEND friendly offer that benefitted special schools, SEND families and special needs groups. To celebrate the success of the project a South East wide SEND Conference was held on 2 July 2019 with over 60 museums in attendance to share their work on access and inclusion. It was a joyous occasion that featured heartfelt success stories from a wide range of museum and special school partners.

Click here to download the Special Schools & Museums Toolkit.