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BEST PRACTICE - CULTURE HELPS YOUNG LIVES

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Glasgow's highly-commended museums are making a tangible difference to children and young people, says Ana Paula Na...
Glasgow's highly-commended museums are making a tangible difference to children and young people, says Ana Paula Nacif

COUNCIL Glasgow City Council

AWARD LGC Awards 2006

CATEGORY Children's services awards, highly commended

SPONSOR Prospects

When it comes to children's services, 'leisure' and 'culture' are not words that usually spring to mind.

But in Glasgow, the story is different. The Museums Education & Access Service, highly commended in the children's services category of this year's LGC Awards, has managed to use culture to make a difference to the lives of children and their families.

The largest education and access team of any local authority museum service in the UK, with 48 staff, the department not only encourages children to take part in creative events, but also gets involved in tackling social issues such as domestic violence, social exclusion and youth offending.

Janice Lane, education and access manager at Glasgow City Council, says the service is integrated within the council and works in partnership with local and national agencies.

Links with social work departments, for example, have led to work with asylum seekers, women who have experienced violence, youth offenders and people with physical and mental health problems. There are over 70 topics available, with each museum providing curriculum-linked materials.

'What makes a difference is the fact our team is permanent, not a freelance group, which can often be the way with museum services,' Ms Lane explains. 'Our education panels are constantly creating new projects such as the citizenship programme which worked with young offenders.'

Another example is the Elbowroom project, which placed eight artists in groups across the city to work with developing self-confidence among women, young people and children who have been affected by domestic violence.

The team also worked in partnership with St Mungo Museum of Religious Life, the only multi-faith museum in the UK, to develop workshops offered to primary and secondary school children to discuss racism, sectarianism and migration of communities.

Over 6,000 pupils have attended the workshops so far and news about this innovative programme has travelled fast. The team has been approached by teachers and youth workers from Northern Ireland and other parts of Scotland who are interested in setting up similar schemes.

Ms Lane is keen to point out that schools are not the only ones to benefit from the service. 'We get involved in other issues as well. We've worked with health promotion and social inclusion, for example. We do that through our collections. Object-based learning provides a different way in for a lot of children. Sometimes it can reach far more people and be really effective,' she says.

Children have played an active role in deciding how the scheme should be developed, with consultation carried out through a junior board and a youth panel.

The museum youth panel, the first one to be set up in Scotland, has 15 to 20 young people aged 16-21. It is run by young people for young people and organises, publicises and plans a teen-specific events programme in the city's museums.

The strategy is paying off. Since the service was set up in 2003, the number of visitors has soared. Staff organise workshops for 65,000 children and 98,676 learning visits every year. The total number of visitors to Glasgow museums is put at 1,885,964.

According to the council, these numbers are increasing at between 5% and 10% a year, a figure which should go up to about 30% in 2006-2007, now that Kelvingrove Museum & Art Gallery, the most visited museum outside London, has reopened after being closed for refurbishment.

'We are piloting a school programme at Kelvingrove between August and October; 250 schools have already booked,' says Ms Lane. 'This is an extraordinarily large service. We have nine museums, including four with

an international reputation. Over the past three years we have built a greater understanding of our role and how we can work in different environments to engage children and their families.'

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