Last year I worked with Rebecca Linley and Martin Dudley on an evaluation of museum-based activities with children and young people looked after, and we were surprised by and impressed with the outcomes that we found.
- The young people gained consistent benefits in terms of confidence, self-knowledge and identity; social skills; cultural capital; and learning.
- These outcomes can be attained reliably and sustainably, and can probably be accessed for considerably less than £30 per young person per hour.
These are young people who either experience exclusion or are at risk of being excluded from many social and economic opportunities and benefits. The work is empowering because it targets young people’s options for empowering themselves.
The observations and interviews were instructive in helping us appreciate some of the nuances of inclusion. In one instance a fairly withdrawn young man was ‘drawn in’ by the others in the group in sessions he attended. They arranged to meet up independently and invited him along. His carer told us that he did not mention it at the time and so he did not go. Her interpretation was that
‘inclusion has never happened to him before.’
These were initiatives designed exclusively for children or young people who are looked after. They were based in museums (although several initiatives involved extra-mural visits), and involved some kind of activity (usually both group and individual activity) such as drama, design, craft etc. The activities varied in number of sessions and duration, from a single to fifteen sessions and from 90 minutes to five and a half hours. The age range was 7-17 years.
We argue that the activities are low risk and inexpensive; not addressing the young people’s needs is high risk and expensive.