A LIFE-CHANGING learning project which helped young people with special needs work with museum exhibits has scooped a national award.

Careers for All, run by Leeds Museums and Galleries, was named Museums and Heritage Award Learning Programme of the Year 2020 for providing young people with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) with a stepping stone into the world of work.

The awards celebrate examples of best practice and innovation from museums across the country and were presented online this year by Di Lees, Director General of the Imperial War Museum.

She praised the Leeds Museums and Galleries team for delivering ‘incredibly fantastic work’.

Using museum resources and objects from the city’s world class collection, Careers for All gives participants an opportunity to gain practical experience and careers support while doing everything from creating a CV to planning and curating their own exhibitions and displays.

A partnership with the Swarthmore Education Centre in Leeds last year saw students develop an exhibition on 100 years of Leeds United and also use Egyptian artefacts to explore how computer game World of Warcraft takes inspiration from ancient civilisations.

The programme is being funded by the Eranda Rothschild Foundation through the Real World Science Partnership with the National History Museum.

Leeds Museums and Galleries’ head of learning and access, Kate Fellows, said: “We are thrilled to have won this prestigious award for our meaningful work experience programme for young people with additional needs. It’s the museum Oscars, so very exciting for us all.

“Working alongside young people to help build their skills, knowledge and understanding around the workplace had been immensely rewarding and we couldn’t have done it without all the partnerships across the education and heritage sectors, the funding from the Eranda Rothschild Foundation and the support of the Natural History Museum.

“It’s a brilliant testament to all the hard work and dedication of our staff teams and partners and the talent of the young people themselves.”

In 2019 Careers for All supported 15 young people with SEND in long term work placements across Leeds Museums and Galleries. It also worked with 24 specialist settings, schools and colleges across Yorkshire and engaged with 200 pupils in outreach workshops.

Leeds City Council leader Councillor Judith Blake said: “Our museums and galleries are much more than visitor attractions and the work the team does behind-the-scenes makes a profound difference to our young people. I congratulate everyone involved in winning this prestigious award.”