Photography enables students to share experiences

The Centre is a twenty bed unit managed by Salford City Council’s Children’s Services. It sets out to care for young people in an environment that promotes their emotional wellbeing including forming positive caring relationships with staff. The Centre achieves this through promoting the principles of Every Child Matters. The standard of care and services offered at Barton Moss has been judged by OFSTED as Outstanding, the first secure care centre to be judged at this level.

In 2011 it also achieved the Youth Justice Board’s Innovations Award for our Restorative Justice programme and we have recently been the first secure care centre to gain an Artsmark Gold Award.

Michael Stewart is the Imaging Partnership practitioner who designed the photography workshop programme which was delivered as part of the summer programme over five days. There were five groups having a 50 minute session each day.

Michael takes up the story

“Our brief was to provide a fun learning experience to students as part of the centre’s summer programme.  Lesson plans were created specifically for this group, to engage students and ensure there was flexibility built in to include or take out activities that were appropriate ‘on the day’ as the students have varying needs and abilities.  We planned the course and presented materials in a way that would be engaging for the students given the range both age and ability in each group.

“The ages ranged from 14 – 17, although the centre takes children in the range of 10 – 17.  The sessions were planned for 4 – 5 students in a group but due to extraneous reasons (visits/dental appointments and so on) there were actually between 2 and 5.”

Barton Moss is able to accommodate young people who have a range of needs including those with severe mental health problems, complex development needs, physical disabilities, who are victims of bullying or likely to be a target of aggression, emotional or physical immaturity and speech, language and communication difficulties. 

Michael continues

“Each session included a brief recap of the previous day’s activities.  I then introduced the new topic of the day with group discussion of good, bad and indifferent images shown on the whiteboard. This was helpful as it created enthusiastic discussion and demonstrated how thoughtful lighting, and being creative ‘in the moment’ created exciting outcomes.  The students responded very well to this. We always had ‘how to’ demonstrations and the sessions were very practical.

“Our challenge was to make sure we were engaging and retaining the interest of students whose attitude could vary considerably from day to day.  There were restrictions on activities due to the site so there was limited opportunity for landscapes and interiors.”

“From my point of view it was very pleasing to see the level of enthusiasm shown by students. They were quick to recognise when they had taken good shots and showed a real willingness to share them. Watching students grow in confidence as the course progressed was most rewarding.

“There were two particular students, grouped together, who had been difficult and reluctant to get involved and had to be removed from one session, then responded brilliantly to a period of sports photography. They were asked to go outside onto the Astroturf pitch, to practice panning techniques and also to consider the problems in photographing movement. One of the boys was running around with a football, while the other was taking pictures. I was concerned that they may be more interested in kicking a ball around, but both were excited by the shots they were taking, talking about them and seeing them displayed on the whiteboard.”

“Photography is very accessible for all and is a great enabler. The majority of students responded very well throughout. One or two were more volatile personalities and consequently, their responses were governed by external factors, but being responsive to individual students and being able to devote time to them shows that even those students can be engaged under the right circumstances.

“My experiences during this week highlight that photography is a very democratic process. Regardless of ability, all students are able to achieve success with a little guidance.

“Most students had at least familiar with using compact cameras, so a brief introduction to the layout was all that was required. All were confidently making successful shots from the first session onwards. All students responded particularly well to praise!”