A second year student at Middlesex University is playing an integral role in an art class - one of the Open College Network Options at the College of North East London (CONEL). Currently on a placement as part of her BA Honours Art degree course, Patricia McQuade has opted to follow the Art Practice in the Community route, which requires the degree student to practice and share their art skills in the local Community. Patricia chose to do this at CONEL.

The innovative art course at CONEL is aimed at people with learning difficulties and disabilities. It covers various aspects of art and artwork, including papier mach, drawing using pencils and pastels, producing collages and tile printing. The aim of the course is to help these learners improve their communication skills and build relationships with new people. Furthermore, it enables them to be more aware of their skills and therefore the choices they can make.

Patricia has led on the Pinny Project where learners decorate an apron as a piece of artwork. The students have created beautiful aprons with plastic and paper using different designs and materials including glitter, feathers, fabrics, colourful beads and varying shapes cut out from magazines. Each apron is therefore personal to the individual learner.

One leaner in particular has gained a lot from this project. Being both deaf and blind, this project has been beneficial as it has been very tactile.

Patricia has been coming into CONEL since February. Her time on the project finishes at the end of term in July and she has gained significant knowledge and skills that are needed to undertake work with students with learning difficulties. Plus she has been able to work closely with lecturers and pick up tips on good practice. She says, I have had a great time working with the learners as they have taught me a lot about patience and perseverance and have given me a useful insight into learning difficulties and disabilities. The tutors have also been tremendous as they are doing a great job in teaching the learners. It has been great to experience a project of this kind as part of my degree course.

Claire Bissell, one of the college tutors working in the School of Supported Learning, adds to this Patricia has been a great help with this project and it has been good to see her interacting with the learners. The students clearly look forward to these lessons with Patricia every week.

The learners artwork was on display recently as part of the Middlesex University degree show housed at The Old Truman Brewery - a prestigious media and entertainment centre in Brick Lane that has become the creative hub of London's East End. The group was invited to take part in the exhibition after collaborating with the Art students at the University. Sally Dahl, a supported learning lecturer at CONEL, was at the private view, it was amazing to see our learners work included in such a high profile event. The atmosphere was electric and I felt so proud.

Visitors will also get a chance to see the 11 completed aprons when they are displayed in CONELs Tottenham Centre reception area until the end of June. Please come along at any time and take a look.

Notes to Editors:

1. From left to right in the attached photo are: Learners Michael Biscette, Lorraine Nnando (blind) and Paul Draper. Patricia McQuade is the blonde lady standing up.
2. Pinny is another name for an apron and is derived from Pinafore.
3. For further information about studying at CONEL please visit www.conel.ac.uk or call 020 8442 3055
4. For further details of courses at Middlesex University, visit www.middlesex.ac.uk

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