Students from Fred Nicholson School in Toftwood, near Dereham, receive national awards

Teenagers from a special needs school are celebrating after achieving a national award in just three months, when it is usually completed in six months.

The 12 students, aged 13 and 14, from the Fred Nicholson School at Toftwood, completed the bronze Arts Award between May and July this year.

Anyone aged between 11 and 25 can take part in the scheme, which is similar to the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme and also has silver and gold awards.

The qualification aims to develop different areas of the arts, including music and dance, and allows those who take part in the programme to learn practical and leadership skills.

It was the first time pupils at the Fred Nicholson School had taken part in the Arts Award, and they had to complete four sections to achieve bronze. These were: a performance in front of an audience, a portfolio looking at one particular hero or heroine from the arts scene, visiting a live arts event where the students recorded their views on the subject, and teaching a particular skill to others.

The teenagers performed at the Fred's Got Talent event in June in front of parents and other pupils, visited the summer show on Cromer Pier in July and received support from Dereham's JDT Music Academy once a week.

Nia Howe, general manager of the academy, said: 'The students worked incredibly hard.' And Janel Spalding, owner of the academy, added: 'The moderator who looked at the portfolios was so taken aback on what these children had achieved.'

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Judith Oular�, teaching assistant at the school, said: 'You could see with each development that the teenagers were pushing their own barriers.' She added that the pupils took up the challenge 'brilliantly'.

Since September, four students from the school have been taking part in the silver award.