Sessions for secondary schools

Bring National Gallery paintings to life with a session tailored to the needs of your students.

Interactive Gallery sessions (Free for UK schools)

These sessions are designed to build learners' confidence and enjoyment in looking at and responding to paintings.

Specialist educators encourage pupils to think, imagine, and make connections within and between paintings while making links with their previous learning and experiences.

Sessions last one hour and are free for UK schools. For overseas groups, there is a charge of £50–75 a group.

Pupils will see a maximum of three paintings as part of their facilitated visit.

Themes for Key Stages 3, 4, and 5

Please choose from a theme below (please note that we cannot guarantee that you and your pupils will see a requested painting as part of your guided visit):

General introduction

Learners will be introduced to the National Gallery collection and its history. Time in the gallery will be spent discovering paintings that demonstrate the breadth of the collection in terms of time, subject, and technique. Pupils will explore changes in painting techniques, styles, and subject matter and consider how to look at and understand works of art. They will be encouraged to discuss the paintings in a lively and critical way.

Materials, techniques, and processes

Learners spend time exploring different materials and processes that are used in the making of paintings, and their different properties. A specialist educator will investigate visually with your pupils how artists create perspective, pattern, colour and light, and use line, tone, shape, and space.

Please specify upon booking what you would like your session to focus on, namely, perspective, pattern, colour and light.

History through art

The National Gallery represents a slice of history (Western European history from around 1250 to 1910).

The materials artists had available and the scenes they depicted can tell us about changing times. For example, portraits can show us how wealth, power, and status were understood and conveyed, at different times and in different contexts; changes in fashion and etiquettes can be explored, as well as the effects of significant cultural and technological changes, such as the dawn of railways and photography.

Impressionism in context

Our Impressionist paintings are some of the most popular in the Gallery. In these sessions, learners will be encouraged to compare them with works from earlier periods in Western European art in order to understand how innovative they were. We will also discuss how they were influenced by earlier artists such as Corot and Turner.

Landscapes, portraits and identity, still life, the human figure

Pupils will be given an overview of their chosen genre looking at how it has been approached by different artists working across the periods covered in the collection. Specialist educators will guide learners through the key elements of composition in their chosen genre and encourage them to compare variations of style and technique.

Please specify upon booking which area you would like your session to focus on, namely, landscape, portraits and identity, still life or the human figure.  

Myths and legends

Learners explore a selection of myths and legends through the visual language of paintings and gain more of an understanding of the genre. Specialist educators encourage your pupils to express their opinions and ideas about the stories explored. These narratives never fail to engage young people. They can be a good way of encouraging looking at paintings, but specific links can also be made for students studying Homer and Virgil.

Reading paintings

This session searches through the collection, finding hidden symbolism in paintings. Specialist educators guide pupils in looking for clues and making connections between objects in the paintings explored. Pupils develop their visual literacy whilst building their confidence in describing and discussing what they see.

Religion in art

Learners will consider different depictions of religious narratives in paintings – especially by comparing two treatments of the same subject, such as the Annunciation.

Pupils will be guided in thinking about how artists represent moral ideas in Christian art, such as ideas of good and bad behaviour, the demands of family, sacrifice and duty.

Sessions may act as a general investigation or focus on particular festivals such as Christmas or Easter.


Sketchbook skills (Key Stage 4 and 5)

Sharpen your pupils’ observation and sketchbook skills by incorporating a variety of drawing activities into your Gallery workshop, led by an experienced artist-educator. Sessions take place on weekday afternoons and last one-and-a-half hours.

Drawing implements are provided. Please ensure that pupils bring their own sketchbooks.

We can respond to exam titles by exploring and discussing relevant paintings.

Paintings for all sessions will be chosen with the particular group in mind and will be age and subject appropriate.  While it is impossible to guarantee groups will see specific paintings, gallery educators will endeavour to select paintings that demonstrate the breadth of the collection.

To book

Please phone 020 7747 2424 (select option 1)

Group sizes: 10–90 pupils (maximum of 30 students per group)

Pupils with additional and special needs: Please specify upon booking if your pupils have additional needs.

Cancellation policy: 28 days prior to session

Self-guided visits

You may prefer to design and lead your own Gallery session. To book a self-guided visit, please email