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Out of Art into Literacy

Issued: August 2010

13 September – 5 December 2010
Learning Gallery

London primary school children are to have their creative writing displayed at the National Gallery this autumn in a unique exhibition.

Out of Art into Literacy celebrates the outcomes of two innovative National Gallery education projects: 'Into the Frame' and 'Out of Art into Storytelling'. Both projects enabled teachers to explore the potential of using Gallery paintings to inspire their pupils’ discussion and writing inside and outside the classroom.

Examples of oral storytelling, animation, writing and mixed-media artwork from a selection of the participating schools will be on show. National Gallery paintings that inspired the children include Bathers at Asnières (1884) by Georges Seurat, Bacchus and Ariadne (1520–3) by Titian, Tobias and the Angel (1470–75) by the workshop of Verrocchio and An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768) by Joseph Wright ‘of Derby’.

The projects began when 20 teachers from 10 London schools (all performing below the floor Sats target) were invited to the Gallery to learn how to use the paintings to stimulate learning across the curriculum. They then took the knowledge back to their schools. The aim of the projects was to develop children’s confidence and skills in reading and responding to paintings through talk and drama, as a precursor to telling their own versions of the stories orally, visually and in writing. Over the course of the project, 1,200 children took part from four London boroughs.

Following two days of training at the National Gallery participating teachers applied and developed their thinking and practice with their pupils. Six months later they returned to the Gallery to share the children’s experiences as well as their own reflections on working in this way.

'Framed', a book by the celebrated children’s author Frank Cottrell Boyce, was central to the first project, as National Gallery paintings are woven through the narrative. Boyce worked with the teachers as a group, and subsequently with all 600 children over the course of the project.

The second project, 'Out of Art Into Storytelling', involved pupils ‘jumping into the frame’ through dialogue and role-play, as a way in to telling their own versions of the stories represented in the paintings, first orally and then in other media. The second phase of this project supported pupils in transferring these skills of ‘reading’ paintings and oral storytelling to works with no known narrative. By exploring these paintings through careful looking, dialogue and role-play, the pupils developed story seeds in their imaginations and created their own narratives.

All of the children visited the National Gallery during the course of the projects to see what had become ‘their’ paintings; many have returned with their families at weekends and school holidays.

One participating pupil said, "I’m looking forward to writing this week. I have never felt like this."

Ali Mawle, National Gallery Head of Schools, said, "It has been transformational for many of the teachers and pupils involved. Teachers have captured or recaptured the enjoyment and value of talk and drama to explore the rich context presented by a narrative painting. Children look at National Gallery paintings differently now – with confidence and as a source of stories for them to tell. It has been amazing to see the passion that has been ignited."

A teacher said, "Lessons are enjoyable to teach, resource-light and have produced the best writing results I have seen."

The exhibition and accompanying film celebrate the pupils’ work and demonstrate, as a Cambridge University external evaluation report confirmed, the power of visual art to transform children’s storytelling. The film will be available to view at

For press information, please contact Nicola Jeffs: 0207 747 2532 /


Publicity images can be obtained from To obtain a username please contact the National Gallery Press Office on 020 7747 2865 or e-mail

Dates and opening hours

Open to public:  13 September – 5 December 2010

Daily 10am – 6pm, Friday until 9pm
Last admission 5.15pm (8.15pm Friday)


For public information, please quote 020 7747 2885 or
The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN

Notes to editors

For the projects the National Gallery worked with teachers from the following primary schools in Greenwich, Hounslow, Lambeth and Wandsworth:

  • The Alton Primary School
  • Archbishop Sumner Church of England Primary School
  • Bannockburn Primary School
  • Bonneville Primary School
  • Crown Lane Primary School
  • Deansfield Primary School
  • Earlsfield Primary School
  • Fossdene Primary School
  • Gordon Primary School
  • Green Dragon Primary School
  • Greenslade Primary School
  • Henwick Primary School
  • Halstow Primary School
  • Heronsgate Primary School
  • Linton Mead Primary School
  • Meridian Primary School
  • Mulgrave Primary School
  • Norwood Green Junior School
  • Ronald Ross Primary School
  • Sherington Primary School
  • Timbercroft Primary School

Into the Frame was presented at the United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA) 45th International Conference in July 2009.