Secondary Art and Design Education with City Year UK

How can young people volunteering in schools use National Gallery paintings to enrich pupils’ learning?

Thanks to the National Gallery’s partnership with Credit Suisse, from October 2015 to April 2018, the Gallery has worked in partnership with City Year UK to deliver an innovative bespoke personal and cultural development opportunity for students and the charity's volunteers at four inner-city schools in London and Birmingham.

City Year UK challenges 18 to 25-year-olds from diverse backgrounds to tackle educational inequality by undertaking a year of service volunteering as a ‘near peer’ role model, mentor, and tutor in a school. These volunteers support students from inner-city schools to enjoy and improve their learning.

This project has piloted new methodologies for engaging students who wouldn’t necessarily visit the Gallery or engage with our paintings, and for coaching City Year UK volunteers in using the collection to enrich the students’ learning and personal development.

The project

Each year National Gallery staff and specialist arts practitioners engage 50 students, age 11–14, and 20 volunteer mentors in a creative project focused on personal development and learning through art and design. Paintings from the collection selected on a particular theme provide inspiration for coaching and learning programmes specially designed for volunteer mentors and their students.

Participants visit the Gallery to see the paintings and take part in practical workshops, which allow them to experiment with various art forms including photography, printmaking, and painting. This provides a starting point for school-based projects devised in partnership by Gallery experts and City Year UK mentors. Volunteer mentors use newly acquired knowledge and practical skills to support students in developing and realising their ideas. Artists provide ongoing support through outreach visits and follow-up workshops at the Gallery.

The project culminates in a celebration day at the Gallery to showcase students’ final pieces and their diverse responses to their chosen paintings.

Past participants have said:

'It was a treat to do something creative with the students outside the classroom and furnish their minds with beauty.'

'The project was good because we’ve done stuff here that we probably wouldn’t do at school.'

'I think, though it was a lot of pressure, the presenting was my favourite bit. It was fun and there was a nice atmosphere. I showed my family some of the paintings that we’ve looked at.'

'I learnt new skills that will help me next year with my GCSE History.'

'It’s a little taster of project management for me and I quite enjoyed it. There was a lot to learn.'