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 May 2016, the Gallery 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 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

National Gallery staff and specialist arts practitioners engaged 50 Key Stage 3 students and 18 City Year UK volunteers in a creative project focused on personal development and learning through art and design. Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus, Treck’s Vanitas Still Life, Degas’s Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando and Bellows’s Men of the Docks were the stimuli for coaching and learning programmes specially designed for City Year UK volunteers and for students.

Participants visited the Gallery to see the paintings and take part in practical workshops, which experimented with various art forms including photography, printmaking, and poetry. This was a starting point for school-based projects inspired by the focus paintings and exploring the theme of personal identity. City Year UK volunteers used newly acquired knowledge and practical skills to support students in developing and realising their ideas. The National Gallery provided ongoing support through outreach visits and a follow-up workshop at the Gallery.

The project culminated in a celebration day at the Gallery, which showcased students’ final pieces and their diverse responses to the focus paintings, featured in the film above.