START with Children and the Arts

Three years, three local primary schools.


  • Emily Jost
  • Learning

Darwin’s voyage, Year 6, St Andrew’s Primary

Having run a successful pilot in 2015-16, we have just finished our first full year of our START project 2016-17. Getting to know the pupils, witnessing the impact of our work and building strong relationships with the schools is a luxurious opportunity for us: usually we meet pupils and teachers for half a day or at most over a three-day outreach project. 

Multilingual animals info posters – part of 'Sound' topic, Year 4, Copenhagen Primary

We are working with ten classes from three local Islington schools. The idea of the START project is to enable pupils to familiarise themselves with our space, to get to know our illustrators and to spend quality time in our exhibitions. Children from St Andrew’s, Copenhagen and Robert Blair Primary Schools are starting to really feel at home in our spaces and gaining so much in confidence, creativity, art and team work skills that we feel we are really making a difference to their learning and their lives.

Anglo-Saxon homes, Year 5, Robert Blair Primary

The way our project works is that each school is matched with one of my team of experienced education illustrators, and over the academic year each class makes two visits to the gallery for exhibition activities and an illustration workshop, and one in-school outreach workshop.

Robot inspired by Anime Architecture: Backgrounds of Japan, Year 4, Copenhagen Primary

A Christmas Carol story tiles, inspired by Laura Carlin: Ceramics, Year 5, Robert Blair Primary

The project to be based in our philosophy of cross-curricular learning using the power of illustration. We teach children to be illustrators and with these skills communicate visually on any topic or subject. Illustration is a visual language that can tell stories, and so much more: it can convey instructions, express opinions, explain processes, present theories, ideas or facts. So for each interaction, the teachers decided what topic they wanted the illustrator to work on with their class. Where possible, the illustrators also made links and took direct inspiration from our exhibitions.

Nursery Rhyme Crime Scenes inspired by Laura Carlin: Ceramics exhibition, Year 4, Robert Blair Primary

Because the illustrators get to work with the same classes more than once, they have the chance to teach and embed a range of skills and techniques, equipping the pupils with a fantastic toolbox for use outside of the project too. As the children’s skills strengthen, so do their confidence and ambition.

Chinese myths, Year 5, St Andrew’s Primary

The variety of topics, techniques and outcomes delivered by my team is impressive: they responded to the themes set by the teachers, used our exhibitions as inspiring starting points and came up with an array of exciting ways to work with the children.

Toya Walker, Sion Ap Tomos and Merlin Strangeway have risen to the challenge of covering topics including Egyptian gods, Queen Victoria’s life, Anglo-Saxon settlements, Roman architecture, Norman castles, sound, the Great Lakes, climate change and the future of King’s Cross.

Norman castle inhabitants, Year 5, St Andrew’s Primary

We’re looking forward to getting stuck in again next term when we’ll start with a whole day CPD course for all the teachers involved, delivered by all three illustrators with the aim of getting them all inspired and raring to go for 2017-18.