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National Portrait Gallery launches online schools hub

Over 150 free resources have been created by the National Portrait Gallery with artists and subject experts, exploring the stories of those who have shaped British history and society today.

The resources, all linked to the National Curriculum, respond to research which reveals that educators are proactively seeking support in teaching under-represented stories such as identity, empire and migration.

The new Schools hub brings the Gallery’s remote, school-based and in-person offers together as one cohesive programme, connecting students directly with artists whose work forms part of the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection.

The Schools hub – a free online learning resource, designed to support those studying and teaching Art & Design and History through portraiture – features more than 150 newly commissioned learning resources and videos all developed by and with teachers, artists, historians and education experts. 

To ensure the relevance of its new Schools hub, the National Portrait Gallery surveyed teachers across the UK, working in state and independent primary, secondary and SEND schools, to better understand their needs and those of their students.

Research revealed that 85% of secondary History teachers required better resources relating to neglected histories, ‘missing’ portraits and migration, with 74% prioritising materials focused on the British Empire and colonialism.

79% of surveyed secondary Art & Design teachers flagged their need for resources relating to the expression of identity in British society through portraiture, while 84% of primary school teachers stated that resources about how artists tell stories through portraits were key to classroom planning.

“64% also shared their need for resources concerning Black British History. 

Schools hub resources, which include detailed explorations of curriculum-relevant individuals and videos about key topics, were specially created in response to this research.

The resources enable students to connect with and be inspired by artists whose work features in the Gallery’s Collection – including artist demonstrations, and interviews with Pogus Caesar, Olivia Rose, Curtis Holder and Nina Mae Fowler – as well as explore key topics and concepts through enquiry based learning and source analysis.

Searchable by keyword and filtered by subject, key stage, topic and format, the needs of teachers and students have underpinned all stages of the Schools hub’s development, in both the research and testing phases.

L-R: Photo © David Parry; Artist Curtis Holder demonstrates how to draw a portrait © National Portrait Gallery

Liz Smith – Director of Learning and Engagement, National Portrait Gallery

“The National Portrait Gallery’s new Schools hub has been specifically designed to support teachers and learners as they navigate the National Curriculum, providing classes and groups with creative ways into their chosen topics and subjects through the exploration of our Collection.

“These unique resources, which support both school-based and remote teaching and learning through our national Collection, perfectly complement our in-Gallery workshops, and in the Gallery’s reopening year, I am so proud to present such a thorough offer, which I hope will be of great use to schools across the UK as it continues to grow over the many years to come.”

Tom Jones – Lecturer in Art & Design Education, UCL Institute of Education

“The National Portrait Gallery’s new Schools hub is a significant resource that will enrich learning in Art & Design classrooms across the country.

Throughout its development, the National Portrait Gallery has been committed to deep engagement with the education sector to promote an inclusive and innovative approach to its Collections.

The resources in Schools hub take an accessible and exploratory approach to portraiture that will benefit teachers and learners alike.

It balances the specificity and power of Art & Design as a subject, whilst fostering productive links and critical conversations across other areas of the curriculum.”

Dan Lyndon-Cohen – Director, Schools History Project, and Honorary Fellow of the Historical Association“It has been a great privilege to work with the National Portrait Gallery to support the outstanding range of teaching materials that have been produced for their new online Schools hub.

The Gallery has worked particularly hard to redress some of the silences within the History curriculum and has drawn on their rich resources to widen the representation found on their walls and in our classrooms. Careful thought and attention has been given to support pupils in accessing the content, and this enables them to explore connections to local, national and global histories.

A thematic approach to some of the resources, such as the focus on empire and migration, also allows pupils to draw out the changes and continuities over an extended period of time and helps them to navigate their own position in these important aspects of contemporary life.”

The Schools hub forms part of the Gallery’s Inspiring People transformation project, which physically culminated with the reopening of the National Portrait Gallery on 22 June 2023.

Inspiring People was made possible by major grants from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players.

It also received major donations from the Garfield Weston Foundation and the Ross Foundation, Mildred and Simon Palley, Julia and Hans Rausing, the Clore Duffield Foundation, the David and Claudia Harding Foundation, Bjorn and Inger Saven, the Law Family Charitable Foundation, David and Molly Lowell Borthwick, the Deborah Loeb Brice Foundation and Art Fund. 

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