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Art house secrets

Jill Brownbill is head of art at Prendergast Secondary School, Lewisham

A day like this is hugely valuable. Many students, despite their A-level choice, remain quite conservative about the nature of art and the Tate Modern confronts them with much that is challenging. They also need to develop their "visual philosophy", given the strong conceptual base from which most art post-1860 springs.

The course forces them to engage with the thought-processes that have gone on behind the scenes creating the startling mix of works on show. What statement is being made in this room, they are asked, and they come to realise how there is no right answer to the question.

A good proportion of students selecting art at AS or A2 will be considering art school options. By coming on such a study day and getting to meet people working professionally behind the scenes in a gallery, they discover something of the range of opportunities there may be for them as trained artists. The emphasis throughout this, and other Tate courses, on encouraging students to refine their interpretive skills is crucial, not least because of the considerable analytical elements of A-level art courses. They are required to prove and justify the thinking that has gone into their work.

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