Every school should adopt

17th December 2004 at 00:00
There are many artists working in Wales now, and a surprising number of them are willing to leave the peace of their studios to work with large groups of excitable children in a bustling school environment.

For several years we have made use of them to enrich the art curriculum in our school. Following consultation with the artist, classwork is planned to make the most of the visit. These add an extra dimension to the children's work, linking it to the world outside and giving it greater meaning.

In 2002 we invited Jackie Morris, a local illustrator and children's author, to work with the children. I thought it would be another one-day visit, but the children were not content to leave it there. Not only can Jackie paint and write stories, but she plays netball too. They wrote to thank her and sent pictures. Jackie replied and the link was formed.

I cannot remember how the idea for adoption came up, but it seemed like a good one, and Jackie was officially adopted as our artist in the summer term of this year.

This autumn she returned for another day's visit (and some netball) and again thrilled the children with her paintings and stories. "She's cool," said one child to a general chorus of agreement. "When Jackie comes to school," said another, "she inspires us all."

They have seen a typewritten manuscript grow into a collection of pencil sketches and then a final book. Often Jackie emails photographs of her work on the day she has painted it so that the children are able to follow a book's progress closely, seeing the pictures that do not work as well as the ones that do.

This week, some of the children are reading Jackie's latest story and will email their responses to her. We shall continue to work with other artists, offering our children a range of approaches, but this link gives them an insight into the way work develops and the timescales involved. The children are already looking forward to her next visit.

Adopting an artist is quite straightforward. There is little paperwork and no red tape, your artist will not be living with you (although occasional visits are strongly encouraged) and they are more responsive than adopted animals from safari parks.

It helps if your artist has email, and an interest in some form of sport seems to be an advantage too. Every school should have one.

Kate Rastall is a teacher at Spittal VC primary school in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire

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