Art lovers in Ealing, west London, were invited in April to a private viewing at the Pitshanger Manor gallery. The walls were covered with striking charcoal sketches - studies of nudes created by local schoolchildren at a series of life drawing workshops. Put on by the Royal Academy of Art, the workshops came thanks to a pound;500,000, three-year sponsorship by Yakult UK, manufacturers of a Japanese health drink.
At the start of a day-long workshop, model Lorna Smith slips off her robe and adopts a crouching pose before a group of Year 10 and 11 pupils from Northolt High School. This is the first time they have encountered a nude model and they are starting to realise art is not simply a 45-minute lesson.
As they make their first marks on the paper, a tutor from the scheme known as Outreach strides around the room urging pupils to throw caution to the wind as the model repeatedly changes her pose, each one lasting just long enough to give a sense of movement, volume and shade.
Northolt School's head of art, Jane Shaw, says: "This is the pupils' first opportunity to spontaneously develop their ideas. Most of them are going to feel a lot more confident by the end of the day and we hope it's going to strengthen their GCSE grades."
Year 11 pupil Amanda Moran agrees:"I've learned to be bold, to go ahead with what you think and what you see." Classmate Adrian Barrow says: "The best thing is it's lively, everybody's happy."
Outreach goes all over the UK, and before its Ealing workshop, it was in Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley. It has been as far afield as the Channel Islands and to the Shetland Islands. Outreach organiser Paula Kitt says:
"In the 10 years we've been running, Outreach has established close links with many schools and we help pupils and teachers make the most of their art."
Yakult marketing manager Julie Causton says: "We've only been in the UK for three years but it's part of our company's philosophy to promote the arts. Cultural heath is as important as physical health. It's a holistic approach."
Outreach 01732 760060.