What the inspector saw - good practice spotted by Ofsted - Training student gallery guides - King Ethelbert School

28th September 2012 at 01:00

In brief

Pupils at King Ethelbert School in Kent have been trained to work as art gallery guides, or "Youth Navigators", at the Turner Contemporary gallery.

The project

The seaside town of Margate has long had ties to the art world, and was where landscape painter J.M.W Turner and modern artist Tracey Emin both spent formative years.

KingEthelbert School also takes art seriously and established good links with the Turner Contemporary gallery before it even opened last year. Indeed, the secondary helped the gallery to recruit a learning team and the pupils were involved in the design process for its building.

However, the most striking joint project between Turner Contemporary and King Ethelbert so far has been a scheme in which its teenage pupils have worked as gallery guides.

A total of 20 pupils in Year 9 received 15 hours' intensive training for the first Youth Navigators scheme and then showed adults around the opening exhibition, Revealed.

Nearly all were studying GCSE or BTEC art. Most of their training sessions took place during the school day, either at the gallery, the school or over Skype, though the pupils also had to commit to working after school hours.

For the pupils, being guides was not a case of merely memorising information. They were trained through a "philosophical enquiry" approach, which encouraged them to promote personal connections to the exhibition and -explore new ways of relating to the artwork. They were also helped to identify cross-curricular connections in the work, and to improve their -presentation skills.

The school says that key parts of making the scheme work included planning carefully to -ensure sessions missed "pressure points" in the curriculum, and informing parents that the project was about learning and creativity in - and beyond - art.

"We don't seek to make every pupil an artist, but we are passionate about ensuring that all pupils have a range of opportunities to develop creative thinking," says deputy head Min Chamberlaine. "To achieve this, we seek wider experiences beyond the classroom for pupils that complement their work in lessons."

Chamberlaine says that, alongside its work with the gallery, the school was keen to develop the role of pupils as leaders of learning.

Signs of success

Evaluation of the scheme found a range of -benefits, including improvements to pupils' confidence and skill in speaking in front of others.

Visitors gave positive feedback on their young guides, making comments about how the teenagers had challenged their thinking, and in some cases requesting that particular pupils show them around other exhibitions.

Turner Contemporary is now expanding the scheme to involve a second year of pupils from King Ethelbert, and 80 further secondary pupils from across Kent. "The gallery benefits enormously from having young advocates who can speak enthusiastically about our exhibitions and wider work," says Karen Eslea, head of learning at Turner Contemporary.

What the inspectors say

"Pupils' confidence developed through the project. An outcome that neither the school nor the gallery had anticipated also emerged strongly - the pupils expressing real pride in their home town of Margate."

Read the full Ofsted case study at bit.lyGIMoSH

The school

Name: King Ethelbert School, Kent

Type: 11-16 academy

Number of pupils: About 750

Intake: The proportion of pupils with special educational needs or disabilities is above average. It also has an above average number of pupils in local authority care


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