Project Manager Cicely Taylor reflects on the importance of continual professional development for teachers and art educators through our Start programme. South London Gallery is one of our arts partners in the second year of Start.
Find out more about Start here

I went along to the first South London Gallery Teachers and Artists event on Tuesday 30 January, part of the teacher training offer for the gallery’s Start programme. Held in the gallery’s spacious Clore Education Studio, the relaxed ambience was perfect for offering busy arts educators a chance to reflect on the project and their teaching practice in an informal setting.

The termly events offer a range of activities that contribute to planning, sharing and learning through a variety of skills training, peer-learning and networking exercises. The sessions help to foster a strong ethos of sharing between the artists and the teachers from the beginning of the project, strengthening relationships for the duration of Start and beyond. There are six secondary and SEND (special educational needs and disability) schools involved in Start at SLG, each working with a different professional artist who facilitates gallery visits and in-school workshops for the 300 young people aged 11 – 15 years who take part each year.

Attending were six arts facilitators, three members of SLG learning team and two secondary school art teachers. Facilitated by SLG School and Community Projects Manager Heather Kay, the session covered a range of activities, from a general introduction and project round-up, Q&A about the Start programme, tour of the gallery and exhibition, and a “speed-dating” session for educators to exchange top tips for engaging students. We also had a fascinating session on mindfulness, mental health and the concept of ‘mindful looking’ at artwork.

Prompted by a tour of the current exhibitions, everyone had a chance to discuss their approach to relating art to the curriculum and share experiences from the classroom. The group also had the opportunity to attend a Q&A with Michael Armitage, the Kenyan artist whose exhibition The Chapel is the focus of the projects this term. This gave the arts facilitators and teachers the opportunity to ask in-depth questions about the show and to feed back some of the comments that visiting students had made about the exhibition. The exhibition explores topics such as religion, folklore, social consensus and mental health, and the chance for the educators to gain further insight into the artist’s approach to these topics was a valuable process.

It seemed to give both artists and teachers more confidence in articulating their approach and teaching practice, which was encouraging for everyone.

- Heather Kay, South London Gallery

One teacher said that the session had reminded her why she became a teacher in the first place. Following on, in addition to these training events the teachers will also be invited to gallery events and artist talks throughout the year, to give them more opportunities to engage with contemporary art.

You can catch Michael Armitage's The Chapel at South London Gallery until 23 February 2018.

Start at South London Gallery is supported by ArtSocial