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Whoever forms the next government, Art Fund will be lobbying it for greater access to museums for disadvantaged children through the school curriculum, as Catherine Monks explains.

Woman and child working together modelling some clay
Workshop at the Foundling Museum, London

© Wilkie Branson Photography/Courtesy Foundling Museum Family Workshops

Responding to the barriers that many young people face in accessing creative and cultural experiences, particularly in disadvantaged areas, the Teacher Art Pass aims to enrich young people’s education through museum collections and resources, increasing teachers’ engagement with museums at the same time as building audiences of the future.

Art Fund developed the pass during a year-long pilot, supported by the Clore Duffield Foundation, and then launched it in April 2023 offering all the benefits of the National Art Pass to teachers from just £25 a year (normally £79).

Evidencing teacher engagement

Since that launch, more than 4,600 teachers have purchased a pass and, according to a recent survey, 64% of teachers agreed that, as a result of having a Teacher Art Pass, they plan to use museums and galleries more in their teaching. 

Evidence from our wider programmes also shows that demand for cultural learning resources and activities is high. Over 800 schools nationally took part in the Wild Escape, our nationwide participation project last year that inspired young people to learn about UK biodiversity loss through creative activations and museum collections. 

And findings from our latest Museum Directors Research showed that school visits were up in 2023-24 against 2022-23 across 41% of the museums surveyed and, after local visitors, schools were the second highest area of audience development focus. 

As we approach the end of the academic year, we’re looking ahead to some exciting new developments that will expand Art Fund’s support for teachers and help to realise our ambition to connect museums and schools more effectively.

Bringing skills and expertise into museums

Again thanks to support from the Clore Duffield Foundation, this month we launched a fellowship programme giving state secondary school teachers the opportunity to work within a museum with a Clore Learning Space. 

Bringing teachers with experience of the challenges facing schools into the very heart of museum learning teams, fellows will help host organisations to develop their learning offer, build stronger relationships with local schools and, crucially, enrich curriculum learning. 


The National Portrait Gallery, Museum of the Year Finalist 2024. Photo: © David Parry/Courtesy of The National Portrait Gallery

Offered as part of their 60th anniversary celebrations, the Clore Duffield Foundation grant will support two Teacher Fellowships a year over the next three academic years.  In this pilot year, National Museum Cardiff and Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village will host the fellows.

If your museum could benefit from this programme and you’d like to participate in future years, you can read more about the programme and find information on how to apply to be a host here

Bridging the communication gap

Our research suggests that the major barriers to more museum visits by schools were the high costs of things like transport and a lack of time for everything from researching an organisation and its collection or exhibitions, to planning the practicalities and logistics of an offsite visit.

While we can’t influence external factors like cost, we can address the second barrier. Support from the Foyle Foundation is enabling us to do just that, through the creation of a new, teacher-focused Digital Platform. 

Bringing together key information and resources from across Art Fund’s network of 900+ museum partners into one easily accessible platform, it will provide a centralised digital hub for teachers to access all the information they need to engage with, visit and benefit from their local museums.

We’re still in the early stages of this project, which will be designed in collaboration with teachers and museums and build on past learnings. We are hopeful it will make significant strides towards bridging the communication gap between museums and schools. 

Advocating for every child

At Art Fund, we believe as a minimum, that every school child should experience a visit to a museum and gallery every year, as part of the national curriculum. It’s one of our three key asks of the government, and we’ll be advocating for it along with maintaining free public access to museums and ensuring more sustainable funding for the sector. 

These initiatives are a small part of the work we are doing to further this aim, recognising that teachers are key to unlocking meaningful cultural experiences for their students, wherever they are in the UK.

Catherine Monks is Head of Funding Partnerships at Art Fund.

This article, sponsored and contributed by Art Fund, is part of a series sharing information and expertise to support museums and galleries to recover from the pandemic and develop audiences for the future.

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