Behind the Scenes: Our Schools’ Illustrator in Residence Programme

We talked to our Schools and Families Manager Grace Attlee about this pioneering programme.


  • Learning

Because illustration is a language, it’s a powerful learning tool for students of all ages and abilities.

But with the arts increasingly marginalised in UK state schools due to funding cuts and a strong focus on core subjects, students are missing out, particularly in outer borough schools with more limited access to cultural institutions.

Our pioneering Schools’ Illustrator in Residence programme tackles this problem head on, placing emerging illustrators in outer borough London schools over the course of three years.

We asked Schools and Families Manager Grace Attlee to tell us more.

What’s the aim of the residency?

The primary aim of the residency is to make a real impact on the students, teachers and broader school community via an art project tailored to the school

Students benefit from a series of bespoke illustration workshops and school visits to House of Illustration; teachers benefit from support and the opportunity to attend our brilliant CPDs (Continuous Professional Development); while the illustrator benefits from the residency as a unique career development opportunity, experiencing the unique challenges and rewards of working in a school, and benefits from mentoring with an experienced illustrator-educator.

It’s win-win-win.

Who are the illustrators?

We’ve worked with four illustrators so far: Becca Bygate, Kate Ducker, Gabbi Minas and now Lily Ash Sakula.

Which schools are they resident in? How are the schools chosen?

The funders work with specific boroughs in north and west London and for this project we selected primary schools in Brent, Harrow, Ealing and Barnet.

So far we’ve worked with Roe Green Primary School in Brent, Stanhope Primary School in Ealing and now John Chilton School in Ealing.

What do the illustrators do during the residency?

We liaise with teachers to carve out a brief for the illustrator, bespoke to the school’s needs. The illustrators then go in to the school for roughly two days per week for a term to work with pupils to create a large piece of artwork, exhibition, display or digital asset that will be seen and used by the whole school community.

What is the impact of the residency?

Riya, one of the Year 4 students who worked with Kate Ducker, put it better than I can: “This is learning, but it is fun learning”.

Working with the Schools’ Illustrator in Residence has an enormous impact on the students’ wellbeing as well as their visual communication skills. They enjoy expressing themselves, learn to work collaboratively, and, most importantly of all, they feel valued and empowered.

The feedback from the last residency speaks for itself.

“When I am sad or not having a good day at school, going into the art room with Kate cheers me up.” Saedah, Year 4

“I liked working with Kate because  we got to express our emotions. Anger, sadness: we just put it all into our artwork. We used colours to express our emotions. We got to mingle with our friends and make art together.” Jordan, Year 5

“We learnt that even if we didn’t want to, we can work with others.” Husimerit, Year 5

“I enjoyed everything. We worked as a team together.” Isis, Year 4

“I’m really proud of my work. I’ve improved since I first came to see Kate and its made me believe I have skills that make me stand out.” Julia, Year 4

Find out more about the programme: read our Q&A with our most recent Resident and watch the video they produced during their residency.

Our Schools’ Illustrator in Residence programme was made possible through the generous support of John Lyon's Charity.