Illustration for Radical Learning

Our Head of Education on accessible, creative and inspiring opportunities for primary teachers.


  • Emily Jost
  • Learning

Teachers work so hard to inspire their classes, it is a real pleasure to be involved with designing and running sessions that aim to give them inspiration as well as ideas they can in turn go on to share – illustrator Toya Walker

The opportunity to share knowledge with teachers, to empower them with creative ideas that they can explore, develop and share themselves provides a potentially lasting creative legacy at each school. HOI is all about sharing creative knowledge and I believe this is the most important kind we do. – illustrator Sion Ap Tomos

I feel a lot more confident in linking art/illustration throughout the curriculum - particularly writing - in a more creative, impactful way – Key Stage 2 teacher

House of Illustration's education mission is to inspire and empower people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to illustrate. Illustration is both a creative act and a powerful means of communication: it helps us tell stories, share our beliefs, transmit our ideas, provide instructions, make statements, persuade, inspire and inform.

All our school workshops and projects are designed to provide students with skills and techniques to enable them to use this highly effective yet often under-used form of communication to enhance and take ownership of their learning, while boosting confidence and creating outcomes of which they can be proud and which can be shared.

Our work with teachers has exactly the same goals. Because we know how important and effective our approach is, we know the best way to benefit the greatest number of students is to provide creative CPD for teachers - equipping them with greater skills and confidence to use illustration techniques regularly in their teaching across the curriculum. Teaching is an incredibly creative job but teachers generally don't often have the chance to experiment, explore and nurture their creativity. We think it’s vital that they get time out of the classroom to meet professionals, learn new skills, try out ideas and share inspiration with each other.

With my team of illustrators I have been delivering whole-school primary CPD sessions in schools since 2010 – at first as part of funded outreach projects, and latterly for schools coming to us and commissioning sessions. Having talked to lots of teachers and senior leadership teams, discovered their needs and challenges, and tried out many different techniques and approaches, this May we delivered our first full CPD day for teachers from different schools to attend. I had great pleasure in devising and delivering this with illustrators Sion ap Tomos and Toya Walker.

We wanted teachers to leave at the end of the day feeling equipped with new skills, lots of ideas, the inspiration and confidence to put these into practise in the classroom and share with their colleagues back at school. We designed a day of mostly hands-on activities including several types of drawing and collage and addressing facial expressions and emotions, story maps and dioramas and transformation. All of these had strong literacy links but with plenty of additional cross-curricular opportunities.

My presentation What is Illustration? launched the day with a reminder that illustration is primal: we were all making marks drawing and reading pictures long before we could read or write words, and I also argue that this is true of our species: cave art long predates written language. I also showed examples that explain illustration is not an add-on to the written word but a communication method in its own right. Without illustration, science and medicine could never have progressed, for example. This is why it is so important that children have opportunity to learn the skills required to communicate visually.

Lastly, the day also included a visit to three of our exhibitions with drawing tasks which gave teachers an insight into how we work with children visiting the galleries. This also helped them see that in illustration there is no "right" and "wrong" – there are many different but equally effective ways to illustrate a narrative, idea or fact.

The amazing feedback we received shows that we achieved our aims and we are really looking forward to the next one, which will be on 1 Novemebr 2016 - watch this space for more information.

All the teachers who came to our CPD session in May said they would recommend the course to colleagues. Here are some of the reasons why:

It's fun, inspiring and you leave with plenty of ideas that you want to action straight away. It's in no way intimidating - you won't feel judged on your own artistic ability.

Confidence building. Expert instruction. Inspirational!

It would particularly help my colleagues who are 'afraid' of teaching art/illustration as it really is easy and anyone can do it. It does not require lots of resources.

- Emily Jost, Head of Education

You can find out more about House of Illustration's CPD programme here, and our upcoming free teachers' evening here.