Re-Writing the School-Taught Curriculum

Our final School Illustrator in Residence, Skye Baker, worked with KS3 students at Acland Burghley School to address the gaps in the school-taught curriculum.


  • Skye Baker, School Illustrator in Residence
  • Learning

I started the residency by visiting lots of museums, thinking specifically about the idea of decolonisation. I also looked at artists like Jacob V Joyce who are creating enlightening resources on decolonising the curriculum.

This preparatory work was quite personal for me. I grew up with a curriculum that didn’t represent me and museums that didn’t connect to me. Reflecting on my own experience shaped my thoughts and made me realise there was a bit of disconnect between the information presented in museums and schools and students’ own experiences, interests and feelings.

I wanted to address that gap and help students feel personally connected to what they were learning about. I started by creating resources about historical figures from underrepresented backgrounds, and then gave the students briefs to share this information in creative ways.

School students don’t normally get to decide what they learn about; for this project they got to choose both topic and technique. We looked at who was represented in the school-taught curriculum and explored how they felt about that. We then used a range of illustration methods to create a series of three booklets on the subject.

The first booklet was about the past, reflecting on how British history is presented in museums. We took a virtual visit to the British Museum on Google Arts & Culture and watched a clip from the Marvel film Black Panther about the colonial history of object collecting. We then took a virtual visit to Bristol Museum’s exhibition about the Colston statue. We then used plasticine to literally model how they would make museums different if they were in charge.

The second part was about the present, creating a record of life now and considering how our actions today will affect the future. The students made zines about something they were passionate about or someone important to them. Together, the collection of zines showed how our collective history is made up of individual personal histories, and that all of our individual stories are important and interesting.

The last part was about the future, creating a curriculum designed by the students. It was great seeing the students’ confidence grow and have them articulate what they want from their curriculum.

As an educator, one of my big takeaways from this residency was that it’s okay to tackle sensitive subject matter head on. The students learned about historical figures and events they might not otherwise have come across, and discovered how useful illustration can be, both for conveying information and expressing emotions. I definitely want to make more books in the future and I hope the students will too.

Want to inspire your students? Find out more about our in-school workshops.