How to work with schools

how to work with schools header

This section contains advice on:

- making the case for the arts

- making your initial approach to the school

- co-planning your project including developing the brief / contract


Making the case for the arts

Securing precious curriculum time can be challenging so when you are arranging arts projects with schools, you may find it helpful to have the arguments about the positive impact of the arts on children’s learning at your fingertips. 

Research demonstrates that high quality teaching in the arts increases learner motivation and improves performance. Click on the following links for evidence of the impact of the arts on young people’s learning Culture Case research examples and ArtsEd Search. You may also want to familiarise yourself with the rationale Professor Donaldson advances in support of the arts in his review of the curriculum in Wales, Successful Futures (pages 43-44). 

Active partnerships between artists/arts groups and schools can enhance and enrich the experience of students, leading to long-term and sustainable impact.

Making initial contact with your partner school

For details of schools in your area, see the Welsh Government’s website My Local school

When setting up projects, it’s useful to have an understanding of how your work fits in with the curriculum, who to contact and how to find out more about the school including its current level of engagement with the arts and culture. 

The Contacts table is a good place to start. It can help you decide who to make initial contact with in the school and how your work links to the current curriculum at each phase or key stage.

You can find information on training for artists in relation to working with schools, in the Useful Links & Resources Section.

When approaching a school for the first time, or devising marketing material, it’s worth considering what you can offer in relation to the school’s needs. Every school has a School Development Plan (some call it a School Improvement Plan or SIP) which sets out its strategic priorities. These are likely to include work related to the Literacy and Numeracy (LNF) Framework as well as addressing the needs of specific groups of pupils (eg disadvantaged students or More Able and Talented (MAT) students.) By highlighting how your work is relevant and can help address the school’s current priorities, you are more likely to get the school’s attention and have the opportunity to set up a meeting to explore your potential project in greater depth. Your aim in your initial approach and any follow up meeting is to explore and establish common ground with the school and teachers. 

Meeting up

Your initial meeting with the school should look at how your work fits with the school curriculum and the teacher’s plans for particular classes and year groups.

The Useful Links & Resources Section includes advice for artists and teachers on working in partnership. Publications like Working with artists in your school, whilst aimed at teachers, can also be helpful for artists working with school. 

To help prepare your thinking about how your work can help support the Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF), see Working in partnership on the LNF.

In the initial meeting, you should also aim to cover practical issues including child protection, enhanced disclosure, equal opportunities, health and safety, public liability insurance as well as any other relevant school policies (eg on managing behaviour and the timings / organisation of the school day).

Agreeing the brief

Following the meeting, you may find it useful to draft a project brief which you can use to clarify and agree the details of the project with the teacher.

If possible, try to meet the pupils you will be working with or observe them in class before the beginning of the project. At the very least, find out about and specific learner special needs, behavioural issues, physical and learning requirements in advance, so that can plan to accommodate these.

Project brief – checklist of areas to cover

  • Aims and objectives for all partners (What’s the purpose of this project?)
  • Brief project description (what you plan to do)
  • Length of project (start and end dates, frequency of contact time)
  • Background context (What’s the starting point for this group?)
  • Details of learners you will be working with (age range, group size, SEN pupils, ESOL pupils)
  • School staff members involved - and main named contact
  • Project roles and responsibilities for artist and teachers (including management and co-ordination)
  • Venue /school teaching area(s) –including any planned visits off site
  • Available support & resources for the artist – (eg technical, practical, staff support and who will be responsible for providing which materials and resources)
  • Project outcomes (event / exhibition / performance / sharing of work in progress)
  • Monitoring and evaluation plan - Who will lead on this? How you plan to measure the project’s impact on learning? What will success look like?
  • Sustainability (How the school can build on the work and skills the project generates)


Some schools, arts organisations and artists prefer to have a contract. This formalises the project and sets out roles and responsibilities including copyright and rights. It can minimise misunderstandings and help resolve differences if they arise.

A contract generally includes:

  • names and addresses of the school and artist
  • the brief (key tasks / outline of the work the artist is being engaged for)
  • start and end dates
  • number of days per week/month the artist will work on the project
  • details of groups with which the artist will work – class size, age and ability range
  • location of work within or outside the school and times that space is available
  • outline of the artist’s contribution to the project including:

-any time and space for artists to develop creative practice

-building regulations

-any artwork which is to be retained by the school

-copyright and reproduction rights

-credits and acknowledgements

  • name of school main contact in relation to this project
  • artist’s self-employed status and responsibilities for NI and income tax
  • arrangements for payment of artist’s fee
  • any other budget to cover artist’s materials, expenses, equipment, travel, insurance cover, public liability
  • child protection (safeguarding) procedures
  • costs relating to final product /event and responsibilities for insurance (if appropriate)
  • procedure for early termination of project including outstanding fees
  • dated signatures of artist and school representative

Even if you don’t have such a formal contract, it may be useful to draw up a formal letter which confirms the key terms of the project.

It is worth investing time in getting the project brief and/or contract right to avoid misunderstandings once you launch into the project activity and to ensure that both partners have a shared understanding of what you are setting out to achieve.