Cross Curricular and Citizenship

Our diverse collections of portraits of significant individuals across a broad sweep of time make the Gallery an ideal context for cross-curricular leaning for students of all ages, particularly History/Citizenship and History/Art. Free CPD for teachers also available. GCSE and AS and A Level students can put the British writers and artists they are studying into the context of their times, while Sociology students studying the family can trace changing notions of childhood through portraiture.

Our extensive displays of historic images and active commissioning of portraits of present-day figures of national importance create the ideal opportunity to study major citizenship topics such as diversity and democracy.  We have joined with the British Library to offer sessions for ‘Campaign! – Make an Impact’.  Using a historical campaign, such as the abolition of slavery or votes for women, students identify the key components of a successful campaign and then, back at school, run their own campaign on a contemporary issue of choice.

Representing Britain

Do the National Portrait Gallery’s displays reflect the diversity of contemporary British society?  Working in small groups, students discuss in details three or four paintings from the contemporary collection.  Students assess the displays for diversity, including by culture, age, gender and disability, reporting back their findings to the whole class.

Available in the Autumn Term 2013 but not in the Spring and Summer Terms 2014

The House of Commons, 1833, by Sir George Hayter, 1833-1843 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

The House of Commons, 1833
by Sir George Hayter
NPG 54

Cross Curricular History/Citizenship

Images of Power: From Divine Right to Democracy

Trace the process of establishing parliamentary democracy in Britain through images from three different periods - the reign of Charles I and the Interregnum, the House of Commons in 1833 and a selection of recent and present-day politicians. The focus is on changes in the nature and composition of parliament and identifying further changes students think they will see in their lifetimes.

This gallery session can include either a history or citizenship activity:

  • History Activity - Students assess the relative significance of the particular historical events discussed in the session
  • Citizenship Activity - Choosing and suggesting adaptations to one of the portraits from the discussion to inspire a design for a poster encouraging young adults today to vote
  • 90 minutes
  • Maximum 30 students
  • The contemporary part of the session may take place in the Lecture Theatre depending on the current Gallery displays
  • Follow-up webquest: KS3 The Road to Democracy

The Abolition of Slavery

Looking at key figures along the road to abolition, this session culminates in an exploration of the large scale painting showing Thomas Clarkson addressing the Anti-Slavery Convention of 1840. The focus is on how individuals can work together to bring about major social change, considering the roles of different groups of people: British men, women, and freed slaves.

This gallery session can include either a history or a citizenship activity:

  • History Activity -Students assess the relative significance of the different abolitionists discussed in the session
  • Citizenship Activity - Initiate ‘Campaign! – Make an Impact’ by identifying the key components that make for a successful campaign
  • 90 minutes
  • Maximum 30 students
  • Follow-up webquest: KS3 History Heroes of Abolition

Votes for Women

Students analyse portraits of key figures, male and female, in both the suffrage and the anti-suffrage movements in this practical session mainly in the Lecture Theatre using slides. Students predict from the sitter's self-presentation which movement they are likely to fall into, testing their hypotheses against quotations from the sitter. The session ends in the Victorian and Early Twentieth Century galleries, looking at key portraits including Emmeline Pankhurst. 

Cross Curricular History/Art

Tudor Symbolism and Propaganda

Learning how to decode messages in Tudor portraits, students look at Tudor portraiture from the point of view of both sitter and artist to consider how these images were created and for what purposes.

This session can include either an art or history activity:

  • Art Activity - Using viewfinders to draw details in colour
  • History Activity - Who are the most significant Tudor sitters and why?
  • 90 minutes
  • Maximum 30 students
  • Follow-up webquest: KS3 Elizabeth I's New Portrait

Contemporary Britain: Diversity in Art and Society

Starting with a discussion of three or four contemporary portraits of sitters who have made or are making a significant contribution to British life and culture, this session explores two angles: the artistic issues associated with their portrayal and assessing the sitters as representative or not of contemporary Britain. Students work in small groups to question if contemporary displays are sufficiently diverse in their representation of culture, age, gender and disability to represent Britain today

Available in the Autumn Term 2013 but not in the Spring and Summer Terms 2014

This session can include either an art or citizenship activity:

  • Art Activity - Explore and consider diversity of media, sketching one example of each of 4 different types of media
  • Citizenship Activity - Students suggest improvements to make the current display of contemporary sitters more diverse
  • 90 minutes
  • Maximum 30 students

Cross Curricular English/History/Art

Writers and Artists in Context

Placing British writers or artists in the context of their times through the medium of their portraits, this session makes links between significant people from different walks of life living at the same time. The focus can be on the Age of Shakespeare, the Romantics, the early Victorians, or the mid-twentieth century. Please specify when booking

This session can include an art or an English/history activity

  • Art activity - drawing any portrait discussed in the session
  • History/English activity - place one individual discussed in the session within a mind map of the period
  • Maximum 30 students
  • 90 minutes

Christopher Anstey with his daughter, by William Hoare, circa 1775 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Christopher Anstey with his daughter
by William Hoare
circa 1775
NPG 3084

Cross Curricular Sociology/History
Changing Images of Childhood

Taught in the Ondaatje Wing Theatre using a series of key portraits which students analyse, this session traces the changing portrayal of children and their families from the sixteenth to the early twentieth centuries. The class looks at such topics as infant mortality, the demographics of the family, gender roles, the status of children within the family and society, and contemporary concerns with divorce, child abuse and the erosion of childhood innocence.

  • Links to AQA's Sociology AS Level unit on the family
  • Maximum 80 students
  • 1 hour