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How to Employ an Artist for your School...


This article is aimed at providing schools with some help in knowing what to do when you are looking at employing an artist for your school. 


OrganisationHaving great organisational skills is an asset when working in schools. The artist needs to make sure that they have everything they need. There is nothing worse for teaching staff to have to run around after the artist, looking for bits and pieces that they have forgotten or overlooked. Make sure the artist knows that the space they have is available for them only. If it is a space shared with another group, say after school club, please give them plenty of notice that they have to pack up at the end of each day. Insist on having a Planning Meeting with the artist and either the Head Teacher, Art Co-ordinator, or member of staff involved in the project. At this meeting everything needs to be discussed regarding the workshop, including times, dates, which groups, what will be done. It is normal practice for the artist to do a risk assessment before the workshop, so that any problems can be noted and hopefully minimised. A form will be filled in by the artist and given to the school for their records.


Time KeepingMake sure the artist knows the school timetable. What times your school starts, finishes, lunch time and break times. Each school is different and even KS1 can be different from KS2. Make sure the artist lets you know how much time they need for preparation at the start of the workshop, and also at the start of a new day. They may need time at the end of each day in which to prepare for the next day. Punctuality is very important so that all your staff know what's happening and when. They will also need to know when assemblies are or if any of the children will be missing due to music lessons etc. If there are any children who are absent because of illness, it is often a lovely idea to give them an opportunity to contribute to the art project when they come back to school, if time allows.


Fees - When booking an artist to attend your school, the costs involved need to be laid out right at the beginning, so that both parties know what is expected from each other.  There are several questions to ask the artist:

  • What is your daily rate?  Most artists will have a daily rate of pay. It is quite unusual for an artist to be paid by the hour unless it is for an after-school-club. To give you a guideline, The Arts Council states that the fees for an artist that is very new and not as experienced can charge £150.00 per day. For the more experienced artist the upper rate of pay is up to £250.00  Some artists may need half a day at the beginning of the project to plan and prepare, also it is normal for the artist to charge for the installation of the artwork. Find out if they are going to install the art or whether the school is expected to. More about installation later.

  • Do you charge for extra meetings?  Planning and evaluation meetings are usually charged for. According to The Arts Council the fees are usually between £20 and £50.Other meetings or phone calls are not usually charged for, unless there are any major changes to be made to the project which will need some time to sort out. 

  • What about materials?   To keep the costs low, try and find out from the artist what materials they will need, as often the school has materials they can use. It is expected that the artist buys in what they need and adds this figure onto the final bill.  Sometimes it can be very difficult to ascertain the exact figure, so if you can get them to tell you what the maximum amount will be, then you will not have any nasty surprises later on.

  • Travel Expenses? These are not usually included in the daily rate. The going price for travel fees at present if 40p per mile.


CommunicationIt is vital that everyone involved in the art project, however small, know what is going on and when. A planning meeting is often the first time the artist will get together with the school. Each school will have a different system in place as to which member of staff will be liaising with the artist. It is often helpful for the artist to have the Art Coordinator as their contact or the Head Teacher, also it is good to have the class teacher or the children you are working with to be involved too.  Notes from the meeting are taken by the artist and distributed back to the school, so that all members of staff know what is going on. There is nothing worse than going to a school and the teachers saying that they have no idea what's happening. It is also a good idea for the artist to have a brief chat with the class teacher at the start of the day, just to go over the itinerary for the day and to iron out any problems before they arise.


Special Educational Needs: - At the planning meeting the school will be expected to let the artist know of any children that may need extra help due to their physical disabilities or other needs. Each artist will have a variety of experiences of working with children with leaning needs; they are often able to access courses to further their professional development in this area. If they have had training in working with children with Autism, Aspergers Syndrome and ADHD this will help.


Documentation and Policies All schools are only allowed to have people working in their children who have been CRB checked. Each artist will have a valid Enhanced CRB form that they can show to the school administrator. The CRB number is to be noted and saved, but on no account must they photocopy the form to keep for their records. This is the artist’s personal property. It is also usual for the artist to bring either their Passport or Driving License which will have their photo ID on it. Other documents and policies that you may wish to see are:

  • Public Liability Insurance Certificate

  • Safe Guarding Procedure Policy

  • Anti-Bullying Policy

  • Risk Assessment Procedure

  • Behaviour Policy

  • First Aid Certificate


Installation It is normal practice for the installing of the art work to be done by the artist. Sometimes if the art is to be wall hung, it will need to be screwed to the wall, in which case, the caretaker of the school may need to be involved, as they will be aware of hidden cables or pipes. The final display needs to be discussed at the planning meeting. In all my years of working in schools, the area which is often best is the entrance hall to the school. Often these areas can be bare and unwelcoming. A bright, colourful piece of artwork will cheer it up in no time.


Relationships – This is very important. There must be constant dialogue between the artist and members of staff involved, so that if any problems arise, they can be discussed and ironed out quickly and painlessly. The way that the artist communicates with the children is extremely important. They need to be approachable, patient, and verbally articulate in a way that even the youngest of children can understand.  The artist will need to be able to assert their authority, if the group of children they are working with display difficult behaviour. Most times, the teacher involved will be in charge of behaviour problems and will need to be kept informed of any problems that they may come across.  Some schools will let you know if there are children in your group which are 'more challenging' than others, I, personally would rather not know, as then each child starts from a clean slate with no prior judgments.


The Art WorkDeciding on what to create can be a problem, but to make it easier, there are a few tips that you could follow.


  • Decide on which class or classes are to be involved. Look for a class that hasn't had any involvement with an artist, or a class that has been working exceptionally hard and needs to be rewarded.  Another option is to have a workshop specifically targeted at your Gifted and Talented children.

  • Think about what the children have been studying in class and link that to the art work. Don't worry about having an idea, the artist will be able to come up with all sorts of options. The National Curriculum will have certain criteria that must be covered, so having an artist that will include these points will help your school when it comes down to being inspected by Ofsted. Also if the school has a religious connection, it may be appropriate for the art work to have a religious/multi-faith element to it as well as linking into the curriculum.

  • Have a look at the artist’s portfolio of work. They will have numerous photos of previous work that you can search through.

  • Collect images, photos or objects that inspire you or give you joy!




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