Museums like the V&A offer school students a way of learning – through the first-hand experience of objects, artefacts and visual images – that is not readily available from any other source. Many teachers who use museums regularly describe the powerful and often unpredictable impact that these experiences can have on their students. In an era when school trips are becoming less common due to the many constraints and pressures on teachers, the opportunity a museum visit offers for really significant and memorable learning in an environment outside the classroom means it is well worth the effort of bringing a group.
Since the V&A was founded, in 1852, its collections have been developed to provide children and adults with access to some of humanity’s greatest achievements in the arts. These artefacts provide evidence of societies from both the recent and distant past and show their contribution to the world we know today. They speak to us across barriers of language, culture and time, in ways that texts alone cannot do.For schools that are not able to visit in person, the V&A offers a wide range of online learning resources. Articles providing information about the collections can be used in the classroom and for homework projects while extensive web access to digital images via our Search the Collections facility enables users to download high resolution images free of charge. We have also worked with nine other national museums and galleries to produce student resources that utilise material from across the partners’ websites. The resources take the form of webquests, which set students a challenge that encourages them to become more critical users of web material and can be used in the classroom or for homework.
For those schools that are able to visit, the V&A’s galleries and exhibitions are designed to tell a variety of stories from many different perspectives across the centuries and from many different cultures. The displays include interactive audio-visuals, games, hands-on objects and activities that help students to access and enjoy the objects, and the diversity of the original material on display means that they can be used to teach a broad range of subjects as well as support the development of communication and critical thinking skills. For example, the Great Bed of Ware from the Tudor period can enhance students’ learning in Key Stage 2 History, Key Stage 4 Design & Technology and many other curricula besides. A finely-decorated Islamic dish can inspire the creativity of students studying Design at Key Stage 3, or provide a focus for investigating shape and pattern in Mathematics. The Museum building itself can teach students about the Victorians, and also about Architecture as a creative discipline.
Please note: From 5 March 2012 the Great Bed begins its journey back to Ware. It is leaving the V&A on a year-long loan to the Ware Museum – the first time the Bed has ever been on loan to another venue. Read more
Schools coming to the V&A can plan a self-guided visit using information on our website and in consultation with the V&A's Booking Office (on +44 (0)20 7942 2211). Sign up for our regular Schools e-newsletter to get updates on the programme. As well as our permanent galleries and temporary exhibitions (which are free for pre-booked groups), schools can reserve boxes of original material to look at in the Prints and Drawing Study Room, offering students the opportunity to examine artefacts close up, without the barrier of a glass case. The Museum also offers extensive on-site taught programmes for schools and teachers, as part of its ongoing service of events and activities. The V&A Schools team works with curators, professional designers and artists (including our changing roster of Artists in Residence), performance specialists, teachers and subject consultants to produce workshops and resources directly informed by educational practice, curriculum knowledge and professional experience in the creative industries. All schools visiting the V&A are invited to use the Learning Centre for arts education as a base for their visit, where they will find secure storage for coats and bags and a place to eat packed lunches.