Sandy Hope and Susan Whyte – Inspiring the next generation

August 1, 2018

Sandy Hope and Susan Whyte are school teachers from Dundee who have been embedded in the V&A Dundee learning team as part of a ten-year secondment scheme set up by Dundee City Council. The project is a way for local teachers to share current education practice as well as bring the benefits of museum practice back into the classroom.

Sandy teaches Art & Design at Craigie High School. He was the first teacher to be seconded to V&A Dundee as a Secondary Schools Development Officer, working with various national and local agencies to help plan the educational offer of the museum. He says, “I have found that most creative thinking takes place within a set of constraints that allow problems to be solved. As a teacher working with young people I always look for chances to create growth through problem solving. Knowing that you can solve problems by yourself gives you confidence.”

Susan was the next teacher to be placed at the museum as Schools Development Officer, and with over 20 years’ worth of primary teaching experience she brings a different perspective. “Working in a design museum, you soon start learning about design! I’ve been able to think about how design can be better taught in schools and how a design-led approach might help school staff work together better.Susan adds, “The opportunity to think about learning in a much broader way has been invaluable. Museums provide such rich opportunities for people of all ages to learn, even without them knowing it.”

During Sandy’s secondment he was part of the team that created and presented the V&A Dundee national project Design in Motion. The exhibition was housed in a custom-built gallery in a bus and went on a 17-week journey across Scotland in 2015. He says, “It was an amazing experience to travel all over Scotland and visit so many schools with an exciting showcase of talented and innovative designers. I got to speak to so many different teachers in schools in a huge variety of settings that had many different models of practice to stimulate design thinking in young people.”

Reflecting on his time at V&A Dundee, Sandy says, “I can now share a very simple fact with all my pupils: that if you come from Scotland you are part of an amazing history of inventiveness, and it is not unlikely that you will probably be quite inventive too.”

For Susan, her proudest moment was the Bonnetmakers project in 2017, a successful collaboration between schools, local community, and professional designers exploring the heritage of a local industry. Susan says, “The children involved still refer to themselves as bonnetmakers! One of the highlights for me was when the children’s families got involved, either as part of the audience or as a model on our ’hatwalk’. Was that family learning? They certainly shared in the joy – you could see it in their faces.”

V&A Dundee Bonnetmakers project at Rosebank primary in Dundee with milliner Pea Cooper.
Pictures: Julie Howden

The secondment has challenged Susan’s idea of design. She says, “V&A Dundee believes that design enhances lives. I wasn’t convinced at first, my preconception of design was big ticket price items in expensive-looking shops. Now, I’m quite passionate about what I’ve learned. Designers are creative problem solvers who need to show resilience – surely we could all try to be like that?”

We are delighted to welcome Sandy Hope and Susan Whyte as V&A Dundee Design Champions, recognising their commitment to creative learning and inspiring young people, the next generation of designers and problem solvers.

The V&A Dundee Design Champions are inspirational designers creating high-quality work and helping to enhance people’s lives, or champions of the power of design to improve the world.

We will announce 50 Design Champions in the run-up to the museum opening on Saturday 15 September 2018.


V&A Dundee’s Design Champions project is working with Dezeen as its media partner.

Dezeen is the world’s most popular and influential architecture and design magazine, with an audience of 2.5 million unique visitors each month.

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