Our New Report Shows that Caring is the Key in Art Teacher CPD


Our new report: Practices of Care: Teacher Responses to Arts Connect’s Professional Development Programmes by Professor Pat Thomson and Dr Becky Coles, finds that a crucial but missing element to the effective continuing professional development of teachers is the kind of care, attention and challenge that is characteristic of Arts Connect’s practice.

Read Practices of Care here. 

The report offers new knowledge and insight for those who are working to develop the teaching workforce and specifically responds to the urgent call from the APPG* report ‘Art Now’ to develop, motivate and retain art teachers in all schools. Read the APPG report here.  

Professor Thomson and Dr Coles reviewed the impact of Arts Connect’s work with art teachers over the last four years through a programme of innovative Continuing Professional Development and Learning (CPDL) inspired by contemporary art practice. Beginning in 2020 as part of the British Art Show 9 exhibition in Wolverhampton, the programme has to date engaged 98 schools, 179 teachers and 3,735 children and young people predominantly in the Black Country.

The Arts Connect way is found to be noticeably different to current approaches to CPDL on offer in the UK that tend to be one-size-fits-all, risk averse, one off and process focused. Arts Connect do the exact opposite, introducing a methodology of care, challenge, collaboration and continuation.

The report finds that teachers had changed their teaching practice, moving them from “acquiring knowledge to asking open questions; from censoring to discussing difficult issues in the classroom such as race and sexuality; from learning skills to valuing exploration and from being classroom-based to being out and about in the community.” Teachers report a significant impact on their personal confidence and sense of themselves as artists and makers.

Teachers told the research team how they had applied their learning from their CPDL with Arts Connect, in the classroom and how this had increased the confidence of their students as artists, encouraging them to think more deeply about what their work could do, how art could be current, challenging, inclusive and political and how it could be joyful and fun.

Arts Connect are credited with opening up a world of creative opportunities for teachers. Their success in this was due to a deep understanding of the issues teachers are confronting, a deep understanding of art and design education and the contemporary arts landscape and a hands-on approach to helping teachers overcome the barriers they face.

Effective CPD/L is essential to the development of the current art and design teaching workforce in order to develop subject knowledge, build confidence and skills and support teacher retainment. There are significant issues with morale and well-being in the art and design teaching community in the UK with the recent report Art Now from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design in Education, showing that the majority of the 1,860 art and design teachers from across the four nations, that they surveyed (67%) are thinking of leaving the profession. In this report strategic investment in subject specific CPD/L is a key recommendation.

*An inquiry into the state of Art and Design teaching in early years foundation stage, primary and secondary education by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design in Education. Published 2024.

Key Note Speakers

“Unlike many professional learning programmes on offer, Arts Connect recognised that teachers have different backgrounds in contemporary art and taught in vastly different contexts. The teachers we interviewed put their changed teaching practice down not only to the quality of the programme, but also the bespoke encouragement and support that was offered to them. Busy teachers were enabled to engage with British Art Show 9 at their own pace and with their own teaching demands in mind.”

Pat Thomson PSM PhD FAcSS FRSA, Professor of Education, University of Nottingham


The Authors

Pat Thomson

Pat Thomson PhD PSM FAcSS FRSA is Professor of Education at the University of Nottingham. She has researched arts and creativity in galleries, museums, schools and communities in England for the last twenty years. She once was a Headteacher and civil servant in Australia. Her professional and academic passion is how to make schooling more relevant, interesting and valuable for children and young people who are typically not well served by educational institutions. Her initial teacher education was in performance and media which led her to a contemporary art. She has always been a maker and now works with metals, particularly silver (she was almost certainly an alchemist in a former life). She is also a writer and blogs regularly about academic writing, as well as publishing books (27) and chapter and papers (over 200). Her most recent arts education book is Cultural Citizenship – Arts Education for Life (2023, Routledge with Christine Hall) which reports on the Tracking Arts Engagement and Learning (TALE) project in 30 secondary schools. She is currently completing the Researching the Arts in Primary schools (RAPS) project which looks at 40 arts rich primary schools.

Becky Coles

Becky Coles has been a researcher of arts and education since completing her PhD under the supervision of Pat Thomson in 2014. She likes to work with methods including archival research, participant observation and in-depth and repeat interviewing. She is interested in the ways people’s love of art sits within their wider lives, structured by social change and inequality and has studied: the history of design pedagogy and young people’s contemporary pathways to work in the visual arts; education taking place in a cinema and the history of the non-formal arts education sector; the changing place of screen media within families and the practice of independent reading among children. Having previously been an urban activist, she has recently moved to Derbyshire and discovered a passion for forest gardening and agroforestry.

Get in Touch

If you would like to talk to us about the findings of this report please contact us here.   

Image credit: St Michaels CE High School, Dudley