Working in arts education

 30 January 2013

Three education practitioners from Shakespeare's Globe, Chatsworth House and Derry Tower Museum spoke about their career journeys, and why an arts organisation's education department is a valuable asset.

Working as an education officer

Kieron Kirkland (Practitioner-in-Residence, Shakespeare's Globe): "I'm a practitioner, which means I'm running workshop groups all the time, for students and adults, on and around Shakespeare's stories.

"I'll come in on a Monday, and probably go straight to a school to have a session there. Afterwards I might come back to the office and check some emails, then go back out to another school. I'm normally doing about two sessions a day.

"You spend some time training and planning your sessions."

Claire Fowler (Education Officer, Chatsworth House): "My main responsibilities include developing educational resources for general visitors – families and people of all ages.

"I'm running workshop groups on Shakespeare all the time, for students and adults."

"I also do this for school groups, who come on pre-booked visits. These are to the house, with its collection, the garden and the park.

"I also develop interpretation, in the form of guide books, audiobooks, tours, display text and family trails." 

Margaret Edwards (Education Officer, Tower Museum, Derry): "My role involves putting programmes together for schools that are relevant to the curriculum, and then helping with the delivery of those programmes within the museum context.

"We are looking at community involvement, family learning, and adult learning. We're looking at ways in which the museum and its collections can be used to enhance people's understanding of where they live and their local heritage.

"It's really about understanding where we've come from, and our past."

Skills for arts education work

Kieron Kirkland: "I worked as a clown for a while, a street performer, and I'm also a magician as well. 

"For several years I worked in prisons and probation, and I ran groups with adult offenders. I was doing a lot of drama workshopping, and using a lot of theatre techniques, in that area.

"That really sparked my interest, so I went and did a Masters in Theatre and Development."

Claire Fowler: "I don't have a teaching qualification, but I have dance teaching qualifications. I've done various part-time or temporary classroom assistant jobs. That's all kind of combined here."

Margaret Edwards: "I did my degree in history, and then went into teaching. I was already a museum customer, because I used to take my students to the various museums in London.

"I became more interested then in museum education, which is a very different setting. It's a great opportunity for me, because I can use the skills that I've acquired through teaching, but now I get to do it in a different, more informal context."

 Kieron Kirkland: "I think some kind of study is very useful, so long as it studies the right things. That's talking about the issues, looking at case studies, and looking at projects that have happened. I think that's a good thing to have.

"But of course, practical experience is absolutely vital – experience in the workshop room, and performative experience as well. 

Margaret Edwards: "I think being a good communicator is pretty invaluable for this kind of job, because you do a lot of talking to people. You do a lot of engaging with people."

Claire Fowler: "Having an in-depth knowledge of Chatsworth's history, family and collection wasn't a requirement of my role.

"It's about being able to transport what we have at Chatsworth already, and convey that to an educational audience."

Margaret Edwards: "I think flexibility is important, because when you're dealing with groups, things can change. People have different needs."

Why work in arts education?

Margaret Edwards: "It is a pretty great job. You get to do a lot of things which are really varied.

"There's a growing recognition of education's value in its own right."

"There's also an opportunity to work more closely with curators, archivists and the marketing department. You get to work in a team context as well, which is great.

"Because exhibitions change, and your programme changes year on year, there is that variety, that opportunity to do things differently."

Claire Fowler: "We have a series of long-term projects where a small group will come and spend lots of time at Chatsworth, perhaps over the summer holidays.

"They'll have access to the archives and rooms behind the scenes, and they'll interview members of staff in the house and in the gardens.

"For example, last year we had a project which resulted in the production of a book and a DVD completely created by young people."

Kieron Kirkland: "There's a growing recognition about education's value and importance in its own right.

"It's not 'oh, we'll have an education department' – there is an inherent value in it as a process and as an end in itself. I think that's a tremendously positive thing."

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