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Creative industries currently employ one in 16 working people in the UK. Therefore, FE art teachers play a key role in developing the next generation of artists, while instilling a love of the arts for life.
Undergraduate art degree
Most candidates will be required to hold a degree in art, equivalent qualification or must have a minimum of five years’ relevant experience.
Relevant degrees would include bachelor of fine arts (BFA) or master of fine arts (MFA) degrees. Good candidate subjects include:
‘Substantial’ experience will show up on most essential criteria sections. This is in lieu of the degree in the relevant field and is open to interpretation but five years would absolutely check this box and a year or two less should still be acceptable.
A PGCE qualification
A teaching qualification should also be held or you should at least be working towards a full teaching qualification. This is almost always a Postgraduate Certificate in Education, or PGCE.
This will equip you with the subject specific teaching skills required to apply your knowledge of art to teaching
A decent art portfolio
It would be advantageous to have a portfolio or art created, displayed and sold – this is often a requirement of earning a PGCE or being accepted as a teacher.
A good rule of thumb is to have high expectations of the students and even higher expectations of yourself. This will help enable high standards in the classroom are consistently promoted.
You need the ability to earn respect, not just to be liked
Luke Godfrey, programme leader for art and design at East Kent College, outlines his experiences with students. Being the students’ best friend may appeal but can be detrimental. “You should always be firm and fair with students when you start,” Godfrey states. “Don’t try to be their mate straight away — I tried too hard when I started. Once you get to know each other and build mutual respect, you can then start to build more rapport.”
Interpersonal and communication skills are vital
Like every college teacher or lecturer, one of the crucial aspects of teaching art is to raise standards of pupil attainment and achievement. To do so effectively, college art teachers must have excellent interpersonal and communication skills, and be able to effectively motivate and encourage learners.
The ability to inspire students is a critical skill when it comes to getting the most out of them, Godfrey states. Tapping into their inner student is a good way of doing this: “Every lecturer should also think about how they were engaged and what they enjoyed as students — you mustn’t forget what first inspired you. Above all, you need to give honest feedback; otherwise, if you say everything is good when it isn’t, they’ll start thinking they are all good all of the time!”
You need to be as creative with your methods as you are with art itself
It’s all about finding new ways of teaching old techniques. “If Monet is on the curriculum, I’ll find a fun way to teach about the artist,” says Godfrey. “I might look at how he used to capture changes in light by painting outside. He would go out into the fields and paint haystacks; when the light changed he’d move on to another canvas. So, I’ll get my students to stash a load of canvasses in wheelbarrows, find a field and paint while I talk about Monet.”
Your enthusiasm for the subject will rub off
Ian Tucknott, art and design teacher, London’s City Lit College, backs a similar approach when teaching his art students. “The first rule is to express your personal passion, which can then become infectious. Persevere and try different methods.”
He adds: “Even with 100 students at a lecture, you can make it participatory and get them active. ‘Discuss with your neighbour what you think about this artwork … What is their interpretation?’ I also keep a vow made long ago never to lecture for more than 15 minutes.”
Good organisational skills are important
Having well-developed organisational skills will be required in every art teacher role and you will need to be adept at finding smart solutions for storing supplies and materials.
Talent.com states that the median salary for the art teacher role to be £35,000 in the UK or £17.95 an hour. Entry level positions start at £31,377 a year, although some of the most experienced workers bring home around £44,702 per year. For comparison, the Office for National Statistics puts the UK’s median annual pay for full-time employees at £31,461 for the tax year ending April 2020.
A landmark study called ‘Tracking Learning and Engagement in the Arts’ (TALE) commissioned by Arts Council England and carried out by the University of Nottingham found overwhelmingly positive benefits attached to arts and cultural education on the lives of young people in the UK.
According to the Tate, the report found that “creativity can also help with wellbeing and improving health and happiness – many students in the TALE study commented that arts lessons acted as an outlet for releasing the pressures of studying as well as those of everyday life”.
The 2020-2030 strategy published by the Arts Council stresses the important function that art can play as the UK seeks to find its position in the wake of Brexit. “Artists and cultural organisations continue to benefit from international exchange; at a point when this country is redefining its relationship with the wider world, our increasingly diverse culture is a national asset and gives us an international advantage, encouraging us to converse and collaborate freely across borders.”
Luke Godfrey, programme leader for art and design at East Kent College, explained that his work-life balance improved after switching from working in secondary education to college. He adds: “You have more time to help your students develop at college; they’ll often achieve far more at college than at school as they can start and finish a project in a day, whereas school pupils have to squeeze everything into two-hour periods spread over several days in a packed A-level timetable.”
The University of the Arts London (UAL) two-year, level 3 extended diploma is a course for which Godfrey is full of praise. “It’s a fantastic new course to teach as it’s all geared towards the students thinking about their careers, how they will survive as artists in future and what specialism they should follow,” he says.