Since joining the Courtauld from the National Gallery in late March I have been setting up the new Joint Education Department for the Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery, the Hermitage Rooms, the Gilbert Collection and Somerset House Trust. We are one of two new joint departments, the other being Development. Both departments intend to strengthen cross-site co-operation, draw on the great cultural wealth of each of the institutions at Somerset House and to stimulate a close and engaging relationship amongst them.

The aim of the Education Department is to offer visitors of all ages and educational backgrounds a focused programme of learning about the buildings, collections and exhibitions at Somerset House. Each visit must open visitors’ eyes and minds to the artistic riches we have to offer, and create a desire to return. Our department will also support the Courtauld Institute’s strategy for widening participation, through targeting secondary school students and lifelong learners. Visitors will leave with a new enthusiasm to learn more about the history of the art and architecture they see here.

We are committed to expanding the existing programme by 25% in the first year. The high quality of teaching of the Courtauld Institute of Art is a benchmark for us and we are looking forward to the involvement of academic and gallery staff wherever possible.

For adults the programme includes free daily lunchtime talks in all the galleries; short courses, the first linked with the Rubens exhibition; study days, tours and practical workshops.

For schools we will build on the existing programme, and offer a wider series of talks and workshops. For the first time we will run teachers’ courses, focusing on the collections and ways of using them relating to the National Curriculum. For families, there will be a number of informal activities which will attract visitors who use the Fountain Courtyard and River Terrace to the riches of the adjacent galleries. Through the work of the Access Manager the collections will be made accessible to an increasingly diverse public.

Participants in our group activities will visit our new Learning Centre. Located in the beautiful vaulted spaces in the basement of the East Building, it has three fully-equipped workshops and two seminar rooms. The Learning Centre will be the lively hub at the heart of the education programme and we look forward to welcoming Courtauld staff, students and alumni who would like to find out more about the work of our new department.

Head of Learning