Tate Year 3 Project enters last term of photography

A New Direction’s School Relationship Co-ordinator, Marina Lewis-King, gives an update on this major project which has engaged 65% of all London primary schools

15 April 2019

The Tate Year 3 Project with Turner Prize and Oscar-winning artist, Steve McQueen, is a major new artwork, which will culminate in one of the most ambitious schools projects that London has ever seen. So far, we have photographed 46,326 children, in 1,942 classes, in 954 schools, with 65% of all London primary schools registering to take part. We are now entering the last term of photography, where we plan to visit over 500 more schools.

Spring term saw warm welcomes for the photographers, from being presented with artwork, home-made books and letters from the children, to being shown creative wall displays and class assemblies. Some of their stand-out highlights have been hearing about what the children enjoy photographing, witnessing classes being brought closer together through drama, and seeing how inspired children are by artists.

Year 3 children have continued to ask thought-provoking questions, such as:

Can a portrait be made from music?
How did you discover your passion and who inspired you?
What does diverse mean?
How will we be a part of history?
When did people start taking pictures?
Where do you see yourself in 5 Years?
If you had children, what would you want them to be when they grow up?

They’ve also had lots of ideas about why we take photos, including:

We take photos to capture and hold onto our memories.
For if you do something you’ve never done before.
We take photos for the history books, so if you take a photo of me, maybe I can be in the history books one day!
So that no one feels left out and everyone feels a part of something.

This term the project was also featured on BBC’s Inside Out programme, where Steve McQueen shared his views on the importance of the school sessions: “It’s about them being involved in the actual process. Our photographers don’t just come and take a photograph and leave, there’s a sort of ritual of their participation of the photograph being invaluable.” On why he wanted so many schools involved, McQueen said: “It’s going to be an important legacy for people to look back on in years to come.”

There’s been some great feedback from teachers too:

The photographer led some lovely games which the children really enjoyed and it was really interesting as a teacher to watch the children integrate with each other and formulate their ideas. The photographer had a great rapport with the children.
It was great for the children to have the opportunity to work with an artist and to be part of a project that is bigger than just their school. As a teacher it was interesting to observe pupils’ responses to questions regarding creativity and play and consider what values they felt were important.
The photographer was amazing and got the children to think differently about what they are seeing when they look at a photograph. They loved the activities and their class teachers have enjoyed using some of the resources to enhance discussions during circle time.
It was a unifying experience. Through it, they saw themselves as part of all the 7/8 year olds in London. However, perhaps more significantly, they gained a feeling for their significance in London's future. It was empowering, but with an awareness of responsibility.
The children loved it! They especially liked being part of a project which involved many schools across London. It made them fill inclusive and a part of a community. Thank you!

Looking forward, schools have shared some of their hopes for the impact of the project. Many teachers have spoken about how would like it to be a lasting memory of a 'once in a lifetime opportunity’ for the children. Some teachers want it to empower children to feel more confident and have a sense of pride towards themselves and the local school community,” and for children to “understand that art comes in many forms and that not one size fits all.” One school anticipated that the project would be a “different learning experience for how to celebrate difference and unity.”

Lots of photos of the photography sessions and artwork produced using the free resources have been shared online via the #year3project hashtag. As we begin the summer term, we are looking forward to hearing more from schools that have taken part!




For schools who have already taken part, booking opens for classes to visit the exhibition at Tate Britain on 3rd June.

Additional offers for all schools available soon:

  • new online resources free to download, available in June
  • two In Conversation talks with a Private View held at Tate Britain for teachers, with further details to be released soon.