Young People, Art, Uncertainty and the Curriculum

Global events of the last few years have brought a new level of uncertainty to our lives. Questions are being asked about what skills are essential for young people today and what they really need to learn. Numeracy and literacy are of course high on the agenda but art and creativity tend to be much less of a priority. In this context, the National Galleries of Scotland, in partnership with Blackburn Primary School, the University of Edinburgh and Hidden Giants, spent 3 months exploring the links between uncertainty, art and curriculum making.

Inspired by Tauritz’s A pedagogy for Uncertain Times, three artists worked with learners and teachers from P1-7 to ask questions like:

  • What is essential?
  • What is art?
  • How could art equip children not just to cope with uncertainty but to thrive on it?

We found that teachers and learners often struggled to articulate what art is and what it’s for.


It was important not just to make art but to give learners the opportunity to look at, notice and share ideas about all sorts of art. We all see things differently and getting a group to talk about a single artwork is a great way to demonstrate that it’s ok to have a different opinion from your peers.

Artists help us to make sense of the world, to see the world through different eyes and from different perspectives.

Art in schools is often product-driven, with the teacher pre-determining what the children’s art should look like. For example, a lesson might start with showing a work by a famous artist and asking the class to copy it. The artists, however, didn’t have a fixed idea of what the children’s art should look like, or be about. Learners were encouraged to make decisions for themselves and pursue their own interests. This gave them ownership, increased motivation and generated art that reflected their individual interests and concerns. This difference in approach was appreciated by the teachers.

Art allows us to express ideas that matter to us. The process of making art can have just as much value as the end product, helping us make sense of things, make new discoveries, develop motor skills, or even to feel better.

Learners told us that making art made them feel good but also helped them process emotions like anger or sadness.

We learnt that uncertainty can be a positive. Through a range of open-ended questioning, problem-solving, games and art making, learners were given opportunities to respond to uncertain situations.

Uncertainty became a welcome disruption, bringing excitement, fun and challenge to the classroom.

Creative thinking requires an open mind, curiosity, the ability to generate multiple ideas and problem-solve. These are all skills that will be needed for learners to thrive in our future, uncertain world. They are skills that artists have in abundance.

Read a full report on the project

What next?

The school is embracing uncertainty and continues to encourage learner-led creative approaches to curriculum making. National Galleries of Scotland are applying the learning from this project to a new initiative called Your Art World.


The emphasis is on learners leading and inspiring each other. Children and young people from across Scotland are invited to come up with themes that are inspiring to them. Families and schools can respond to these themes, or choose their own. There are a range of resources to help adults embrace the uncertainty and let their children lead. Professional artists are invited to share their creative processes, demonstrating the open-ended, uncertain nature of creativity. There’s also an online gallery where young artists can share their art with the world.

Your Art World continues to evolve in response to feedback from teachers and learners but one thing we are certain of, is that art will always reflect the world around us and in uncertain times, the ability to cherish uncertainty is essential.  

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14 September 2022