Project Type: <span>Education</span>

Charging Schools: Why and How?

This research is a snapshot of the charging models at Museums and Galleries across the UK in 2024. As schools and the cultural sector face a challenging economic climate, the National Portrait Gallery asked Flow Associates to undertake research into current charging models for school visits across the museum and gallery sector to inform their own work.  They have kindly agreed for us to share a summary of the research to support the sector as a whole in understanding the approaches taken by organisations to ensure both equitable access to cultural education, and the drivers for financial sustainability.

This will be a helpful document to enable my powers that be to understand why we need to be careful with price rises for educational bookings.” Museum educator in response to our Facebook post in ‘Learning in Museums and Galleries’

We wanted to understand the following:

  • What charging models exist in Museums and Galleries for Primary school, Secondary school, College and Special school visits?
  • How much do they charge? Are concessions made/bursaries given to e.g. for schools with high pupil premium?
  • How much do other, comparable Museums and Galleries charge and what are they charging for?
  • By charging schools can you cover ‘real’ costs?
  • Is charging likely to be a barrier for schools in general and/or for particular types of school?
  • How might charging for schools impact negatively on Museums and Galleries?

Download PDF “Charging Schools: Why and How?”

As this paper emerged from research for its commissioner, the National Portrait Gallery, our comparitive review looked at the learning programs offered by 22 Museums and Galleries and selected organisations that were either National Museums as designated by parliament, or based in London and therefore catering to a similar demographic. Our focus here was on museums and galleries which are free to the public, and the majority have charges for special events and exhibitions. We included two relevant london galleries who charge general public for entry, the Photographers gallery and the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Both offer free entry for schools. In addition we ran a quick review of a further 19 organisations to establish whether or not they charge schools for their programmes.

An open online survey to members of the Group for Education in Museums network, saw contributions from a further 61 organisations and we have included their anonymised responses in this paper.



National Portrait Gallery Schools Programme

The National Portrait Gallery has undergone a huge transformation, reopening in 2023. We worked as critical friends and evaluators with the Learning Team to develop and test the delivery of new workshops for schools to align with their new hang and the National Curriculum.

The National Gallery wanted to test and refine a new schools programme that delivered two strands: art and history. The fresh curation of the galleries offered the opportunity to explore representation and challenging histories in the galleries and the art and photography workshops would benefit from new studio spaces.

Flow reviewed session plans and developed an evaluation and reflective process for the team to understand what was working in the sessions and where changes could be made. We observed sessions and worked in workshops with the Learning team and facilitators to refine the learning objectives and delivery before the programme’s launch in the new school year.


Natural History Museum

A major research and consultation project working with curatorial and Learning teams to develop a new Children’s Gallery, a global international education initiative, onsite programming and online activities. We worked alongside the teams onsite on remotely to establish the guiding principles for the project, develop key interpretive themes and programming which engages young people with caring for and understanding their immediate natural environments and ecosystems as well as those globally.

The research explored how to:

  • Optimise the experience of the new Children’s Gallery, through activities on themes of Wild Voices, connecting with animals’ lives in different habitats.
  • Lift barriers of access to schools, families and groups with intersecting factors of disadvantage or SENDs, by consulting them, travelling to settings with activities, and easing their experience of the NHM as a whole.
  • Inspire and acknowledge young children as imaginative friends of the natural world, and provide templates for partners in the GEI, through online resources for digital and real-world play and nature connection.
  • Develop skills of adults (including NHM staff and volunteers) to reconnect with nature and support children through a ’School of Nature Play’.
  • To do action research as the activities are developed, to serve the global initiatve with insights.

Green Futures – Royal Parks

Green Futures aims to connect hundreds of young people with nature conservation in the Royal Parks, gaining new skills to help combat the climate emergency. Funding from the Kusuma Trust has enabled the Green Futures project to offer each participating school three day-long nature conservation experiences in the Parks over one school year. There will be two cohorts, the first made up of five schools in year one and of six schools in year two. Each school is invited to bring its entire KS3 year group, and a selection of Year 12 students (c.50 each year in total) will take a leadership role.

The activities will include citizen science and practical fieldwork, designed to show how conservation work is experimenting with adaptive measures in the context of environmental changes. Back at school their experience will be used to support project work, reflecting on the work they have contributed to the parks.

Year 12 students work towards completing ASDAN short course awards, through which they will gain experience of planning events and activities whilst learning about careers in the sector. They also play a leadership role in supporting KS3 students, directing activities during their visits. In the second year of the project Year 12 students returned to support the new cohort of students. Some of these will be invited in future to advise the Royal Parks on its approach to creating engaging and meaningful programmes for young people.

We established an evaluation framework colelcting baseline attitudes and skills of the students which would measure progression through the programme. Evaluation of Green Futures demonstrated a positive experience of situated learning with strong outcomes in an understanding of biodiversity and ecosystems. Year 12 students gained ASDAN qualifications and showed an increased confidence in their leadership and communication skills. Across the project, there was a strong likelihood that at least 75% of participants will feel more confident in visiting more natural settings and are more appreciative of biodiversity and facilities in the Royal Parks. Interviews with teachers were undertaken throughout the project to capture the impact on their professional knowledge, the curriculum and schools. The report was presented alongside a workshop with Royal Parks staff to set out actions for the future of their programming and identify key opportunities and challenges as the programme expands.

The first two years of the programme ran from 2021 to 2023 with students working with staff at Hyde Park. Funding has been extended for a further two years enabling Royal Parks to expand to other parks in its estate, enhance the digital resources for schools, and offer more in-school outreach sessions.


Virtual Classrooms

We were commissioned to create a robust evaluation of the Virtual Classrooms project supported by the Respond and Reimagine Grant from the Art Fund. The project set out to reach schools and young people during the COVID-19 pandemic and inform learning practice and programming going into an uncertain and increasingly digital future.

The evaluation followed the delivery of a pilot programme of Virtual Classroom sessions by History of Science Museum and Bodleian Library during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through consultation with staff and schools we mapped how it reached new audiences, increased access for under-represented groups, developed the digital capabilities of the staff and institutions and its reception in schools and colleges.

A report and presentation with a series of recommendations was delivered in order to report to the funder and to guide future iterations and delivery of remote learning sessions.

National Gallery Evaluation Framework

Flow worked with the National Gallery on a comprehensive evaluation framework to support the delivery their 2021-26 learning strategy. It aims to empower everyone to integrate evaluation into their practice, to design for more effective and impactful work across the broad range of onsite, offsite and online programmes that the Gallery delivers. We created a digital toolkit which guides staff through the why, how and when of evaluation, providing template tools and activities which can be used bespokely across their audiences.

The fresh redesign of the Evaluation Framework tackled issues with the existing processes including difficulty of use, the challenge of collecting relevant insights and the move to online delivery. We carried out extensive consultation with Learning staff in order to understand their programmes, current use of evaluation and the ambitions for their programmes. From this Flow developed an evaluation toolkit with materials and guides for collecting evaluation data which related to their strategic aims, reporting requirements and professional development.

A key focus was capturing evidence of qualitative outcomes for participants using a ‘360 degrees’ process as a way of understanding collective success as a team. The evaluation framework provided support to collect and analyse participants’ skills development, learning of new knowledge and of teir experience of the programme. For the Learning Team and wider National Gallery the framework also established metrics for understanding cultural capital and how participants can be empowered through it.

Training was provided across the Learning team and with facilitators and ongoing support given in order to refine tools as they were put into action.


Scarborough Museums Trust: Digital Learning Review

We carried out a review of Scarborough Museum Trust’s capacity to develop a digital learning programme to extend their reach, open access to their collections, support cross-department collaboration on digital projects and create programmes that are relevant and inspiring for their audiences and local communities.

The review was framed by extensive consultation with local Primary and Secondary schools as well as colleges and SEND academies. An online survey was distributed and interviews with teachers about how SMT could support the delivery of their curriculum informed a series of recommendations to support the development of online content. A full audit of digital content and resources was carried out, identifying where existing materials could be reused and support was given to the Learning team in testing new digital platforms and modes of engagement.

We provided consultancy in advising on the brief for the redesign of the website in technical and usability requirements and led a presentation and workshop session to embed the insights into their future thinking.

Milton Keynes Young Creatives

An on-going three year evaluation of a collaboration between Milton Keynes College, local schools, MK Gallery and Arts and Heritage Alliance MK capturing the impact of implementing a creative curriculum for students and developing career opportunities for NEETs.

This involved the development of a Story of Change with the stakeholders leading to the creation of an evaluation framework in order to focus a diverse set of ambitions and impacts. We are mentoring the young people in the programme to take control of the evaluation process and supporting each cohort in cascading this to new participants. The programme recently moved from in-person to online and so the data collection approach has moved to online observation of sessions, interviews and online surveys.

Vibrant learning content

We love devising and designing training materials, online courses, videos, publications, heritage trails, art activities and games of the highest quality for clients as diverse as the Stanley Kubrick Archive, the St Abb’s Head Marine Reserve, the Science Museum and the British Council. Our team includes illustrators, writers and designers to complement our core expertise in learning and culture. For example, we created a set of learning resources for the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons. These used a Creative Enquiry approach to engage students in ideas about skin, race and genetic difference. We later applied this thinking to revamp the Museum’s learning approach for students of GCSE History of Medicine.


Flow co-ordinates the Cultivate (link Cultivate) action research project that is part of London’s Cultural Education Challenge.

Nine Elms on the South bank from Vauxhall to Battersea Power Station is undergoing a major regeneration project. While schools around Nine Elms benefit from being offered a number of cultural and place-related projects through the redevelopment, their impacts could be greater if they are developed more collaboratively with teachers and if the best aspects of practice are shared.

Cultivate aims to support the relationship between this changing area and the young people living nearby, to nurture quality projects and ensure opportunities to be involved are shared effectively. This should result in a place that is seen as both a cultural destination in the making and a starting point for a future creative generation.

With two years funding already secured through A New Direction, Wandsworth Borough Council and Nine Elms developers, we have the opportunity to shape and harness the impact that the regeneration work and public engagement will have on our local young people, and to celebrate and showcase this nationally. It is one of seven projects in the Cultural Education Challenge for London run by A New Direction, so it benefits from sharing practice as part of a bigger community.