IN CONVERSATION WITH… Emily Gopaul – Art Education Consultant, Subject Lead at Oak National Academy & Author

Author: Pam Carpenter
Category: news

In the second ‘In Conversation with…’ articles from our Art leads, we hear from Emily Gopaul. Here she shares her thoughts, observations and tips on her passion for art in the Primary School.

What drives you to keep going and advocate art education?

I have been fortunate enough to teach and lead on art for nearly 20 years and in a range of settings: PRUs, primary, secondary, state and private sector. Engaging children and young adults with developing their own creative and expressive ideas, seeing them discover new materials and techniques, listening to them discuss concepts and critique art has been a privilege and something that has motivated me to teach for a long time. My book and broader work as a consultant with the cultural and educational sector is an extension of this. Supporting teachers and therefore more students through training or creating resources is so rewarding.

I am also so buoyed by the changes that I am hopeful to see in art education. For example, I have seen the landscape change and move towards more awareness of the need for diversity in the art and artists we teach about. Research like VISUALISE: RACE & INCLUSION IN SECONDARY SCHOOL ART EDUCATION is really supportive of the changes that must happen on a big scale. The work I am doing with Oak National Academy will also speak to this, look out for KS1 – KS4 full curriculum content coming soon – I can’t wait for teachers to be supported by these soon. It is inspiring to be working on a team with so many experts in their field on creating these resources.

What are some of the key issues you think we are currently facing in art education?

As I mentioned, the need for resources and content in primary and secondary art to be more diverse and representative of the global art world and the students we teach. The narrow perception of what art is or is not is limiting for so many who might want to enjoy the arts or even contribute to the arts. I am hopeful about change, especially as I know there are so many people in the art education community who advocate passionately about the need for reform in this area.

I am also concerned about the decreasing numbers of students taking art related A-levels and GCSEs and the inevitable knock on impacts of this on art and design, all the way to primary school level. Since 2010, arts enrolment has dropped by 47% at GCSE and 29% at A-level. The report ‘The Arts in Schools: Foundations for the Future report that was published by A New Direction on 30 March 2023 has some interesting findings.

Art is already often marginalised and although we are a resilient bunch, it is about time there was a fundamental shift in perspectives about the subject, by many of the people who make policies and drive decisions in schools. There is such a disconnect between the exciting output of the creative industries in this country and the status of art in education. In order that creative jobs and opportunities are open to all and not just a few, we need students to be exposed to the experiences that will inspire them, regardless of their school or home setting. Imagine a world without the arts!

In your experience, what are the challenges faced by teachers with art?

A lack of time is something I hear about anecdotally and more formally. A teacher, whether primary or secondary, is stretched across so many different focuses, many of which take them away from the actual job of teaching. Given enough time most teachers want to plan and teach engaging and exciting lessons, they want to share their own passion for a subject and for learning. Art and design teachers need to feel creative themselves – it is hard to feel that way when you are tired and feeling overworked. In the primary sector, there is often a lack of training in the foundation subjects too, so teachers enter the profession feeling ill equipped about the subject knowledge and specific pedagogy needed to teach certain subjects. They are then forced to rely on resources that are pre-made, often those resources do not exemplify best practice or make best use of inspiring art and artists. 

That is why I am so hopeful that the new art and design lesson packages that I am creating at Oak and NSEAD (National Society for Education in Art and Design) will be supportive of teachers and their need for time. The content will be there to support those who might not feel confident teaching art or simply not have the capacity to plan high quality lessons. The resources are not meant to be prescriptive so they can be adapted to suit the teachers and their settings. Equally, if needs be they can be used as a full package.

What would be your three Top Tips?

  1. Find high quality resources to lean into for ideas and reliable content 
  2. Share resources with other art teachers, create a sharing community so you are not isolated or reinventing the wheel
  3. Take time to be you outside of teacher- Be you and recharge!

If you could encourage all Primary school teachers to consistently do ONE thing in art, what would it be?

Learn about new artists that inspire you and that your students will enjoy. Even if you are using pre-made resources, you can still introduce new and exciting artists to the students, alongside or instead of the status quo of artists that tend to get regurgitated again and again in schools. You don’t have to visit exhibitions, you can look online too. Remember just because an artist is not part of the western art history canon, it does not mean they are not worthwhile and inspiring for your students to learn about.


Emily has led on our Gateway Alliance Curriculum Art event receiving fantastic feedback:

‘Lots of ideas and sharing from the group, new ideas for artists and love that Alma was mentioned as I have introduced her this year to my school’s curriculum. Reassuring to hear similar minded thoughts and questions from other art leads and hearing Emily’s responses which will improve my practice as art lead moving forward.’

‘Inspired by the discussion about the range of artists! Several of which I will be sharing within my school!’

‘The warmth and energy of Emily, she was very knowledgeable and engaging. Good to talk to other subject leaders. Great to discuss the different cultures and how to incorporate them into the curriculum.’


Emily Gopaul is a London-born art educator, artist and art education consultant of Indo-Guyanese descent. With extensive experience in teaching and leading art in both primary and secondary schools, Emily has established herself as a respected figure in the field of art education.  Emily authored the book “Teaching Primary Art and Design” in 2018, sharing her ideas for effective practices and lessons. Currently, Emily operates through her company, The Primary Art Class, where she works as an art educational consultant and advocate. Her expertise is sought after by educational and cultural organisations. Emily has worked with renowned institutions such as Teach First, Findel, Tate, BBC, The Crafts Council, NSEAD, The Thackray Museum and most recently joined the team at Oak National Academy as Art & Design Subject Lead. Her book Teaching Primary Art and Design was published by Bloomsbury in 2018, written to support primary art leaders in contextualising practical art activities using art history and contemporary art practice. Emily engages directly with schools and facilitates CPD events. She is passionate about art education and her work often has an intentional bias towards inclusive, anti-racist and context-aware resources. She aims to introduce a broader interpretation of collections and exhibitions for educational purposes and is focused on referencing art and artists from ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds and empowering students to be cultural contributors themselves.

You can follow Emily on X (Twitter) @PrimaArtClass


If you would like to find out more about how you can benefit from the expertise such as Emily’s expertise to support in school, please contact us on

Find out more about our other Curriculum CPD events this year at Gateway Alliance.