Steve McQueen Year 3: a glimpse into the lives of London’s children – and how to safeguard the process

Afeefa Wilson, London CLC’s teaching assistant and workshop facilitator, reports back on a busy three weeks involved with the Steve McQueen Year 3 exhibition at Tate Britain – plus notes from the launch!

Year 3 Photoshoot at Tyssen Community Primary School (9) © Tate.jpg
Behind the scenes with Tyssen Community Primary School © Tate

Last year Turner Prize-winning artist and Oscar-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen invited every year 3 class in all of London’s primary schools to have their photograph taken by a team of Tate photographers. (See Tate children’s website page about Steve McQueen here.) He’s turned these thousands of photographs into a massive artwork that will be exhibited at the TATE Britain for six months, alongside a shorter outdoor exhibition on full-size billboards and underground stations. The outdoor exhibition precedes the gallery exhibition and will be displayed across locations in all 33 London boroughs. 

I believe one of the purposes of this amazing art installation is to show the future potential of London as represented by year 3 pupils in their hundreds and thousands. London is one of the world’s most diverse cities and the portraits reflect this.

As you might imagine, taking and displaying thousands of images of children is not a simple undertaking and behind the art there has been a whole raft of activity around safeguarding and education.

Safeguarding and duty of care

London Connected Learning Centre’s involvement within the project has been quite specific for the Outdoor Exhibition.  We prepared assembly and workshop presentation resources for the team of duty of care workshop facilitators to use in schools. These workshops are different from the school gallery visits to Tate that will take place now that the exhibition is underway: we participated in a two-day training event in September for school SLT from the 53 schools which feature in the billboard exhibition and campaign. This brought together all partners involved, TATE, Artangel and A New Direction, together with NSPCC, who have overseen all safeguarding advice and considerations throughout the project.

My role as a London Connected Learning Centre facilitator is to present an assembly and workshops to the class (now in Year 4) about general knowledge of the exhibition and possible scenarios that might occur while their portrait is displayed in the indoor and outdoor exhibition. 

I worked on the project for the past three weeks in schools across London, giving in-depth information about the project and issues such as consent or permission, safeguarding and how to avoid possible risks within the time their work is exhibited. 

Year 3 Photoshoot at Tyssen Community Primary School (8) © Tate.jpg
Behind the scenes with Tyssen Community Primary School © Tate

Throughout that time, I have been impressed with the extensive amount of knowledge children already have and their understanding about staying safe online. 

Feedback from the children has been rewarding. Here’s a flavour of some of the things they’ve said:

“I will tell my mum not to post everything I do online to keep me and my family safe.” 

“Today has been so fun! I know I should go to a trusted adult if I find out the class photo has been posted on social media”, 

“Only show pictures to people who are close to you.” 

Sense of excitement

Throughout all of the schools I have visited there has been a great sense of excitement within the building, all the way from the reception staff to the year 4 class. The adults are as passionate as the children about the exhibition.

From the conversations I have encountered with the children, it is safe to say the project has been enlightening. The assembly and workshops have given the children a greater understanding of how the online world intertwines with the real world. They recognise that actions made online can leave a trail even if they have deleted a post and, in the worst case scenario, they realise a thoughtless accident online can affect your real life and that of people close to you.

One of the activities in the workshop is being a ‘picture detective’, children really enjoy spending time analysing a picture and not just taking it for what it is – this enables them to use ‘picture detective’ skills in the real world. 

The value of the project goes far beyond the artwork itself. It allows children to be seen, heard and listened to. The exhibition reinforces the message of doing what you love and allowing them to understand they have the potential to make a career out of it. 

From the launch!

Caitlin, Afeefa, Steve McQueen launch Tate
Caitlin and Afeefa admire some of the photographs at the Steve McQueen Year 3 exhibition launch evening at Tate Britain

Afeefa and her London CLC colleagues Caitlin McMillan and Peter Lillington attended the opening launch on Monday evening 12 November and were overwhelmed by the scale and power of the exhibition.

“The cumulative effect of more than 3,000 photographs beautifully arranged in the stunning surroundings of the Tate Duveen galleries was absolutely amazing and is hard to describe – see it for yourself if you get the chance. The fact that this means that more than 76,000 London children are therefore featured in this exhibition is incredible. We mustn’t forget the school staff too – all beaming away in the class portraits,” explained Peter.

“As an erstwhile primary class teacher myself, and parent, I got a really warm positive glow – which must be a shadow of the joy and pride many of the children and schools are feeling (as the children’s comments in the BBC report are testimony to) and it was lovely to hear that the sometimes hushed and rarified atmosphere of those galleries had been really abuzz with children’s happy voices yesterday morning. Hopefully they will continue to do so over the coming days as schools are able to visit.

“It’s a really positive take on London and its future. Look out for the billboards in the next week if you haven’t seen them yet (but please remember, don’t identify schools or children by name/location!)”

Caitlin added, “the sheer scale is just incredible. It is a little window into lives that are being led across London every day that we so often don’t get to see. Also, the joy and pride shining from the faces of (most) of the children is a complete delight.”

  • The Steve McQueen TATE Year 3 outdoor exhibition runs from 4 – 18 November 2019, followed by the indoor exhibition from 12 November 2019 up to 3 May 2020 at the TATE Britain, which will consist of more than 3,000 individual class portraits, with 62% London’s primary schools represented.

Led by NSPCC, advice, recommended procedures, and resources for parents have been distributed to schools:

Associated project resources:

A New Direction ‘Learning Lenses’ resource pack:  A New Direction 

IntoFilm –


Online safety resources:

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Summer primary school computing conference

This event will build upon the Autumn computing conference by inviting subject leaders to reflect on their year in the role, sharing their successes and challenges. It will also introduce new ideas, tools and approaches through talks and practical activities led by members of the CLC team, with opportunities for attendees to share their own expertise and experience. Over the course of the conference activities will touch on the three main areas of the computing curriculum: computer science, digital literacy and information technology. We will also feature advice and examples illustrating the use of technology to support blended learning.

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Creative Arts, Digital and children - CLC meets More Than Robots online

Combining forces for the first time, the Connected Learning Centre and More Than Robots have created a session for teachers, youth organisations, researchers and policymakers interested in the digital provision of creative arts for primary aged pupils.


The Play Observatory - Prof. John Potter

“In their own words”: Westminster Abbey & CLC digital projects - Sian Shaw

Building (and maintaining) a city-wide primary arts curriculum to raise attainment - Kate Fellows

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This interactive and inclusive meet up will include inspiring examples of how technology can be used to support learning in music, visual art and drama in person and online at home drawing on our experiences as Tate Exchange associates and our partnership work with a range of cultural institutions.

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The morning will include case study presentations (details below) followed by a Q&A. There will also be an opportunity for a rapid sharing round for launches, project updates or requests for help and a short break to avoid zoom brain drain.

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Upcoming Special projects

The News Project
- 14:25

Special project in collaboration with First News Education

For a third year, building on two successful previous projects, we are once again partnering with the children’s newspaper First News, fellow member of the national Making Sense of Media and News Literacy networks. This special project with a literacy, PSHE and citizenship, as well as computing focus, highlights our specialist interest in this important aspect of digital and critical literacy.

The News Project will enable participating classes from year 5 to immerse themselves in news and current affairs using First News and the Bett award-winning First News iHUB, which will be provided free of charge during the school-based part of the project over a six week period. Under the guidance of their teacher, pupils will be supported in their development as a community of fully informed news readers. Classes will test their new critical skills and knowledge in the culminating virtual celebration event which will include a news competition and team-based critical literacy and editorial activities. After the event, schools will be able to use the resources from the day in their school.

The project will launch with an introductory CPD session for teachers to set the context, demonstrate resources and to plan for the school-based activities. 

Initial CPD session - Thursday 21st October 4pm-5.00pm. 

Project work undertaken in school - October and November.

Special event - Thursday 25th November 9.30am-2.45pm.

The Garden Museum

The CLC is once again partnering with the Garden Museum to offer a partnership project for KS1 pupils (primarily suited to Yr2). Located next to Lambeth Palace on the bank of the Thames, the museum has an inspiring collection that provides the ideal stimulus for young learners to explore the world around them.

Pupils will use technology alongside the museum’s collection to explore the wonderful world of seeds.

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 The Garden Museum has a large collection of seeds and tools that pupils will engage with.

These half-day sessions will take place at the Garden Museum.

There is a limited number of dates available, so please book early to avoid disappointment.

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