Murals and the curriculum: using art to understand the world around us with Sally Newton

South Harringay School, situated in beautiful old Victorian brick buildings that still feature the anachronistic ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ gates on either side, is the site of two wonderful murals painted by artist Sally Newton. The murals aren’t just aesthetically pleasing; they also serve the school in more academic ways, as they represent the HEP/Opening Worlds geography and history curriculum.

The two murals snake their way up the staircases in each of the school buildings, and in doing so, they follow the journey of the curricula. For history, a timeline darts up the stairs, beginning in the Neolithic age and drifting through various cultures, empires, and time periods.

The Murals

There is Mesopotamia and then the ancient Egyptians, followed by the Greeks and Romans, with impressive portraits of Queen Boudica, Athena, and Alexander the Great.

Pompeii erupts, the British Isles are invaded, the Arabs conquer and create the great Islamic Civilisations, and the Industrial Revolution begins.

Finally, toward the top of the stairs, we see World War I and II with photographic images of local history right alongside events like Kristallnacht, The Blitz, and the Windrush.

The geography murals in the same building are just as impressive, and perhaps even more detailed. They feature massive, brightly-coloured continents with countries, capital cities, mountain ranges, and colours that coordinate with the climate. Certain animals adorn the sides of the paintings, culminating in a life-size polar bear that towers over the staircase and serves as a stark reminder of the devastating effects of climate change.

The geography murals in the building for the younger pupils are slightly different, and they feature a special character. Sally created ‘Ork’, the puffin-like bird, as a guide to the ever-increasing in scale geographical murals. As he flies up the staircase, the perspective zooms out, starting from South Harringay School, moving on to the borough Haringey, to London, to the UK, and eventually to the entire world. Ork serves as a playful guide to many geographical topics, including food, the seasons, and even outer space!

Sally is a working artist, and is therefore available to paint at any school, given the space and an idea. You can see more of her work on her website:

Listen to the full interview on HEP Talks

Sally’s work at South Harringay is admired by both students and teachers alike. In our HEP Talks episode, I spoke to her about how she became an artist, what it’s like to paint a curriculum on the walls, and how students react to art, among other things. If you want to hear my full interview with Sally, listen to the episode on HEP Talks. You can find it on Apple, Google, or Spotify.

About the Author:

Luke Kemper

Luke Kemper is Insight and Intelligence Lead at HEP. He recently graduated from the University of Cambridge with an MPhil in Education, Globalisation and International Development. Before that, he worked for seven years as a university lecturer and high school teacher in China and Poland.

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