Intent: why do we teach what we teach?

Art empowers young people. Not only does it encourage self-expression and creativity, but it also enables students to build confidence and a sense of personal identity. Art is a platform for addressing the critical issues of our times. Studying art helps to develop critical thinking and the ability to interpret the world around us by presenting challenging ideas visually. Moreover, students that study art develop a high degree of autonomy, self-management, self-reflection, inventiveness, resilience, and focus.

We have formed our art curriculum around the skills and knowledge needed for pupils to be successful. As an all-through school, we are in a privileged position to design a spiral curriculum that embeds art in all year groups—enabling students to achieve real mastery of the subject.

We introduce our students to a range of materials and techniques, including ceramics, drawing, painting, textiles, mixed media, photography, and print. We teach how to master these to create art, that is not only technically advanced but, engages students in the process of critical thinking, creativity, and self-expression. By exploring the contribution of a diverse range of artists and mediums, the world’s art community helps students to skillfully examine their ideas and communicate this through many different pathways.

In each year, students learn about the history and culture of artists and designers and how to create work for different purposes. For example, in year nine, we have a project on Architecture, students discover what architecture is and the role and history of the architect. We also teach students to think like architects and design buildings and shelters for different environments and different purposes.

Our curriculum is regularly updated in a variety of different ways driven by academic research and our footing as a leading school. Our gurus are Ken Robinson, Richard Hickman, Lesley Burgess, and Nicholas Addison. All of the above have contributed significantly to the best practice behind the teaching of art and creative education. Curriculum reviews are based on a thorough analysis of pupils' results throughout the year. This year, for example, our focus has been to teach students how to critically analyse in line with the Art and Design GCSE framework. This work has enabled our students to be highly reflective learners and raise the profile of art as an academic subject.

Implementation: How do we teach what we teach?

We introduce students, at KS1, to the history of art by responding to pivotal artists within their work. Students also use their imagination to design their response to an idea or concept. At KS2 art projects are informed by the critical texts read in class and linked to KS4 exam questions (GCSE) such as journey and time.

Subjects are taught in a constant cycle through each topic to deepen and secure students' skills and knowledge and prepare them for success at KS4 and a lifetime of art appreciation. For example, in KS2, students look at the theme identity in response to the book Stone Cold. Then in year eight, students respond to the theme by looking at culture and diversity within art. We then continue to study the same theme in year 10 when students complete a sustained portfolio (16 weeks) for Unit 1. They look at their o­­­­­­­­­­­wn identity and create a personal outcome in response to this.

Break-down of curriculum delivery to each Key Stage

We use sketchbooks in KS2 to KS4. These are portfolios in which students respond to artists, mind map ideas, plan, experiment and design outcomes. Students then produce additional pieces of work outside of their sketchbooks which run alongside their portfolio work.

At KS4, students use larger A3 sketchbooks and significant emphasis is placed on presentation and themed pages. Again, students produce additional preparatory work and outcomes outside of their sketchbooks.

Our teachers

Our lead teacher is also an experienced artist who has taught across the UK in galleries as well as schools. They have a PGCE in Secondary Art and Design and First Cass Honours in Fine Art (painting). Having a skilled and experienced subject specialist ensures students experience working in a range of advanced materials, subject matter, and techniques. Our lead teacher of art also teaches in KS2, ensuring a robust foundation for art is laid in KS2 in terms of our curriculum, medium term plans and lesson plans.

On Younger Years Site our pupils also benefit from the expertise of a specialist Art teacher.

Support in Art

All pupils access the same curriculum - we have the same expectations of all our learners to be able to master challenging materials and take creative risks. All students can access each lesson, and there is a focus on drawing as well as a broad range of art practices. We encourage students to use a variety of materials and techniques in their work and find the ones that suit them, for example, clay and print. We allow autonomy in how our students learn in art, fostering a genuine love of the subject.

We support lower prior attaining (LPA) students using models, scaffolded lessons, equipment and resources, assessment and feedback, enrichment, and out of classroom teaching. Furthermore, we support these students by ensuring that in each lesson, there is an intrinsic link to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. For example, students write about art, analyse a piece of text, draw using symmetry and geometry, and look at chemical reactions between different art materials.

Monitoring the Implementation

A mid-term plan evaluation happens at the beginning of every half term with SLT, ensuring lessons are logically sequenced, rigorous activities are set, and lessons are appropriately challenging.

We give pupils in every year group an overview of each project, as well as a list of keywords to develop their vocabulary in art. Furthermore, in Y11, pupils also have dated checklists and broken-down assessment criterion for GCSE Art and Design. Over time, we are interested in building routines around ingraining these GCSE assessment criteria into all year groups as they are the fundamental building blocks in art:

  • Research (AO1)
  • Record (AO2)
  • Experiment (AO3)
  • Respond (AO4)

Impact: How do we know what pupils have learnt and how well they have learnt it?

Assessment

In KS1 and KS2, we assess students' knowledge and skills based on the national framework for art then rank students from the data and record their raw marks.

At the beginning of KS3 students sit a baseline assessment which informs the teacher of each student's skill and knowledge, so lessons can be adapted to bridge any gaps in understanding. Students in KS3 are also assessed at the end of HT2 and HT4 to give a ‘working at’ grade. They complete a written art exam as well as a practical exam (drawing and painting). The end of year grade that our pupils receive is a culmination of all four skills (research, record, experiment, and respond).

KS4 students work is assessed each half term by the Lead Teacher of Art (book look) and students sit mock exams in both year 10 and 11. These mock exams are similar to the 10-hour practical exam sat in year 11, in which students produce a personal outcome in response to a chosen exam question.

Below is the break-down of how we assess our pupils.

Checkpoints

After each checkpoint, there is a re-teach lesson where teachers re-visit content that pupils may not have mastered. These lessons ensure that pupils are given every possible opportunity to reflect on their learning and secure their knowledge of art. The class teacher records assessment data. Every year we reflect on the results of the above assessments and make plans on how to adapt the curriculum.

Diagnostic and formative assessment is used throughout projects to identity misconceptions of a topic and provide feedback in every lesson. Examples of this include entry/exit tickets, peer feedback and self-reflection in sketchbooks, think/pair/share, art critiques, student-led demonstrations and homework.

We are working towards setting homework tasks for all students that consolidate classwork. Homework at KS3 and KS4 is set weekly and during school holidays. As the GCSE Art and Design coursework is intensive, homework plays a fundamental role in ensuring students complete high-quality coursework that covers all assessment objectives. All students receive feedback on their art homework and homework is assessed by the teacher to inform marking and check progress.

Results

This year we saw GCSE students go on to study courses in Photography, Graphic Design, and Art at college. Art is a popular option subject at GCSE and our year 10 class next year will be the largest we have ever had. We are very excited about these figures. We wish to recruit more boys to study art at KS4 and hope, as our department grows, to offer more students the opportunity to study art at KS5.

Five things we are proud of:

1) The subject knowledge of our teachers, offering a broad range of materials and techniques to our students

2) A diverse and progressive curriculum

3) Students going on to study creative subjects at KS5

4) Fully integrated KS2 curriculum

5) Enrichment opportunities in Art