Art and Design is a hugely important subject area for children and young people, providing
so much scope not just for developing creative skills specific to artistic practice, but also for
embedding a creative mindset that transfers to other subject areas. With creative minds we
can ask questions, solve problems, discover answers, and communicate ideas. It is vital we
provide our young people to learn creativity – for life.
Art and Design can pose a challenge however- when treading the familiar path of
assessment, progression, and objectives that are a heavy and continued pressure for
teachers. We are so often asked ‘how can I really assess art?’ and the truth is that for
something that is so personal, explorative, expressive, and open ended – it is hard to!
Ultimately, we must think carefully about what and how we are assessing. Does the
knowledge or the experience matter more? In a world of knowledge organisers and
progression maps it is easy to lose sight of just how important it is we allow children to
AccessArt is a UK charity that works to inspire and enable high quality visual arts teaching,
learning and practice. We do this through sharing inspiring visual arts resources for teachers, artist educators and practicing artists. We are proud of our resources which are based upon over 25 years of educational practice. We believe by sharing them we can all work together to inspire the next generation of creative individuals.
The approach we advocate, is that art and design in schools should be based on a journey of
building independent learning through experimentation and creative risk. We like to hear
from teachers how they keep sketchbooks in their classrooms for the children to use
throughout the day, how they allow creative projects to focus on materials, processes and
tactile experience – rather than pressing a pre-defined outcome that can stifle creativity.
Ofsted recognises that work which looks great at first glance (such as in a display) can often
hide poor learning outcomes. Instead, schools should work to create confident,
independent artists who can articulate and value their own creative journeys.
We acknowledge however, that teachers are under immense pressure, and that having a
structure that scaffolds around the art curriculum offers valuable support, particularly for
teachers with limited experience teaching (or studying) art.
We believe it is possible that resources and a scheme of work can facilitate a balance between adherence to curriculum requirements and allowing art to flourish in the classroom. We can aim for that balance through providing the following:
Traditional skills should be balanced with experimental work.
Small scale work should be balanced with large scale work.
Quiet reflective study should be balanced with active, dynamic work.
Individual work should be balanced with group work.
Two dimensional work should be balanced with three dimensional work.
Study of historical “great” artists should be balanced with contemporary artists.
In addition, children should be given the opportunity to experience:
How it feels to take creative risks as opposed to playing it safe
That chaos and mess can be productive for some people
Both female and male creative role models (including visits from artists/visits to
Using pre-existing resources and schemes of work that can offer this variety, and that,
where possible, give time and value to art as a standalone subject will provide opportunity
for children to grow creative independence.
Furthermore, they can provide a basis from which an art lesson or topic can ‘grow legs’ and
generate its own creative momentum. Use them as a springboard, allowing space for
creative risk. This starts with an understanding of key skills, materials and ideas. If children
have early access to as wide a range of materials as possible then they are building all they
need to produce exciting and beautiful outcomes. The progression will take care of itself.
A bit about the AccessArt Exemplar and Progression Plan
AccessArt has created 3 plans to help Primary schools deliver a rich, exciting and relevant art
Basic skills are introduced and then built upon, including drawing, printmaking, sketchbooks,
painting and making. Skills are revisited and the use of ongoing sketchbook work underpins
AccessArt believes in fostering an open-ended exploration of creativity. Our resources do
not follow prescriptive outcomes, instead we believe the role of the teacher is to introduce
key skills, materials and ideas to the pupils in such a way that each pupil can then explore
his or her own creativity.
By creating a safe and nurturing environment, pupils are encouraged to take creative risks
and to learn from the journey, rather than head towards a pre-defined end result.
The resources included are suitable for pupils of all abilities and can be confidently delivered
by specialist and non-specialist teachers a like.
You can see the AccessArt exemplar plans on their website here.
For more creative inspiration, you can browse AccessArt's collection of over 1000 visual arts resources here.