The GCSE art and design exam preparation period is a particularly hectic time, when pupils are trying to produce work towards their final piece. The eight weeks pass quickly and with so many demands on their time, students can be a little disorganised and quickly lose momentum.
For the past eight years, our art department has run a Saturday workshop the weekend before the 10-hour timed test. The prospect of coming into school at the weekend is not appealing, so we hire an art studio and travel by coach. Although this takes more planning and organisation, the change of venue is motivating for staff and pupils, and lends the day a sense of importance. We have twice used a studio at the London College of Fashion; previously we used one at a local arts centre. All costs are covered by the pupils, and worked out last year at pound;20 each.
We offer Edexcel art and design (unendorsed), and expect students to work towards a final outcome, usually an A1 painting. The day is geared towards preparing for this. Students need to bring source material, such as examples of artists' work, drawings, and objects for observational work, to be used as the starting point for practical tasks. The day is structured as three sessions, with break and lunch in between. Session one is for dry materials (oil pastels, pencils, chalks, charcoal) in which students create three drawings, each based on a different source. For session two, they are set the task of producing an A1 painting based on two of their sources. The final task is to combine three types of source material in an A1 mixed-media piece.
You can easily adapt the format to suit your individual needs and exam specifications. The aim of the day is to improve on students' final GCSE grade. Depending on your department or school priorities, you could also target particular groups of pupils for a workshop, such as gifted and talented or those on a CD borderline grade following the mock exam.
Head of art at Vyners School, London Borough of Hillingdon