Discovery is the key

28th January 2005 at 00:00
Tom Hardy believes that revision should focus on moving forward

Art teachers are lucky. For others at the curricular core, the revision period signals a stressful hands-off period where fledgling examinees leave the safety of the nest; in the art rooms, revision really amounts to reviewing and refining existing project work and overseeing the eight-week exam prep to ensure all of those ever-multiplying assessment objectives are equally met. We remain as involved as ever, but as guides and facilitators.

We also need to give space for the individual to shine and rise above box ticking. It is worth remembering that education theorist Robert Witkin described the process of assessing art as demonstrating that it is possible for one individual to be more "himself" than another.

In my experience, the best way to achieve this balance in the classroom is to devise projects where development of all the requisite skills is integral but where responses can be highly individual and the approach can be more holistic.

Charles Dorn, in his book Mind in Art, has a nice take on this integration of visual concepts, citing the following as an example of an ideal project brief: "To create a surrealistic painting (opportunities for AO2 fulfilment) depicting a personal myth (AO1) in egg tempera (AO3) through the appropriation of an Italian Renaissance image (the exploitation of iconic imagery lends itself to the comparisons required for AO4)".

* It is with this balance in mind that my department sets a final coursework project each spring, under exam conditions to acclimatise students to the required level of sustained independent study. As with the real exam, students are given a brief to explore for eight weeks. This year, following Dorn's lead, students looked at the Surrealists and their use of antiquity which neatly brought their coursework full circle to link with the first project undertaken in Year 10, which had been based on a visit to the British Museum.

* They are off timetable for a 10-hour practical.

* Once complete, this project thus serves to reinforce the coursework in progress as well as acting as a dress rehearsal for the main event.

* Each holiday, we also send students to visit a London gallery and ask them to write a critique, relating the exhibition to their own burgeoning practice. Since the exam prep period starts with the spring half-term, this is an opportunity for first-hand experience of art to stimulate students'

imaginations. There is always enough going on to inspire even those with the most obscure interests.

* I also find it useful in the final weeks to give students a free choice to return to and extend any coursework in a medium or style for which they have developed a particular affinity. So, last year's painting might be translated into three dimensions, a naturalistic drawing might be rendered using an expressionist palette, or a print might be scanned and text incorporated to produce a graphic outcome.

* The important thing is that energies are channelled into discovery rather than repetition, and revising becomes assimilated into moving forward.

Tom Hardy is head of art at North London Collegiate Girls' School

* The 2021st Century British Art Fair at the Royal College of Art, London, in September is a commercial show but a rare opportunity to see contemporary and modernist practice in one space.

The Guruve Gallery in London's Spitalfields market also has a lovely website with examples of modern African art.

Anthony Green RAI The Works! from Opus is a video with a student-friendly insight into the working methods of an artist whose caricatures provide a counterpoint to the harsh angularity of cubist distortion and product.asp?pID=74

The Estorick Gallery has themed exhibitions but also houses a permanent collection of Italian Futurist works

Type A arrangements

* A reader (or reading software), for candidates with a visual impairment, or very poor readers who must demonstrate a standardised score of below 85 on a test of reading accuracy, speed or comprehension. (These criteria have been broadened this year - previously only weak accuracy scores were acceptable). In some subjects a reader cannot be allowed, because the candidate's reading is being tested.

* A scribe (or voice-activated software) for very poor or slow writers.

Scribes are now permitted in English and modern foreign languages.

* Use of a word processor for poor or very slow writers who are used to typing.

* A practical assistant for candidates who cannot perform some practical tasks independently due to below-normal manual dexterity or physical co-ordination.

* More than 25 per cent additional time for candidates who have substantial impairments (multiple disabilities, physical disabilities) or need to use Braille or modified papers.

* British Sign Language for candidates with a hearing impairment. Most subjects can be communicated in BSL, although responses can be signed only under very strict guidance.

* A range of modified exam papers may be ordered for candidates with visual or hearing impairment.

Type C arrangements

* Extra time for candidates who, it can be demonstrated, work very slowly due to learning difficulties or a verified medical condition.

l Rest breaks for candidates with poor concentration or a physical disability.

* Use of a bilingual dictionary, for candidates who have English as another language (centres may permit up to 25 per cent additional time to use the dictionary).

* Reading aloud, for those who have reading difficulties and can demonstrate improved comprehension if they can hear themselves read.

* A transcript of work which will be hard for the examiner to read (previously this was a type A arrangement). Spelling of non-technical words can now be corrected.

* A prompter, for candidates who have little sense of time.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today