How to tackle the new art, music and drama curricula

8th August 2014 at 01:00
In September, England's curriculum is changing for key stages 1, 2 and 3. On this page, teachers reveal how they plan to approach art and, overleaf, we look at music and drama



The subject content and guidance for the national curriculum at key stages 1 and 2 are brief, to say the least; for some, planning, teaching and facilitating art will not be easy. So to support staff, I have drafted a progression-of-skills document, for which I drew heavily on the excellent resources and guidance offered by the National Society for Education in Art and Design (NSEAD).

As a starting point, I looked at developing relationships with artists, particularly for long-term and large-scale projects, and making an area in school where pupils can experiment, invent and create art independently.

I am also researching how to encourage a higher percentage of boys to take up extracurricular art activities.

Over the last few weeks of term, I asked staff, pupils and parents how they wanted to see the subject develop, as well as what they already enjoyed, so that we could retain the elements that worked well and adapt them to fit the new curriculum. Even though I will be teaching art, I intend to work closely with other members of staff so that a cross-curricular approach can be firmly embedded.

As well as curriculum delivery, I have had to consider my own skills as an artist; what strengths I currently possess and where I need to develop. How can I help my pupils to improve their mastery of skills if I don't have them myself? I am sure this question goes through the heads of many primary teachers.

Fortunately, I have found that there is a welcoming and supportive network of artists and teachers who will happily share ideas, skills and advice. I attend termly meetings with the North East Art Teachers Education Network and skills sessions kindly organised by talented art teachers. Social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest have helped me to connect with this community and plan my own CPD.

I hope that children will love the experience of being exposed to art, craft and design, and that they will be inspired to develop these skills as they go on to secondary education and adulthood.

Cheryl Stanley is a specialist teacher of art, craft and design at Northern Saints C of E Primary School in Sunderland


The new brief for teaching art, craft and design at key stage 3 barely fills a single side of A4 paper. But at least we have not been restricted to what we must and must not include, and for that I'm both grateful and relieved. There is a suspicion, however, that this might reflect our new (lack of) importance in an increasingly hierarchical educational system. How sad that would be.

The National Society for Education in Art and Design (NSEAD) has produced its own version of an art curriculum and this will be useful in our discussions. But there is more to planning a curriculum than simply interpreting the documentation, and lots of pieces of this particular jigsaw are still missing. We need to know what is going to be happening at key stages 4 and 5 so that we can ensure our students are ready for the next challenge. And we need to know how they will be assessed now that levels have been abandoned, so that we can give them the best chance of achieving the high grades they deserve.

There is a bigger question at the heart of these changes, too: how can we create a meaningful system that truly identifies artistic progress across the many aspects of art, craft and design without being forced to satisfy the needs of a data-hungry, government-led inspection system?

To my mind, the best way to prepare our students for the various scenarios that might be thrown at them over the next couple of years is simple: we must stand by our principles. We know through experience what makes students good artists and we know what makes students want to be good artists. The more of those positive experiences that we can embed or sneak into our increasingly squeezed schedules, the better.

Hence we are planning a curriculum that continues to ensure our students are inspired, creative and thoughtful, one that encourages debate and individuality, one that rewards both the hard slog of deliberate practice and those lightning flashes of experimentation and raw emotion.

We will ask questions and set up projects and challenges and opportunities and ideas and starting points just like we've always done.

We want to get children thinking about art, thinking like artists and working with artists. We want our students to understand the world around them and find new ways to record their own experiences and values. We want them to work with a range of materials, techniques and processes in 2D, 3D and digitally. We want them to take risks and to learn from their mistakes, to reflect on their work and their place in the world and to find new solutions. If we can get all that right, then those students deserve to succeed, however they are measured.

Tom Christy is head of art at Chenderit School in Banbury, Oxfordshire

A look inside the new art curriculum

Both primary and secondary


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