Art and design

Sketching out progress in art & design

Mar 7, 2020

Great! We’ve been wondering about progression in sketchbooks. Good to hear, but before you start sharpening you pencil, our focus is on curriculum progression mapping more generally (although we do promise to talk about your sketchbooks later too).

Fair enough. Go on then, bring me up to speed… Following Ofsted’s refocusing on curriculum, both in terms of looking at non-core subjects more closely and wanting to see clearly delineated progression paths, many schools are hurriedly looking to refresh, or in some cases create, progression documents.

Sounds sensible. As long as your curriculum is ‘coherently planned and sequenced’, Ofsted do not require any specific form of documentation, but yes, creating a progression framework of some kind is certainly a legitimate approach, although not one without its dangers.

Dangers? I’m listening… There can be a temptation to half-heartedly create such documents to simply ‘tick the progression box’ (despite Ofsted’s specific entreaty not to), basing them purely on the National Curriculum. Doing so, as headteacher Michael Tidd notes, results in documents that are so vague and open to broad interpretation that they become meaningless, lacking the clarity and specificity required to demonstrate that learning is taking place.

Right, so the keys to a good progression framework are clarity and specificity? Absolutely. We’d suggest that when creating a progress document you are explicit in your description of the specific skills, knowledge and understanding that children should be gaining, and what evidence teachers should be seeing to show progress has been made. Your framework, if you choose to have one, must be part of, and reflect the content of, your curriculum.

Understood. Do you have any examples I can look at? Of course – but do remember that wherever you draw your inspiration from, it’s essential that the documents you create are right for your children, curriculum, context and local area.

The following organisations have interesting free-to-access resources:

  • These guidelines from The Primary Art Class divide up skills by year group, and could easily be incorporated into a progression document
  • Kapow offer an art progression document organised under the headings: generating ideas; formal elements; and knowledge of artists and evaluation. It is based on the Kapow curriculum

And the following schools have published their art and design progression documents:

  • Eden Park Primary School Academy in Devon has organised its art skills progression document in the form of I can statements. The document is arranged under five headings: Sketch Books/ Recording; Art skills; Learning from Others; Techniques; and Creativity and Design
  • Mayfield Primary School in West London has an art skills progression document that is organised by techniques/media and covers Foundation to Year 6
  • Holly Park School in North London has a learning journey for EYFS, KS1, LSK2 and UKS2 for art and design (scroll down in link). Each one is set out in the form of I can statements and breaks down the National Curriculum, highlighting specific skills, knowledge and understanding across a range of media

And what about sketchbooks – where do they fit in? This is tricky, as sketchbooks can, by their very nature, be chaotic and non-linear. As AccessArt suggests, children should be using them ‘to gather, collect, experiment and reflect…[as] a place to put unresolved ideas into the world’. Hence, any objectives placed on sketchbooks should reflect this, and unlike the rest of your progression framework, be broadly written (see, for example, the Eden Park Primary School Academy documents mentioned above). For examples of what you might expect to see in sketchbooks across year groups, check out these images from Gomersal Primary School.

In a nutshell… Make sure progression expectations aren’t too abstract… but ensure your sketchbooks reflect the unique creative processes and ideas that your artists-in-training encounter.


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