Making a mark
24 May 2012
To mark the first ever International Arts Education Week this week (21 to 27 May) we highlight an Ofsted survey, published last month, which examined art, craft and design education in schools and colleges.
Inspectors looked at inspections of colleges and visited primary and secondary schools, special schools and a sample of art galleries and museums to identify examples of highly effective and innovative practice. The report Making a mark: art, craft and design 2008-2011 lists the main characteristics of good or outstanding lessons in schools and colleges.
Inspectors found that, despite drawing being a key skill, teaching all pupils to draw with confidence and creativity was a low priority in too many schools. Teachers’ subject expertise in drawing varied widely, particularly in primary schools.
Ian Middleton, Ofsted’s National Adviser, Art, Craft and Design said, ‘Almost all the very young children that we spoke to said they liked drawing, and many gravitated to drawing activities when selecting tasks for themselves. They drew adventurously and imaginatively. However, only a few pupils made consistently good enough progress throughout their education to flourish creatively.’
While specialist teachers in secondary and post-16 education were more skilled in drawing, not all were successful in teaching students how to draw confidently, or for a range of purposes. Students made good or outstanding progress when the teaching embraced a range of approaches, encouraged the use of experimentation in sketchbooks and was responsive to pupils’ emerging ideas. This led to a higher number of students enjoying and achieving well in art. Students benefited more from teachers who used a relevant degree specialism or experience of working in the creative industries.
Confined to the classroom
The survey also found that less than a third of secondary schools and around a third of primary schools took children to visit an art gallery. Exposure to original work created by other artists, craftmakers and designers raised pupils’ creative aspirations and accelerated their progress. Students who met with inspectors were keen to know more about how to access opportunities outside of school or college to improve their work. The report lists useful organisations and contains examples of initiatives such as the Campaign for Drawing that should be accessible to all pupils. It calls for schools and colleges to better promote opportunities available out of school, such as courses or visits to art galleries and exhibitions, to pupils and their parents and carers.
Art, craft and design is a popular optional subject. Students commented that art helped them to be ‘more reflective, analytical and organised’ and that participating in cultural activities enabled people to be more ‘observant, appreciative and fulfilled’. The subject is also effective in engaging students with widely varying academic ability. In three of the seven special schools visited, highly effective subject teaching enabled students with special educational needs and/or disabilities to experience success at GCSE.
Colleges are particularly successful in meeting individual student needs and interests and in taking students outside their ‘comfort zone’ through challenging approaches and unfamiliar media. The report recommends that colleges and sixth forms increase opportunities for students to help them reflect on and develop their roles as emerging artists, craftmakers and designers by working with younger pupils, and by enabling students to exhibit their work publicly. The illustrated version of the report contains examples of high-quality college work.
Good practice at Icknield
At Icknield High School, a large 11-16 comprehensive school in Luton, 95% of students gained an A*-C GCSE grade in art in 2010, more than three times the national average.
Choosing visual arts as its specialism, the school has six artists-in-residence who work alongside visual arts teachers and also have a curriculum role within a department. In addition, the school’s onsite art gallery offers a rolling programme of exhibitions of work by creative practitioners and students, which includes work of primary school pupils, secondary students and those that have progressed to A level courses or careers after leaving. The gallery provides a stimulus and source of celebration for the school and community.
High standards of displays within each classroom for both Key Stages 3 and 4 show different specialist areas of visual arts in the school, including textiles, film and three-dimensional work. Teachers have expressed how students are regularly inspired and learn independently by looking at and commenting on the colour, different textures, and feel of the work displayed.
The school also provides extra-curricular opportunities which are popular with the students including the use of digital technology to engage boys and girls. One innovative approach at Icknield is the ‘digital wonder wall’, which uses sound and video for an interactive experience.
The Ofsted website has many good practice case studies of art, craft and design education. These include one of Battyeford CofE Primary School in Mirfield, Yorkshire, which uses art, craft and design very effectively to raise achievement across the curriculum and improve pupils’ self-confidence and creativity. Another example describes how Barton Peveril College, a sixth form college in Eastleigh, has helped students to explore equality and diversity through their art and design work.
These case studies, the Ofsted report, which includes images of students' work, and a summary leaflet are available on the Ofsted website and listed under Resources below.
To find out more about International Arts Education Week visit: www.unesco.org.