Teaching Art & Design in a busy secondary school is a difficult job. There are so many variables involved; children with widely different abilities, constraints on resources and available space, differing perceptions of the subject within the schools themselves. All these factors mean that whilst no two schools or art teachers are the same, the demands are usually very similar. The National Curriculum provides the tick boxes, the teacher looks to find ways to tick them off.

The original draft of this book included a separate section for each project identifying areas where a particular project addressed a specific National Curriculum criteria. This new version does exactly the same but it was necessary to completely change it. The National Curriculum may have changed but does it really change the content of a teacher’s lessons plans? Essentially the newer version says the same thing as the old one although the emphasis and wording has changed. The criteria specified both then are now are commendable and if applied to lesson planning will ensure a balanced and thorough curriculum but the changes do not do what many teachers seemed to fear, namely they do not demand a complete re-write of all your resources.

In my very first teaching post my mentor used a phrase that has never stopped being relevant, “the tail wagging the dog”, I think it sums up perfectly the knee jerk reaction that occurs whenever a new idea, document or scheme is introduced. A study of Surrealism today is basically the same as it would have been in 2005 or earlier, the only real difference is how the concepts and techniques are explored.  Students are still mixing paint in the same way, good resources are always useful and whilst emphasis may change the key elements remain the same. Over the years I have had this discussion with numerous colleagues and I think the nervousness and constant re-invention of the wheel reflects badly on successive education ministers and their need to stamp their individuality upon every document in their domain. This has led to greater strain for teachers and less interesting lessons for students.

A new mood however seems to have entered the thinking of educational documents (for example QCA now have standardised assessment objectives for art and design at GCSE). Perhaps after many years of tinkering and constant change things are beginning to settle down? Whatever new words and phrases are used to describe existing ideas this book will still be relevant and useful, years of developing it in the classroom have ensured this. I have taken on board many ‘new’ ideas for this book and attempted to include them where possible.

One of the most interesting of new ideas in my view is assessment for learning. I have tried to address those aspects of it which I feel add something and improve upon the quality and delivery of lesson ideas. The issue of assessment and grading has been greatly simplified whilst made more effective with the introduction of the assessment for learning principle. I have included an attainment target scale on each piece of wrk so that the assessment reflects the broad and (hopefully) understandable National Curriculum attainment targets instead of a school’s own individually constructed system. Ideas like these help greatly in the collection and use of exemplar material which can be a very useful tool, students work can form the basis of this resource and it becomes invaluable at GCSE levels.

This book contains seven schemes of work that address, over the course of Key Stage 3 all the requirements of the National Curriculum. It is not expected that teachers will adopt this book in its entirety but rather that they use parts of it to augment their own schemes of work and ideas. The projects and ideas in this book can be adopted as individual ‘standalone’ ideas; occasional homework, cover lessons etc. or equally where applicable the whole project could be followed.

I have included information for teachers on each project on how this can be done, what resources are required, especially those beyond the usual ones. For me one of the great strengths in having a rigorous plan in place meant that I could accumulate resources to support teaching and learning. I developed posters linked to these projects as well as a website in the days when having a website was a novelty. Every year I delivered these projects I modified them and made improvements, adding to resources, incorporating new curriculum initiative’s, planning trips to galleries etc. Everything can be planned for and better prepared when you know what you intend to teach.

During the twenty plus years I have taught (over half of these in Pupil Refereal Units (PRU‘s),  EBD Special school and young offenders institutions) I grew frustrated with the amount of planning that seemed to be constantly required, endlessly re-inventing the wheel. This book is a response to that situation. It is a collection of the best ideas I used in my teaching, structured into convenient projects that provide opportunities for all abilities.

Throughout the book units of work are cross-referenced, pointing out areas where similar ideas or techniques have already been explored allowing for development and a sense of progression in the students’ work.

Starting with basic ideas and simple approaches to Art & Design the book builds student confidence and knowledge allowing them to be artistically expressive. There are guidelines here but every subject needs some of these, even one as ‘free’ as Art & Design. Without acquiring a rudimentary knowledge of the subject how can students be expected to express themselves creatively? It has been my experience of Art & Design teaching that too much is left to chance, this book is my attempt to pin down some key concepts.

During my work as an Art & Design teacher I have shared these materials with many colleagues, all found them useful in different ways and to differing degrees, many suggestions were made and lots of these where followed up and alterations made. Every project in this book has been proven to be effective. Since uploading the original versions of these projects onto the TES teaching resources website they have been downloaded almost 7500 times and I have received only 4 and 5 star reviews. This new version puts all the projects together and has a better layout with improved illustrations and extra pages.

Over a continuous six-year period I taught these units with over 3000 students. The year prior to my arrival at the school GCSE A* - C exam results were under 10%; by the end of this period they had risen to 54%. And this was in an area with a thriving grammar school / 11+ system. Whilst I can’t claim sole responsibility for the improvement in results, I believe strongly that this book and approach to teaching Art & Design made a real impact on the students. I am certain that it will be useful to all busy teachers of Art & Design.

It is for the individual teacher to look for opportunities in their teaching where these resources may be useful. I hope that the ideas here continue to be useful to Art & Design teachers and I hope that it proves as useful to you as it has been for me.

Barry Gore