The St Columba’s art curriculum is also a knowledge rich curriculum. Knowledge, in the realm of art means knowledge not only of artists, designers, architects and their work, but of the artistic concepts that relate to their work shown in different types and styles of art, how these relate to each other in a historical context and how this affects the children’s own use of materials and development of skills. The curriculum is designed to enable children to learn by making connections between the work of artists, architects and designers (which they study critically) and their own work, which they evaluate and relate back to the works they have studied. This process is cyclical. For children following the curriculum, becoming informed about the subject discipline of art is a process that takes place alongside a growing love for the subject. Meaningful opportunities for self-expression and individual response are woven through the curriculum, giving children space to learn who they are as an artist.
Units of work in the curriculum focus on the different concepts in art and different types of art. In this context concepts in art means the different elements of art (line, shape, colour, tone, form, space, visual texture and tone), how an artist combines these elements and produces art in different styles, for example realistic or abstract art. Different types of art means the different media used to make art (e.g. sculpture, architecture or painting), different subject matter (e.g. portraits, landscapes or history painting) and different artistic movements, historical periods or geographical cultures (e.g. impressionism, Anglo-Saxon art and Chinese painting).
The overall scheme of the St Columba’s curriculum provides for gradual progression in terms of skills (split into painting, drawing, 3D form, collage, textiles, printmaking, photography and mixed media), introducing the children to as diverse a range of materials as possible. It also provides for progression in terms of knowledge of different concepts and types of art (for example Style in Art and Narrative Painting are studied in year 1, and then revisited in year 2 in History Painting and in year 5 in Style in Art). The structure of the planning also provides for progression in terms of process in art, both in terms of critical analysis of others’ art and the necessary observation, exploration and evaluation needed for the children to create their own art.
Activities children at St Columba’s are directed to undertake in lessons are designed with an eye to the importance of learning and practising process. These activities include observations and observational, analytical and imaginative drawing activities in key stage 1, leading to the process of independent investigation, observation, annotation, sketching, design and planning (allowing the children to experiment and invent) by the end of key stage 2. Independent and investigative study and the understanding of process is particularly provided for in the units which conclude the year for years 5 and 6.
The curriculum fulfils the requirements of the National Curriculum for England and seeks to show how art shapes our history and contributes to our culture. It looks at key movements and historical periods in the history of Western art, studying art from ancient Greece and Rome, Anglo Saxon England, the middle-ages, the Italian renaissance, Victorian art and architecture, French impressionism and modernism of the 20th century. Where a unit looks at a period in history which is also addressed in the history curriculum, the art unit is taught after the history unit. This allows the children to approach their study of art with a degree of confidence and ‘expertise’ and to consolidate their knowledge by creating connections between the different disciplines.
Rationale and National Curriculum Coverage
It is recognised that a study of Western art lacks cultural diversity, and therefore specific units and artists have been added to the curriculum to introduce balance, particularly bearing in mind the cultural diversity of St Columba’s Primary Schools Year 5 study art from the Islamic world, western Africa and China and these units address the issue of accepted art history narratives, colonialization and empire and the influence of non-Western art on art of the Western world. Women artists have also been consciously included in the curriculum, and in key stage 2 there is provision for discussing why women are under-represented in traditional Western art history narratives. Study of modernism and art from the 20th century in year 6 provides an opportunity to study art by women and artists from ethnic groups traditionally underrepresented in British art.
The Curriculum Overview summarises, for each year group, what concepts of art, types of art, skills and processes are covered. The Overview goes on to specify, in more detail, what artists, designers, architects, concepts and skills are covered in each unit. The children’s work will be recorded in sketchbooks which can include the artwork, or photographs of the work they produce each lesson.