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Key Stage 3, Junior High, Middle school Art & Design

Progression in art 

Progression is a journey from a starting point to an endpoint. Along the way, we take measurements (assessments) to record how much progress has been made. In order to make good progress at the KS3, Junior High phase you should identify what it is you feel are the most important learning attributes, behaviours and knowledge that pupils need to learn or demonstrate in key stage 4 Senior High and combine these attributes with those that are unique to this phase.



Progression in art Paul Carney
Baseline test in art

Baseline Assessment

I've updated this test for 2017 to incorporate a much more effective  drawing activity utilising realism and imagination

Free to Download

Assessment pressures


Download my negative pressures of assessment graphic.

Starting Points - Baseline Test

As an experienced art teacher, you know all too well that the class aren’t all beginning from the same starting point. Pupils enter Secondary High education with a very wide ability range depending on how much art is studied in the feeder Primary Elementary school. Now, you can’t teach anyone anything unless you have a good understanding of what they already know and can do in relation to what it is you’re trying to teach them. So the first thing you do when they begin their new school is to do a baseline test - to identify your pupil's unique starting points.

Nearly always this is a drawing activity or in some schools it is the result of a first project done over time. Pressure to get baseline results into the school's database usually means School Leaders want these grades within the first few weeks of term. So the pressure is on you to accurately measure all your new intakes ability in a short space of time. And the problem with relying purely on the result of an observational drawing is that this method is flawed. You simply cannot tell everything about potential Exam GCSE performance from drawing skills alone. There are other critical factors such as literacy level and imagination skills that need assessing. My baseline test aims to address all of these areas and can be done in one lesson! What you should end up with is a very clear indication of a pupil's all-round ability in art very quickly.

Download it for free here

The journey - Project planning

In core subjects the curriculum is pre-written; they don’t have to design the content, it’s all mapped out for them. But in art the curriculum is a blank canvas and in every school around the country, art teachers are left to devise their own curriculum. Mostly though, there are universal themes we come to time and time again; portraits, still life, landscape etc. and even the artists studied are surprisingly common; Surrealism, Cubism, Pop Art etc. Now there's nothing wrong with learning about these artists but ideally, you want  your pupils to have developed a personal understanding of art. The problem is; when you choose the artist links for projects all the time, the pupils aren't able to take ownership of the type of art that interests them. And even when you have planned for a project to incorporate a specific skill, you are in actual fact limiting the success of the project to only those who can master this skill. What you should be doing is showing pupils that there are many ways to represent things and that they should develop their own way of working.

So the real skill of project planning is; 'How can I teach pupils to independently investigate art, to take ownership of what they want to do, learn how to develop complex ideas and develop skills in areas that interest them?' This is VERY different from planning a project where the artists have been pre-selected and every learning stage is mapped out with an explicit outcome. Again, I cover how to do this in great detail in my Art Teacher's Handbook.

Art skills are important of course and sometimes this does mean teaching them through direct instruction, but there is no expectation for any student to have a set of art skills based on drawing ability or in fact anything resembling traditional art skills. Contemporary art shows us that art can be an idea, it can be music, performance, film, text, found objects and even thin air! It may seem like the emperors new clothes, but what this approach shows us is that art can be inclusive for all.

If you're looking for examples of this style of project planning, I suggest you look at my Media Art project and my Expressive Painting project.

Measuring Progress - Assessment

There has been a move toward an assessment system I actually used myself for many years, even when we had levels. It seemed to me to be much more effective to keep assessment light and simple so I used to use a High, Middle and Low banding system. This is now the informal UK National system and was recommended by National Association Head Teachers. It comprises of the grades: Working Towards, Achieving and Exceeding the targets set. It omits to hidden levels of attainment however. These are SEN and G&T students who will either not be able to meet the class targets or easily exceed them. I've written a lot about this in my Art Teacher's Handbook.

Many schools have adopted the GCSE Exam  1-9 grading system in KS3 Junior High, where pupils begin at a low score then move up through the grades as they progress. I'm not a fan of this system since there is NO guarantee that any achievement in this early phase counts to the eventual GCSE Exam result. It is also too similar to the dreaded Levels system we have just gotten rid of!

Assessment should be a positive experience that helps me improve and want to try again. 

art sketchbooks tips ideas

Look at the beautiful Year 7, 6th Grade sketchbook page opposite. It represents the epitome of high quality learning in art. Excellent layout and presentation skills, coupled with good annotation and this student will surely go on to get a high grade at exam level. The problem however, is that only a small percentage of students will ever be able to work in this way, so it consigns many untidy workers to the dustbin! But many artists have an untidy 'loose' style, so why are students who work in this way being penalised? What is a sketchbook anyway? Why can't students produce digital sketchbooks or work in ways that suits them?

"Many students come to us with sketchbooks which are more like “presentation books” rather than a real record of their exploration, or a source of personal visual reference. The emphasis on good presentation means that students often have to un-learn habits they have developed before coming to university, such as decorating pages, making elaborate backgrounds and titles, rather than focusing on first-hand visual research, developing and working up their ideas, which is what is required on a foundation course. 

Carl Silvester, Art Course coordinator Loughborough University

Check out this link to sketchbook's of famous artists. Why not design a whole project about 'What is a sketchbook?' so that pupils can find their own preferred way of sketchbook working.

FREE Art Lesson Plans for Secondary High

Pop Art lesson plan

Pop Art 

Age 7-14

A traditional Pop Art project that works well and gets great results. Save yourself loads of time and get it here!

Free download

Kandinsky music art project lesson plan

Music Kandinsky

Age 7-14

Many art rooms use this type of project where students study Kandinsky and listen to music to create abstract art.

Free download.

Jungle art project lesson plan

Jungle Project

Age 7-14

Improve your student's painting techniques by learning depth of field, size and proportion. This can be adapted for collage

Free download.

Impressionism art lesson plan


Age 7-14

A lovely project that teaches colour mixing by practical application. The students study famous paintings by the Impressionists. 

Free download

Environment art project lesson plan

Environment Project

A project that asks pupils deep questions about the world they live in then asks them to respond with art in a wide range of ways. One of my personal favourites

Free to Download

Giger photoshop art lesson plan

Giger Photoshop Project​

This free powerpoint lesson provides students with images of Gigers aliens and a powerpoint set of instructions on how to produce layers, masks, type and design effects.

Free to download

natural forms art project lesson plan

Natural Form

The classic Natural Forms Project Pdf has a Full Scheme of Work, lesson plans and photos. Use this plan for a whole host of classroom activities from drawing to painting and from lino printing to sculpture.

Free to Download

Aliens art project lesson plan


For Year 7, 8 or Middle school. Perfect to go with the Alien landscape project! Design an Alien creature to live on an inhospitable planet. This works great in conjunction with Science!


Free to Download

Tints & Shades art lesson plan

Tints & Shades

Age 7-14 

Improve your student's painting techniques by completing this range of worksheets for tints and shades.


Free download

Colour theory art lesson plan

Colour Theory

Age 7-14

Some teachers prefer to embed colour theory into projects but this stand alone worksheet & powerpoint is great to have.

Free download

Graffiti lettering sheet, art lesson plan

Graffiti Lettering

These graffiti lettering sheets have been designed for tracing.

Free download

Shading an alien man, art lesson plan

Shading an Alien Man

A simple shading exercise the pupils love

Free download

FREE fully illustrated downloadable Art & Design lesson plans

Suitable for Key Stage One; age 4 to seven years

Birds of Paradise – make a bird of paradise using PVA glue, ink and modelling clay

Tony Craggs – Make a junk mural using found plastics

Murakami – Learn to paint and mix colours through the fabulous work of Japanese artist Murakami.


Suitable for Key Stage Two; age 7 -11

Clay Animals – make clay animals using a water balloon and air dry or DAS clay.

Dogon Mask making – Study the African Dogon tribe then make your own mask for a fun occasion. You’ll need card, tape, paints.

Funny Fish – draw from line studies of fish then create your own cool cartoon fish.

Language of Drawing – Learn how to draw in abstract styles using your own secret code.

Macro Art – take macro close-up photos on your phone then make large scale drawings from them in whatever medium you wish.

Suitable for Key Stage 3; age 11-14

Me in a Box - Turn an old box into a wonderful personal piece of sculpture

Alien Landscape – learn the principles of landscape painting by creating an alien landscape.

Dreams – Draw a portrait of a sleeping person then use your computer to create a dream image.

Dogon Mask making - Study the African Dogon tribe then make your own mask for a fun occasion. You’ll need card, tape, paints.

Language of Drawing - Learn how to draw in abstract styles using your own secret code.

Macro Art – take macro close-up photos on your phone then make large scale drawings from them in whatever medium you wish.


Suitable for Key Stage 4/5; age 14-16+

Dreams - Draw a portrait of a sleeping person then use your computer to create a dream image.

Macro Art – Take macro close-up photos on your phone then make large scale drawings from them in whatever medium you wish.

Media Art – Pop Art with a big twist. This self-directed learning project will get you thinking about the effect of the media on us through your art.

Expressive Painting – Study the great painting masters, learn their techniques then apply them to your own compositions. You’ll need paint, brushes and paper for this.

Consultancy Service

As an NSEAD registered art consultant, I offer a friendly, professional art consultancy service to schools, from early years right through to Secondary GCSE. I've worked with infant schools to improve art assessment, delivered primary school CPD on skills and progression, worked with Subject Leaders to raise attainment and done whole school, secondary art department audits including formal lesson observations and department reviews. My over-arching strategy is to support the professional development of hard working professionals with positive and constructive advice for improvement.

My consultancy bookings are now being handled by Iain Simper of the Learning Partnership. For enquiries email Iain here


Training Courses

Please follow the link to see my latest CPD teacher training courses. If you can't see any that suits your needs, why don't you arrange for a bespoke in-school service?

Art consultancy art INSET CPD
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