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Primary Key Stage 1 & 2 Art & Design Progression

Progression in art and design is an enormously difficult and complex process that has been widely studied and researched for over a hundred years. This webpage attempts to set out how you might do it.


To summarise progression:

  1. You need to identify pupils' individual starting points in key art areas of skills, knowledge, and creativity. 

  2. List the skills you will teach year on year so that they gradually increase in difficulty over time and provide opportunities for pupils to learn and properly embed them.

  3. Outline a map of the essential knowledge you want pupils to know and remember year on year. This should not only be the names and factual details of art and artists, but also the meanings behind why they made the art and how it connects to other art. 

  4. Stimulate creative growth, imagination, applying visual language, exploration, and inquisitiveness through the construction of projects and activities that nurture personal choice. 

  5. Measure the progress children are making through simple assessment metrics embedded into positive, but constructive dialogue. 

  6. Identify endpoints in your curriculum - learning goals, attitudes, and behaviours that pupils will demonstrate at key times. 


To teach art and design, deliver SKILLS & KNOWLEDGE through CREATIVE projects that improve pupils' own PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT over time. 


What does the National Curriculum say about progression?

If we analyse progression in the National Curriculum for Art and Design we see it is very poor. We can simplify the four aims of the curriculum into; producing creative ideas for art, skills proficiency, knowledge of art and artists and evaluating and analysing art, and when we do this we see there is no continuity, no sequential progression and few ‘threads’ of sustained development over key stages. For example:

  • Design and make, central to the ‘design’ element of our subject, is only mentioned in key stage 1 then never again.

  • The same thing applies for the formal elements of colour, line, tone, shape etc. which are in key stage 1, but not again after that. 

  • There is no mention of evaluating and analysing art in key stage 2, but it is mentioned in key stages one and three.

  • Other important aspects of the subject such as ‘develop creative ideas’ and ‘history of art’ are simply stated that they must be taught with no indication of how it is to be done. 

National Curriculum Art Progression

What does OFSTED say about progression?

Despite the total lack of continuity and clarity from the DfE, Ofsted are demanding more and more; giving schools ever higher targets. The latest School Inspection Framework September 2021 effectively states that school leaders will be evaluated on their ability to deliver curriculum content that has been identified as appropriate for their school and that cumulatively and sequentially works towards clear endpoints that are rich in knowledge and skills. 

However, as we have seen, there is no indication in the national curriculum of what the essential knowledge and skills in art and design are or how best to sequence them. This has resulted in schools the length and breadth of England in a state of panic. They do not have the expertise to construct and deliver a complex curriculum such as art and design. Subject leads in art are often recent, or newly qualified teachers and they are being expected to take on a role that I find challenging after forty years of doing it as a full-time expert. It is really quite shocking. 

Pyramid Progression model 

To put it simply, pupils make PROGRESS when you teach them SKILLS & KNOWLEDGE via CREATIVE projects. They REFLECT on their own learning and know how and where to make improvements. 


  1. Technical proficiency of skills - in multiple, self-selected pictorial repertoires, not only ones selected by a teacher as being the most appropriate. 

  2. Understanding and applying knowledge - for both artistic intentions and in it's own right as critical enjoyment. All knowledge taught relates to a bigger key concept that underpins a deeper understanding of the subject. 

  3. Creativity - a series of activities, exercises, and projects that develop the ability to think and act with purpose and originality. These are the activities and lessons that you teach, the alchemy of art practice. 

  4. Personal development - the growth of the reflective, thinking artist. This develops and grows over lifetimes, not key stages, but the journey begins here. Educational stages (or years) should regularly check this progress and report back to students on their progress.

In my model, children develop their knowledge & skills in tandem with learning how to creatively express them. In this way, personal development is made and pupils should be fully aware and take ownership of, this development through critical self-evaluation and discussion. 

Pyramid Progression.PNG


Paul Carney Paul is a nationally recognised art & design consultant having delivered specialist art CPD in schools, colleges, galleries, and Universities across the UK and for the UK’s leading training providers. He is a former Council member for the NSEAD, which means he is involved in national art education policy issues.Paul is a published author of two books: Drawing for Science, Invention and Discovery and his latest book Drawing to learn anything. He is also a practicing professional artist and designer. Paul runs his highly successful art website: that provides high quality teaching resources and advice to teachers around the world. He has over twenty years teaching experience at Primary, Secondary and post-16 levels of education, is an Advanced Skills Teacher, ex-Subject Leader for Art and was a member of the DfE Expert Advisory Group for Art and Design. In addition to this he was a member of the NSEAD Curriculum Writing Group that wrote the 'Framework for Progression, Planning for Learning, Assessment, Recording and Reporting 2014.’ 

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