Departmental approach to the curriculum

The overriding aim of the art and design department is to equip students with the necessary skills and tools to be able to express themselves creatively. We have the highest expectations of our students and hope to instil in them a high level of aspiration and determination coupled with an enjoyment of art and design. We foster an inquisitive approach and encourage independent learning.

It is our aim for each individual to strive to achieve their best as they explore, develop and refine new skills, ideas and experiences. Resourcefulness is promoted by encouraging students to work independently, developing practical skills, planning their own projects and problem solving as they go along. The department adopts a child-centred approach which focuses on personalised learning and feedback.

The Art block is a visually stimulating and dynamic environment where students experience a broad and varied curriculum. There are three large specialist art studios, an A Level study area and a smaller ceramics room including a kiln. The department also has facilities and equipment for ceramics, textiles, batik and printmaking including two printing presses. We are pleased to have an art shop offering a variety of art materials and equipment which GCSE and A level students can purchase at affordable rates.

The art department at Rickmansworth has consistently delivered superb results at all levels and continues to strive for excellence within each year group. We like to share the success of our students and regularly display work around the school, in the Headteacher's weekly newsletter and on our social media channels.

The department is supported by an excellent technician who assists with the needs of staff and students.


Year 7

In Years 7, 8 and 9 students complete a series of projects each year. Each project has a different theme and relevant artists and designers are used to inspire students to create their own personal responses. A wide range of working practices are covered including drawing, painting, printmaking, collage, sculpture, ceramics and digital art. There is an emphasis on drawing throughout the course as this provides the foundations for all creative art activities.

In Year 7 students work on the following projects:

Natural Forms

The main focus of this project is to introduce students to the formal elements. They develop skills in line drawing, tonal shading and watercolour painting using layering and blending techniques. Students take inspiration from natural forms such as shells, conkers and leaves and research the importance of the formal elements in Art.


In this project students learn about the key characteristics of the Impressionist art movement and research the work of Claude Monet. Students develop their watercolour painting skills by creating an artist copy of one of Monet's landscape paintings, focusing on colour mixing, mark making and brushstrokes.

Design and Printmaking

The main focus of this project is to introduce students to the processes of design and print making. Students explore the work of British ceramicist William de Morgan and in particular his tile designs. Taking inspiration from natural forms, students design their own repeat pattern and learn how to create a successful press print.

Year 8

In Year 8 students work on the following projects:


The main focus of this project is to build on students’ drawing and painting skills which were introduced in Year 7. Students learn about the Fauvism art movement and explore the work of artists including Henri Matisse and Andre Derain. Using acrylic paint, students practice colour mixing and paint application, before applying these techniques to create an artist copy of a Fauve portrait. Formal analysis and informal discussion of the Fauvists further student knowledge of historical contexts but also allow for applying ideas about colour theory and symbolism to students own responses, as they create their own Fauve style self portrait. Students also work in pencil to draw individual facial features and create a photo-realistic self-portrait, taking inspiration from American artist Chuck Close.


The main focus of this project is to build on students’ drawing skills and introduce them to other media and techniques, such as collage, pen and wash and oil pastel transfer printmaking. Students look at the work of contemporary Chinese artist Qui Zhijie to produce an artist copy of his 'Potrait of Mao'. Students then create their own human/animal hybrid response focussing on contrast, detail and texture. Formal analysis and informal discussion of hybrids further students' knowledge of historical contexts.

Year 9

In Year 9 students work on the following projects:


In this project, students build on existing observational drawing skills using the formal elements (line, tone and form) and are encouraged to take risks by experimenting with a range of media. Students learn about American artist Jim Dine and in particular his lithograph prints 'Ten Winter Tools', 1973. Working in pencil, students create an artist copy and response to Dine's work before exploring negative space in art and mark-making using fine-liner pen, acrylic paint and watercolour paint. In addition, students will have the opportunity to develop their printmaking skills by creating a mono-chrome press print of a man-made tool of their choice, working from their own drawing and preliminary design.


The main focus of this project is to introduce students to the Surrealist art movement and the juxtaposition, dislocation and transformation key to artists' work. Students explore and research the work of Belgian artist Rene Magritte whose work often depicts ordinary objects in an unusual context, challenging observers' perceptions of reality. Students develop their drawing and painting skills by creating an artist copy of a painting by Magritte using acrylics and then their own 'surreal' response using computer software.

Year 10 and 11

GCSE in Art and Design (Fine Art)

We follow the AQA syllabus for Art & Design: Fine Art GCSE. This is a broad-based course which aims to improve skills and knowledge and offers opportunities to explore a wide range of art disciplines including drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, mixed media and ceramics / sculpture. The AQA course is comprised of two components, Component 1:Portfolio and Component 2: Externally Set Assignment.


Component 1:Portfolio

Overview of content

  • You will complete a number of projects set by the school for the personal portfolio. At least one of these projects must show a sustained journey from early ideas, through experimentation with media, to a final personal response.

  • Each project will have a different theme but they may be linked

  • You must include preparatory work  (in your sketchbook) and personal responses (final pieces)

  • You must show evidence of working in one or more disciplines e.g.  Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Photography, Sculpture, Mixed Media

  • You must show evidence of some drawing and have written annotation.


Overview of assessment

  • Internally set, marked, standardised & externally moderated

  • Total number of marks is 96 (24 marks for each of the four Assessment Objectives)

  • Your work must show evidence of all four Assessment Objectives


Component 2: Externally Set Assignment

Overview of content

  • The externally set assignment (ESA) represents the culmination of the GCSE course

  • The assignment consists of seven broad starting points provided by AQA. You will choose one.

  • The ESA will be issued during January of Year 11

  • You must include preparatory work and a personal response(s).

  • You will have about 8-10 weeks to plan and produce your preparatory work

  • There will be a 10 hour exam (supervised time) for you to produce a personal response. You will not be allowed to add to your preparatory work, in any way, once the supervised time has begun.


Overview of assessment

  • Externally set, internally marked and standardised & externally moderated

  • Total number of marks is 96 (24 marks for each of the four Assessment Objectives)

  • Your work must show evidence of all four Assessment Objectives and it must include drawing and written annotation.


Students enjoy working in sketchbooks to research artists, develop and refine ideas and skills before producing exciting and personal responses as final pieces of work. Students work on the following projects at KS4. 

Year 10 Project Themes: Natural Forms and Portraiture 

Year 11 Project Themes: Beginning and/or End and an Externally Set Assignment 


Assessment Objectives

  • AO1: Develop ideas through investigations, demonstrating critical understanding of sources.

  • AO2: Refine work by exploring ideas, selecting and experimenting with appropriate media, materials, techniques and processes.

  • AO3: Record ideas, observations and insights relevant to intentions as work progresses.

  • AO4: Present a personal and meaningful response that realises intentions and demonstrates understanding of visual language.

Year 12 and 13


Year 12 and 13

We follow the AQA syllabus for Art & Design: Fine Art Advanced GCE. This is a broad-based course which aims to build upon and extend skills and knowledge acquired at GCSE level. Pupils have opportunities to work in a range of art disciplines. The course is comprised of two components, Component 1:Portfolio and Component 2: Externally Set Assignment.

In Component 1, students develop work based on an idea, issue, concept or theme leading to a finished outcome or a series of related finished outcomes. Practical elements should make connections with some aspect of contemporary or past practice of artist(s), designer(s), photographers or craftspeople and include written work of no less than 1000 and no more than 3000 words which supports the practical work.

 In Component 2, students respond to a stimulus, provided by AQA, to produce work which provides evidence of their ability to work independently within specified time constraints, developing a personal and meaningful response which addresses all the assessment objectives and leads to a finished outcome or a series of related finished outcomes.

Courses based on these specifications should encourage students to develop: 

• intellectual, imaginative, creative and intuitive capabilities

• investigative, analytical, experimental, practical, technical and expressive skills, aesthetic understanding and critical judgement 

• independence of mind in developing, refining and communicating their own ideas, their own intentions and their own personal outcomes 

• an interest in, enthusiasm for and enjoyment of art, craft and design 

• the experience of working with a broad range of media 

• an understanding of the interrelationships between art, craft and design processes and an awareness of the contexts in which they operate 

• knowledge and experience of real-world contexts and, where appropriate, links to the creative industries • knowledge and understanding of art, craft, design and media and technologies in contemporary and past societies and cultures • an awareness of different roles, functions, audiences and consumers of art, craft and design.

Assessment Objectives

AO1: Develop ideas through sustained and focused investigations informed by contextual and other sources, demonstrating analytical and critical understanding

AO2: Explore and select appropriate resources, media, materials, techniques and processes, reviewing and refining ideas as work develops

AO3: Record ideas, observations and insights relevant to intentions, reflecting critically on work and progress

AO4: Present a personal and meaningful response that realises intentions and, where appropriate, makes connections between visual and other elements

Long Term Curriculum Overviews

'The Big Picture' Curriculum Map

'The Big Picture' Curriculum Map

This document will provide a visual overview of the department's curriculum from Key Stages 3 to 5. This is in a student-friendly format to support them in their understanding the of the department's curriculum. 

Big Picture Curriculum Map - Art


Department Assessment Matrix

This document will provide an overview for assessment for Key Stages 3, 4 and 5.

Assessment Matrix - Art


Key Stage 3 Judgement Descriptors

These documents give you an overview of the criteria for Emerging, Developing, Secure and Mastery judgements at KS3 for this subject.

KS3 Judgement Descriptors - Art - Year 7

KS3 Judgement Descriptors - Art - Year 8

KS3 Judgement Descriptors - Art - Year 9

Home Learning

The Art Department sets home learning at Key Stage 3, which complements and feeds into the classroom scheme for learning. For example, this might be to research the definitions of key terms, write about an art movement, artist or painting, or to find/take a photograph which they can draw from in class. Home learning is set once every half term at KS3.

In Key Stage 4 and 5, home learning is tailored towards the components of the examination specification. Home learning tasks may include artist research, photoshoots, drawing and painting, and mounting work in students’ sketchbooks. The frequency of home learning will increase at Key Stage 4 and 5 and represent work for students’ examined assessments.

How can you help your child succeed in art?

Students might like to visit some of these places to further their understanding. Most of these are free to attend.

Tate Modern/Tate Britain ?  

National Portrait Gallery? 

National Gallery  ? 

Saatchi Gallery? 

Royal Academy of Arts? 

White Cube? 

Helpful websites and further information

KS3 - National Curriculum framework for Art & Design

KS4 - Specifications for GCSE Art and Design (Fine Art)

KS5 - Specifications for A level Art and Design (Fine Art)


Careers in Art



Fine arts UK poster