Sir Graham Balfour School

A member of the Sir Graham Balfour Multi-Academy Trust

Art & Design

Subject overview

Our beautiful, light and airy art rooms are home to the Art and Design department. A lively, creative hub where pupils have the opportunity to develop their skills, express their creative ideas and explore a wide range of materials and techniques. Learning through and about the arts enriches the experience of studying whilst at school in addition to preparing students for life after school. Studying art helps students to develop critical thinking and the ability to interpret the world around us.

Pupils’ artwork takes pride of place within the school and wider community; creative achievements are also celebrated at our annual celebration evenings.


Exam Specification –AQA Fine Art

At Key Stage 5 all students follow the AQA Fine Art syllabus for Art and Design. A level students are introduced to a variety of experiences employing a range of media, processes and techniques appropriate to the chosen area of study. The units are designed to develop their interest of and enjoyment in, the study of art and develop personal responses to ideas, observations, experiences, environments and cultures from their own strengths and interests within the remit of the specification.

Component 1 – Personal Investigation

This is a practical investigation supported by written material.

Students are required to conduct a practical investigation, into an idea, issue, concept or theme, supported by written material. The focus of the investigation must be identified independently by the student and must lead to a finished outcome or a series of related finished outcomes.

Component 2 – Externally set assignment

Separate question papers will be provided for each title. Each question paper will consist of a choice of eight questions to be used as starting points. Students are required to select one. Students will be provided with examination papers on 1 February, or as soon as possible after that date. Following the preparatory period, students must complete 15 hours of unaided, supervised time.


Exam specification – AQA Fine Art

At Key Stage 4 all students follow the AQA Art and Design syllabus. The GCSE course includes three coursework projects over two years and a final exam project. The coursework is worth 60% and the exam 40% of the final mark. Students base their projects around two of the three major themes, and they are taught to manage time and visual evidence to best effect. GCSE students are expected to spend at least two hours every week on coursework; some of this is research evidence gathered for projects, some is analytical drawing and some is creative development.

The aim of this course is to encourage students to:

  • Develop as effective and independent learners and as critical and reflective thinkers with enquiring minds.
  • Develop creative skills, through learning to use imagination and intuition when exploring and creating images and artefacts. Become confident in taking risks when exploring and experimenting with ideas, materials, tools and techniques.
  • Develop competence, with increasing independence, in refining and developing ideas and proposals, and personal outcomes or solutions.
  • Develop skills in a broad range of media, materials and techniques including, traditional and new media and technologies.
  • Develop cultural knowledge, understanding and application of art, craft, design, media and technologies in historical and contemporary contexts, societies and cultures.
  • Develop personal attributes including self-confidence, resilience, perseverance, self-discipline and commitment.

Component 1 - Coursework Portfolio

  • 60% of the total GCSE grade
  • Candidates produce a portfolio of work developed from personal and/or centre-devised starting points. The focus is on including work that shows exploration, research, acquisition of techniques and skills.

Component 2 -  Externally Set Task

  • 40% of the total GCSE grade
  • Candidates select one question from an early release question paper to which they produce a personal response. Candidates will be given a period of time in which to plan, prepare and create a body of work based on their chosen theme. Candidates will then be given ten hours of controlled time work on a personal response based on their research and preparation.

Year 9

Students in Year 9 have one lesson of Art per week enabling them to really embed the key skills learned throughout Year 7 and 8. They begin the year with our popular observational drawing unit based on portraiture. Students are introduced to the work of both Vince Low and Modigliani and create their own celebrity portraits based on one of these styles. This focuses on the key skills required to ensure a smooth transition to GCSE Fine Art. Students research and present their work in their own original way and learn the skills needed for GCSE Art. Painting skills are built upon during our Impressionism unit and students are able to create a group piece inspired by Monet.

All students in Years 7, 8 and 9 have the opportunity to study Art in extra-curricular time; we run art clubs for all students three lunch times a week, giving students a chance to work in smaller groups on intensive projects our most recent being the creation of a display board for the Maths corridor.

Year 8

In Year 8 we build upon the key observational drawing techniques and introduce students to abstract art. Students research Kandinsky and Hundertwasser’s use of colour and pattern and are encouraged to use their ideas as a starting point for developing their own final pieces. Students further develop their skills in pencil shading and pencil crayon blending and the medium watercolour is introduced. In the latter part of the term students are encouraged to experiment with a variety of media. Three dimensional work is introduced in the latter part of the term and students are encouraged to experiment with a variety of media in their analytical drawings based on bugs. This culminates with the creation of wire bugs.

Year 7

In Year 7 pupils work on a carousel and experience one term of Art over the year. Our schemes of work are designed to introduce students to the basic visual elements of Art alongside the skills required to produce good quality drawings. Students cover three projects over the term they have in Art. They are introduced to the observational drawing skills, visual elements and study the work of artist Doris Gingingara. Different cultures are explored this year and we study aboriginal art culminating in the creation of an aboriginal inspired ink painting.



Sir Graham Balfour School
North Avenue
ST16 1NR

For Sat Nav directions:

ST16 1NJ


01785 223490