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Visual Art at Poplars Farm

The Poplars Curriculum: Visual Art  




Since the beginning of human existence, we have given form to our feelings and thoughts and how we experience the world around us. At Poplars Farm, we see the overall purpose of making art is to make sense of things and to give meaning to our existence. When we express ourselves through making art, we create something tangible to look at, hold, reflect on, feel and try to understand in our minds…the eye, the mind, the heart and hand interact and inform each other.

The art process begins in the Early Years and is fundamental to a child’s development, after all mark making comes before the written form. The opportunity to explore and develop visual art skills, such as mark making, using colour, continues throughout the time a child is with us at Poplars Farm. 

We recognise that visual art makes a valuable contribution in developing creativity and in turn, we recognise the value of creativity in promoting self-worth, well-being, social engagement, community identity and cohesion. Moreover, we acknowledge why we need to promote creativity; the importance of creativity and creative thinking has also been emphasised by global business bodies like UNESCO; international educational bodies like PISA, and the OECD. According to The Economic Graph (a digital representation of the global economy based on 590 million LinkedIn members, 50 thousand skills, 30 million companies, 20 million open jobs, and 84 thousand schools) creativity is the second most desirable competency in an employee (after cloud computing)- Edge Foundation, 2018. We need to equip young people with the right skills needed to meet the changing work environment.  

This is why Poplars Farm belongs to a global network of schools for Deep Learning (NPDL), the only school in England at the time of writing, which develops the global competencies (the 6Cs, with creativity being one of them) through the exciting and engaging curriculum.

The curriculum is relevant to our children's needs and is accessible to all. It considers prior learning experiences and builds upon pupils’ knowledge and skills, working from both observation and the imagination. The study of art considers pupils’ own cultural experiences and emphasises how art can be used as a powerful communication tool, a language accessible to all. Art learning supports our pupils’ wellbeing, as the therapeutic qualities of art are recognised by the school. The intent can be summarised in  5 big ideas:


1.    Build a progression of knowledge and skills to master the following media: drawing, painting, printmaking, clay/sculpture, collage/mixed media (year on year)

2.   Explore and develop ideas through the creative cycle- learn skills and gain knowledge/apply/evaluate/improve and through the use of sketchbooks. This process develops transferable skills.

3.   Gain a solid knowledge of the visual elements, relevant to the medium studied (pattern/ texture/ colour/ line /tone/shape/ form/ space.

4.   Enable pupils’ to successfully manipulate the media in order to create and to communicate, using visual art as a mouthpiece and not solely focussed on aesthetics.

5.   Form  a wide knowledge of the work of other artists applying the skills/application of the visual elements studied. To recognise that artists reflect the time and place (and this can help us, for example in other subjects such as history.

The creative cycle-Poplars Farm Curriculum

Gain knowledge 

Apply knowledge to become skilful in creating

The ‘how to’ master different media and manipulate the visual elements

Build knowledge of the work of other artists 

Plan, apply and experiment 

Reflect, evaluate and improve


To ensure high standards of teaching and learning in art and design, we implement a curriculum that is progressive throughout the whole school. One medium (drawing, painting, printmaking, 3D/clay, collage/mixed media) is taught over a half term period and will often be linked to the  half-termly or termly topic whilst focusing on knowledge and skills stated in the National Curriculum. Digital art is incorporated into the computing curriculum. At Poplars Farm Primary, we ensure that visual art is given the same importance as the core subjects, and all children access a broad and diverse curriculum.

The visual art curriculum at Poplars Farm Primary is based upon the 2014 Primary National Curriculum in England, which provides a broad framework and outlines the knowledge and skills taught in each Key Stage in art and design. Teachers plan lessons for their class using the progression of knowledge and skills documents. The progression document ensures the curriculum is covered and the skills/knowledge taught is progressive from year group to year group. The art subject leader has provided links to artists to study to ensure pupils build an extensive knowledge of the work of other artists, from different times and places. The subject leader offers subject surgeries and inhouse CPD.

When teaching visual art, a variety of teaching approaches are used including modelling the use of media. The teacher will embrace the school’s inclusive pedagogies flor deep learning,  which includes the 6Cs of deep learning (global competencies) and will make reference to them when planning.

At Poplars Farm Primary we provide a variety of opportunities for art and design learning inside and outside the classroom. Whole school art events are timetabled throughout the year as part of the Values Calendar. For example, Human Rights Day, International Poplars Farm week. Artwork is exhibited, uniting the school in keeping with the school’s GROW values and celebrating all pupils’ contributions. Extended learning is incorporated into Poplars Farm Curriculum days. Shared art projects and competitions are planned with national and international school partners, such as through the Connecting Classrooms programme. Pupils in Key Stage 2 have the opportunity to further their art experiences through the weekly art club, led by the art subject leader. 

Educational visits are another opportunity for additional art learning outside the classroom. At Poplars Farm Primary, the pupils have the opportunity to experience visual art on educational visits, which include visiting galleries and museums.

Please continue reading the full Visual art K&S progression document here

The Poplars Curriculum, impact and the visual elements 

Within art, we create a supportive and collaborative ethos for learning by providing investigative and inquiry-based learning opportunities, in keeping with the school’s inclusive pedagogies approach (deep learning).  Emphasis is placed on the application of knowledge acquired, with reference to the manipulation of the media and relevant visual elements.

Poplars Farm’s visual art curriculum is high quality, well considered and is planned to demonstrate progression. We focus on progression of knowledge and skills and discreet vocabulary progression also form part of the units of work. We measure the impact of our curriculum through the following methods: 

  • Assessing children’s understanding through regular feedback. The application of the visual elements is the focus for assessment across all media. The visual elements are: •Pattern • Texture • Colour • Line • Tone • Shape • Form • Space.  An observational drawing or painting task would include the majority of these visual elements i.e. a line drawing of a house would incorporate all the above except colour. Visual elements still need  to be considered and form the basis of questioning and reflection, when a task has visual element focus i.e. texture. 

  •  Pupil discussions/interviews about their learning, for example through the use of learning process review sheets 

  •  Images and videos of the children’s practical learning

  • The class floor books 

  • Classroom display

  • Moderation within curriculum teams. For example: use of sketchbooks, development of painting skills

  • Numbers of pupils in Key Stage 2 attending the weekly Art Club

  • Annual reporting to parents

  • Annual reporting of standards across the curriculum, in response to data tracking (OTrack)

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