Art for Art’s Sake

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the expression of imagination and creative skill is fundamental to human experience. Most if not all of us have artistic skills that can be honed and developed over time, and the place of art on the national curriculum is testament to our commitment as a society to the importance of art (and the arts?) in our lives. Or it would be, if we committed to giving art time, and to properly funding art education and professional learning for teachers of art.

Like many other wider curriculum subjects, art is struggling for its share of limited resources and this is having a knock-on effect on what teachers can access in terms of ongoing development of their art teaching.

The NSEAD (National Society for Education in Art and Design) Survey Report from 2015-16 asked the question, “In the last five years how has government policy impacted on art, craft and design education?” Responses to the survey reveal a concerning picture that, according to NSEAD, risks “jeopardising and limiting the UK as a creative and competitive force in a global market.”

Curriculum provision

When it comes to curriculum provision in art and design across all key stages, up to 44% of teacher responses to the NSEAD survey indicated that time for art and design had decreased over the previous five years. Perhaps unsurprisingly, access to CPD in art and design is currently limited with 55% of primary subject coordinators rarely or never attending subject specific CPD. Naturally, the reduced profile (and perceived value?) of the subject is having an impact on the wellbeing of teachers and is contributing to some wanting to leave the profession. It’s not a pretty picture.


Without sufficient funding for professional learning, some schools are finding creative solutions before too much damage is done. An art teacher from Sussex told me that her experience of CPD in art has been varied. “The best CPD or the experiences that stand out are when I became a lead verifier for the BTEC Art and Design Levels 1,2,3. We were offered lots of meet ups and visits. I also think that the most useful CPD sessions are when art teachers organise them. This doesn’t happen as much in state schools but independent schools join organisations like IAPS (Independent Association of Prep Schools) and ISA (Independent Schools Association) and have area representatives who arrange get-togethers. I arranged one last month and it was good for me and my school because I had to hold two training sessions and even though I knew my stuff, I found myself looking things up and thinking about how this would help other teachers.

“The two sessions were on Adobe Photoshop for small groups and textile art. My colleague did a DT session. The whole experience was so positive and just talking about how everybody teaches art in the classroom was brilliant. The end discussion lead to a further meeting and a competition being set up. I have been wanting a printing press for ages and was able to get a recommendation of which one works best in the room I had and when it arrives one of the teachers has promised a training session at her school.”

As with most subjects, it’s not necessary to throw large sums of money at art CPD but it is vital to allow teachers the time to learn from each other and experts in their locality (and nationally and internationally too where possible).


As a result of their Survey Report from 2015-16, NSEAD asked the Department for Education, parents, head teachers and school governors, Ofsted, Creative Industries Federation and creative industry leaders, the Local Government Association, Arts Council England and higher education institutions to help address the impact of policies on art and design by supporting and acting on some key recommendations, including:

– “Schools should review the time allocated for the teaching and learning of art and design within the curriculum, adjusting the mechanisms and barriers that deplete time resulting in damage to standards in art and design, in primary schools and through carousel systems, shorter lessons and compressed key stage 3.
– “Parents should, through membership of parent teacher associations and as parent governors, hold the governance and management of the school accountable for the appropriate time, resources, facilities and value given to art and design on the curriculum and in the professional development of its teachers and support staff
– “The Department for Education should decline from stating or inferring that higher education and career opportunities will be limited by examination study in art and design, thus misrepresenting the subject to parents and young people.”

Want to boost your art teaching?

As well as the suggestions above from the NSEAD, these ideas may help:

NSEAD CPD courses
AccessArt is a UK charity which promotes and supports teaching and learning in the visual arts (primarily in the Cambridge area but UK-wide when resources allow)
University of the Arts London offers CPD courses for those who teach creative subjects at secondary and FE levels
Creative Education runs a range of art training courses
– The National Portrait Gallery runs CPD programmes and practical workshops

Don’t forget twitter for linking up with other teachers of art.


Author: Elizabeth Holmes

Elizabeth holmes photo

After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.


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