The Perse School

Art and design

Students experience the significance of creativity as a means of exploring innovative and original ideas

Our aim

We encourage students to take risks and to learn from their mistakes. We nurture a deep engagement in the learning process that requires students to take ownership of their work, invest in it and extend themselves.

Studying art and design at A level develops and broaden students’ practical skills and creative language. Students learn to reflect purposefully on what they have created and to understand how their work relates to the broader world of art and design through independent research, gallery visits, group discussion and written critical analysis.

Upper Sixth students have a dedicated art studio where they each have individual spaces and can safely leave the projects that they are working on. This art room is open early in the mornings, over break and lunchtimes and in the evenings until 5.45pm.

Learning journey - Lower Sixth

Students follow the reformed two year linear A level course. Assessment of knowledge, skills and understanding of the whole course takes place at the end of two years of study.

In the Lower Sixth students refine their practical skills by investigating the process artists go through. Students develop their ideas around the broad theme of ‘the body’. They develop skills in oil painting, life drawing, etching, silkscreen and various 3D techniques. Students will begin to identify where their strengths in visual communication lie.

Work done in the Lower Sixth can contribute to the Personal Investigation which is assessed at the end of Upper Sixth.

Students also undertake contextual research in the form of a written related study with a guided minimum of 1,000 words. The aim is to enable students to develop their ability to communicate their knowledge and understanding of art historical movements, genres, practitioners and artworks.


Learning journey - Upper Sixth

The Upper Sixth course has two units and continues on from the Lower Sixth course.

Personal Investigation (60% of the A level mark)

This portfolio will consist of a sustained project, theme or course of study. It is presented in appropriate formats for the specialism and area of study chosen using, for example, mounted sheets, maquettes, prototypes, or illustrated written work.

Controlled Assignment (40% of the A level mark)

Students are given an early release exam paper with around 15 starting points. After choosing one starting point students then work independently for six weeks developing, experimenting and refining their ideas under the advice of their teachers. At the end of this period they undertake a fifteen hour exam where they make their planned artwork.

At A level the year concludes with an exhibition, where all students present their work to celebrate their achievements.

Providing stretch

One of the highlights of the Lower Sixth year is the residential trip to Yorkshire, where students experience some of the UK’s most influential artists’ work firsthand. They visit the celebrated Yorkshire Sculpture Park, enjoy the contemporary exhibitions of The Hepworth, explore Leeds City Art Gallery – including the Grayson Perry tapestries – and discover David Hockney’s work at Salts Mill.

Recent trips for the Upper Sixth have included a visit to the New Designers exhibition in London’s Business Design Centre, Islington, where students saw the degree shows of the nation’s recent graduates.

Students have attended The Creative Process, a one day study day for A level art students at the University of London Institute of Education London, where they met Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller, sculptor and installation artist Cornelia Parker OBE RA, painter Jock McFadyen RA and master shoemaker James Ducker.

We encourage wide reading to stimulate intellectual curiosity and develop new interests, understanding and skills. Art and design students are encouraged to consider delving into Ways of Seeing by John Berger, The Story of Art by EH Gombrich, Hall’s Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art and A World History of Art by Hugh Honour and John Fleming.

Beyond the classroom

The Art Department runs several societies and competitions, giving students many opportunities to create art, or to discuss the creative arts.

We run a dedicated sixth form Life Drawing Society. Students meet weekly after school to learn the academic method of figure drawing, focusing on tone, perspective and proportion.

Our sixth form community artists have forged strong links with Christel House School, Bangalore. They have taken part in a sketchbook exchange with Christel House pupils and undertaken charity fundraising projects, making craft items or cards, etchings, cushion covers and handmade bobble hats, to sell at the Christmas Fair.

Students can view up and coming competitions on our News Board. We enter pupils into various national competitions, including The Saatchi Schools Award, The Cambridge Drawing Society Exhibition and The Mall Galleries Student Exhibition. We encourage our pupils to enter the national ARTiculate competition, where pupils compete in giving an informed speech about a piece of art that they feel passionate about.

We recommend students keep abreast of developments in the world of art. As well as visiting exhibitions regularly students are encouraged to read monthly magazines. These include Modern Painters, Printmakers Magazine, Craft magazine and Blueprint.

Art at university

Post A level, students decide either to embark on the foundation art route or apply directly to degree level. Studying at foundation provides students with a transitional experience, introducing them to various pathways and allowing them to make an informed decision about what to study at degree level.

We offer mock interviews for prospective architecture, art history and foundation pupils, support with writing relevant personal statements and portfolio reviews before interview.

Every year our students make successful applications to art-related courses such as architecture, art history, fashion, foundation art or graphic design. In the past five years Perse students have gained places at the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, Bath University, Newcastle University, UCL, Central St Martins College of Art and London College of Fashion, among others.

After graduating from an art and design course at a UK university, students will have a huge range of employment opportunities: architect, art historian , lecturer, graphic designer, interior designer, website designer, set designer, curator, computer graphics, fashion designer, textile designer, special effects and animator.


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