Design in the art and design curriculum

Each Region within the UK has a separate curriculum and arrangements For Design within art and design varies to some extent, defined within their guidance documents. 

Design in the National Curriculum for England (Key stage 1-2)

Design in the National Curriculum for England (Key stage 3)

The National Curriculum subject of Art and Design embodies Art, Craft and Design. There is no specified expectation as to how much variation in emphasis might be given to each of these aspects. The holistic nature of the subject means that students planning a fine art outcome will be ‘designing’ as part of their planning. The actions of investigating, recording, experimenting, visualising, multi-viewpoint transformations, annotating, scaling, modifying and improving ideas, are all characteristics of a design process. Similarly, there is no prescribed process, specifically for 'designing' within our subject (examples of design process models can be seen on the Design Process page)

NSEAD's parallel national curriculum can be viewed here.

Design at Key Stage 4 (ages 14-16)

  • At key stage 4, the emphasis on design increases. Endorsed GCSE specifications such as Three-dimensional Design, Graphic Communications and Textiles Design place a significantly higher premium on the characteristics of design. Although these specifications  share the same Assessment Objectives and do not infer different approaches to the creative processes, design is assumed as implicit in more tactile, 3-D, craft or ‘design brief’ initiated approaches to creative development.
  • Despite the majority of secondary schools choosing to offer unendorsed Art and Design, Fine Art, or Photography, all art and design specifications have an expectation for designing approaches, even when the language of assessment might not always describe this as ‘design’.  In fact, Assessment Objectives AO1-AO3 set out design-based expectations of evidence of design development through investigation applying critical understanding, selecting, recording, refining, experimenting with media, techniques and process towards a personal intention. These do not impose a specific design process or set of design stages, but rather leave this to the individual in order to promote maximum creative flexibility. This is essential to the philosophy of our subject, but contrasts with some approaches expected within D&T for example.


Design in the Curriculum for Wales

  • Design within the curriculum for Wales has many similarities with the English curriculum in that the subject holistically addresses art, craft and design, through their creative development in the Foundation Stage, at Key Stages 2 and 3.
  • The programmes of study set out how pupils engage in integrated activities that promote understanding, investigating and making, to improve their skills and in order to enrich and inform their making.
  • The curriculum for wales retains Level statements as a means to inform assessment. These level descriptions describe the types and range of performance that pupils working at a particular level should characteristically demonstrate.
  • Learners aged 11–19 receive opportunities to develop their awareness of careers and the world of work and how their studies contribute to their readiness for a working life. For 14–19 learners, this is a part of their Learning Core entitlement and is a requirement at Key Stage 4. In art and design, learners develop their awareness of careers and the world of work through their understanding of methods used by designers, but also by practising artists and craftworkers.


Design in the curriculum for Scotland

  • The Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland, takes pupils from Nursery to Primary 7 and from S1 - S6 at secondary school.  Experiences in the expressive arts involve creating and presenting and are practical and experiential. Evaluating and appreciating are used to enhance enjoyment and develop knowledge and understanding.
  • Learning in, through and about the expressive arts contains a curriculum for art and design, where learners have rich opportunities to be creative and to experience inspiration and enjoyment. They explore a wide range of two- and three-dimensional media and technologies through practical activities, and create, express, and communicate ideas. Their studies of the works of artists and designers enhance their enjoyment and deepen their knowledge and understanding
  • From National 2, pupils are able to specialise in Design within Art and Design. The Art and Design (Design) Course provides opportunities for learners to develop their creativity and apply their understanding of design practice, function and aesthetics. This is slightly different to the options in either Art and Design or Art and Design (Expressive), which still feature a holistic view of art and design as overlapping processes.
  • From National 3, pupils have the opportunity to experience design activity as a stand-alone unit. To gain a course award in Art and Design, this must go hand in hand with an expressive activity. At Advanced Higher a course award can be gained in either design or expressive with associated contextual analysis of other artists /designers’work.
  • Other opportunities for candidates to experience design exist across the wide portfolio of courses offered by SQA including the National Progression Awards in Art and Design, and Visual Communication. Candidates following this route can progress to NC level and beyond having had the opportunity to select from a wide range of design areas. 


Design in the Curriculum for Northern Ireland 

Design within the curriculum for Northern Ireland is set out within the provision for the arts. This suggests that: Visual education should be planned to allow for the different ways pupils think, learn and develop.

The art and design curriculum shares some characteristics with England and Wales, in that design is not taught as a separate strand, but is embedded within key stage specific media activities that engage with design processes that encourage pupils to:

  • respond to the world around them;
  • respond to their individual feelings and emotions;
  • develop and use their imagination;
  • express their ideas, thoughts and feelings;
  • solve problems; and
  • become more aesthetically aware.

Key stages 1-3  Activities include a requirement for the study of ICT in art and design, providing opportunities for young people to gain understanding, skills and experience in exploring how designers use ICT as a means of creating design outcomes, but also to use digital technologies to create their own work. At GCSE, students learn how to use different media and technologies to realise their intentions and develop their understanding of the creative and cultural industries.