How to plan an Integrated Primary School Art Curriculum

The National Curriculum for Art and Design at Key Stage one and Two does not specify much and leaves it totally up to schools to design their own art curriculum. There are arguments for and against having an integrated Primary Art Curriculum versus a discrete one; but in my experience most schools do want  their Art Curriculum to link with Topic.

More often than not, it is the role of the Art coordinator to use Topic as a starting point for planning art and design schemes of work and it is a task that can prove quite daunting. Understandably, I get many emails asking for help with this – it can be a time-consuming and confusing process planning an art curriculum, especially if art/art history is not your specialist subject area.

How do you take subjects that are as broadly themed as  ‘The Tudors’ or Space Travel’ and find relevant art, artists, techniques and outcomes that are meaningfully linked?How do you do this whilst also mapping progression in skills across the year groups, providing a range of art styles and genres and diverse coverage of artists?

Based on my experience as a Primary Art Consultant, I have attempted to break-down the art and design curriculum planning process that I often go through when planning for schools. I  have included some links that might help you get started creating a meaningful and engaging art curriculum for your primary school.

let me know how you get on!

PART ONE: The Initial Mapping Out

I generally stick to the six schemes of work per year per year group format and I begin with a simple Planning Grid  so I can map out initial information

  • Populate the grid with the pre-existing Topic headings in the correct year/term place

Fig 1

  • Pencil in any obvious or already successful art links ad leave those that are less obvious blank for nowFig 2
  • Add to your grid any immediate thoughts on the skills/materials/outcomes you think would be appropriate for these particular art schemes

Fig 3

  • Next add in any specifics about inspirational art/artists linked to the information already on your grid

Fig 4

  • This is a pivotal moment in your planning – You will be starting to build a picture of how the curriculum could shape up – notice if your curriculum already shows:

Too many male/female artists? Too many schemes that deal with a particular skill or material e.g. painting or drawing? Too much art from a particular place or time?

Faces of art
Image from How To Talk About Art History


This stage of the planning involves lots of erasing and shuffling around of art, artists, skills etc. It can feel like you have lost the plot but trust the process and you’ll get there. I usually print out the planning sheet so far in A3  – then  start to populate with post-it notes so I can easily shift things around.

A)You can proceed by mapping out skills that you know you want to teach:

  • Decide which skills you would like to cover in your school art lessons, I usually suggest starting with a good coverage of: Drawing – Painting – Collage – 3D – Printing with Computing – Textile – Multi-media a consideration also.
  • In order to see progression in particular skill areas they need to be revisited and built upon – across the whole school experience, year 1 – year 6. For example, you might decide to have a painting and drawing scheme for every year group in every year i.e. two out of six of the schemes for each year would be drawing and painting based.
  • Many schemes of work will inevitably include drawing as an element of the design/planning stage. However, some schemes will be more outcome focused, maybe for display purposes or to provide a collaborative experience – therefore these schemes may not include a skill that you think requires revisiting/progression e.g. making a large woven textile hanging as a one-off project

B)You can also proceed by researching art/artists that link to your pre-existing Topic themes. Whilst remaining conscious of where and when the art is from as well as including art and artists from ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds. I like to have at least one ‘key artwork’ that the children analyse and discuss, this is what I call being art detectives.

The National Gallery provides a list of BAME artists.

Some interesting articles on a-n specifically about BAME artists.

Google Arts & Culture is a fantastic resource and allows you to search via various categories.

Artsy is another site with excellent opportunities for searching according to a huge range of subject matters.

Art UK allows you to search via topic too.

Khan Academy has wonderful resources for better understanding art and art history topics

Most major art galleries have a good online search system, such as MOMA and Tate 

PART THREE: Refine the individual SoW

Now look at each scheme and map out what the specific outcomes and processes will be – is there a chance for children to experiment and explore a technique as well as producing a final piece or outcome. This is where you can start to pay attention to progression in the skill areas – so where you revisit painting or drawing, for example, how are you building on prior learning?


Who Am I?


Drawing – Charcoal

Related image

Alberto Giacometti 

Children look at and discuss the work of Giacometti

In Sketchbooks: Children experiment with mark-making, they explore ways of drawing individual features of the face, using contour marks like Giacometti.

Outcome: Children use mirrors to observe themselves and make a large final piece of a self-portrait out of charcoal



Have you provided opportunities for children to use their own ideas, research and experiences to create art i.e. copying a Tudor portrait using the grid method does teach a skill but does not provide opportunities for self-expression or design. It is fine to include  skills-based schemes like this but they should be offset with some schemes that require the children to design, research and plan for themselves too.

Let me know how you get on by contacting me or posting to The Primary Art Class FB page

Get in touch if you would like more info on INSETS or consultancy for your school.

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