How do you assess Primary Art and design?

Assessing children’s work and efforts in Art and design can be tricky. Read our tried and tested assessment techniques from Art and Design specialist Susan Coles to answer the question; how do you assess Primary Art and design?

There are a few reasons for assessing in Primary Art, namely:

  • Assessment lets teachers see what progress a learner is making and provides them with information that helps them to plan how to help pupils make further progress.
  • Assessment enables schools to report information to parents/carers.
  • Assessment helps schools to set targets for the future and to measure their progress.

Many primary art teachers find the notion of assessing children’s work in art difficult. In 2013, the Department for Education removed levels and archived exemplification of standards examples that were being developed as an online tool. This means that there are no national standards for the subject. Your own approach will also probably have to align with your school policy and how you yourself use Assessment for Learning (AFL). Since 2013, schools are required to use their own approaches to formative assessment, to support pupil attainment and progression. The assessment framework should be built into the whole school curriculum. Ofsted’s inspections are informed by whatever pupil tracking data schools choose to keep.

There are two main types of assessment, each of which happens at different points in the learning process:

  • Formative, which happens both before and during the learning process.
  • Summative, which will happen at the end of key segments in a learning cycle or the end of a project in art.

Formative assessment in art occurs throughout the learning process, through dialogue and conversation. Because we value learner’s creative and individual responses in the subject, we should give open-ended feedback and use effective questioning techniques. The Kapow Primary Art and design scheme of work is built around the following areas of assessment:

  • Making skills.
  • Formal elements.
  • Generating ideas.
  • Knowledge of artists.
  • Evaluating.

See the Kapow Primary Art and design long-term plan to see how each unit of lessons develops and uses some or all of these areas of assessment.

Another useful assessment method in the subject is self and peer review, which also builds on the long tradition of the ‘crit’ or ‘critique’ prevalent in the wider world of art education. If learners know objectives and success criteria then they will be able to do this successfully. With younger children, it is likely to be mainly oral but as they go through the school, written annotations will support this. If you yourself are always using the vocabulary and language of a project throughout a project, this will support their learning. Social constructivist theory (Vygotsky, 1978) supports peer assessment because students observe and apply skills they learn from each other. In self assessment, individuals or groups need to reflect on their own work to identify strengths and areas that need improvement and this ‘ownership’ increases motivation. In both peer assessment and self assessment, you, as a teacher, will provide both language and structure, but allow your learners to develop their own ideas about how to improve and develop their work.

Kapow Primary have Art and design assessment materials and quizzes for each of their units which can help you with summative assessment. You can view an example of these for the Year 1 Formal elements of art unit assessment here, as well as knowledge catchers and pupil answer sheets.

Art is not the same as other subjects. It does not always have a flight path or a linear path, because we need to value creativity and individuality. Progress can be demonstrated strongly through the use of sketchbooks in primary schools to record ideas, reflections, critical analysis of artists and development of technical skills. Each child is unique and each sketchbook should be unique, as this enables learners to develop their independence and creativity. Pick up a book, flick through it and you will be able to see ideas developing, skills improving, knowledge being recorded, critical thinking about artworks and the purpose of a project.

A school I have worked with uses the Kapow Primary units and have developed these really useful progression of skills documents. Thank you to Worthinghead Primary School. You will also find the Kapow Primary Art and design progression of skills document helpful.

My final tip is to find some time in the school year where teachers share a sample of artwork (books and final outcomes) and put them into an order which might, for example, show art that is working towards, working at, working beyond (or whatever system your school uses). Then photograph these and put them onto the shared drive with some comments. Then you can produce your own exemplification of standards, from within your own cohort, which all staff can refer to. Kapow Primary lesson plans all include descriptors for these:

  • Pupils with secure understanding.
  • Pupils need extra support.
  • Pupils work at greater depth.

I highly recommend the Kapow Primary assessment guidance materials because they have been developed from robust research and pedagogy knowledge.


  • Teaching Primary Art and Design: Emily Gopaul
  • Teaching Primary Art and Design: Susan Ogier
  • Art in the Primary School: Creating Art in the Real and Digital World: Jean Edwards (Author), Helen Caldwell (Author), Rebecca Heaton (Author)

Get access to Kapow Primary's Art and design lessons for free today!

Susan Coles selfie
Written by:
Susan Coles

Susan is an educator, artist and an active advocate and well-known champion of art craft and design education. Her roles include: Secretary to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Art, Craft, Design Education, Past President, and now Honorary Fellow of the National Society for Education in Art & Design (NSEAD), World Councillor (representing Europe) for the International Society of Education through Art (InSEA), and an Associate of the Big Draw. When Susan isn’t sharing her passion for the arts, she loves photography, making her own art, absorbing culture and travel.

Susan designed our free lesson on Clacton Pigeon Mural by Banksy as well as many others in our Art & Design subject.

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