Top tips for new Art and design subject leaders

This is a blog post written by Art and design specialist, Susan Coles.

When you are the Art and design lead in a school you have a range of responsibilities. Before we get to that though, how did you get there? Is it an established role? Are you new to the role? Did you volunteer? Did you just get told it was your role? Are you balancing it with other responsibilities as well as being a class teacher? Are you a specialist teacher who only teaches Art? Are you a “Jack of all trades”? No doubt there are other questions but these will help you to understand how any advice has to be generic and interpreted by you to allow for this differentiation. 

You lead Art and craft and design, so what do you need to know?

Firstly, you can download and read this fairly short guide, which should also be shared with your governors. You can also access the Kapow Primary Art and design subject leader toolkit – which has invaluable resources for new and existing Art subject leaders.

If you are already established as an Art subject leader, it’s important to stay up to date, so you could visit the website of NSEAD for example, or find out if there are regional networks near you. If you are new to the role, read as much as you can and access all the subject leader resources available online with Kapow Primary, remember these are added to and updated regularly including: 


Sign up for and attend teacher professional development courses, through your school or local authority setting, through well-respected facilitators and through Kapow Primary’s teacher videos and webinar events.

Facebook also has an Art subject leader group where sharing of good practice takes place, although quality assurance cannot always be guaranteed. That applies also to Pinterest, because it rarely explains context or process.


Here are some of the things you would usually be expected to do as an Art and design subject leader:

  • Monitor pupils’ work across the school
  • Monitor planning including long, medium and short-term planning
  • Monitor the teaching of the subject, perhaps through work scrutinies or informal lesson observations.
  • Monitor tracking of progress and assessment and also try to build in moderation opportunities
  • Support staff by discovering their CPD needs and responding appropriately
  • Create an Art and design policy

 Your responsibility also includes writing a statement of intent and how it is implemented and what the impact is, and making sure you are prepared for OFSTED and a possible deep dive. Kapow Primary have excellent supporting documentation for this.

Every school needs to make a decision about when Art is taught and an hour a week would be my minimum. Every school needs to resource the subject properly and value it as part of a broad balanced curriculum model.

Make a decision about whether or not lessons in Art, craft, and design are discrete or topic related. It’s always useful to look at transferable skills and knowledge but be aware that you are not there to service other subjects, so drawing Viking helmets as a filler isn’t really on. Art is a discrete set of skills and a subject in its own right.

Leading a subject means that you should inspire other staff and build up their confidence. You should share your enthusiasm and skills and support each other in collaboration. One of the best ways to monitor how things are going in other classrooms is through the sketchbook. Every child’s sketchbook should show their own personal creative journey and the way that they have developed their thinking, what they’re doing and then making through Art and design. You can find more information here about how to use sketchbooks in primary schools.


It’s very important that the Art and design subject leader celebrates and shares progression through display, social media platforms like Instagram, or on the school website, so make sure that you encourage your teachers to share and remember yourself to take photographs, not just the final outcomes but of that very important creative process of art that leads to that.


You will also be in charge of art supplies and resources. You might prefer to use art trolleys or you might have an art cupboard for teachers to peruse, or you might give a set of resources to each teacher. This can be a very difficult thing to do so working out systems for checking in and checking out resources will help you, and being very honest with staff about how important it is to look after equipment is part of your role. There will only be a finite number of resources to go round each year, so make sure that other teachers understand the limits, and the importance of sharing.


Art is a lovely subject to lead because it encourages individual expression and for many children, it is a contrast to their experiences in other subjects where the curriculum is more prescriptive. There is autonomy within the Art curriculum which allows flexible approaches and even ‘one offs’. Getting involved in initiatives like Artsmark, The Big Draw and National Doodle Day (to name a few) is a great idea, and all of these are inspiring opportunities which will also raise the profile of the subject within the school community and within the larger community. Enjoy what you do,  use networks to support you, and sign up for the Kapow Primary Art scheme of work if you haven’t already done so. Then you have the framework that you need to design a broad, balanced, contemporary, exciting, engaging Art and design curriculum. Be that shining light for others to see.

Download your free Art and design subject leader toolkit 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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