A level departments

Art & Design

Art allows us to observe, interpret and begin to understand the world as we find it: a world which can appear challenging, unjust or disturbing in one moment, but poetic, moving or beautiful the next.

What we study

Students take the OCR A level in Fine Art. The first term of the course comprises a series of technical workshops in each of our discipline-specific studios. The advanced skills learnt enable students to re-evaluate their strengths and interests in anticipation of an extended personal project, which runs from January to May. In the final half term of the VII, students work collaboratively on an installation project.

In the VIII students take the coursework unit, the Personal Investigation, focusing on a single theme, project and studio for the entire autumn term which culminates in a major work or series of pieces. In January they write a dissertation placing their work and ideas within the context of established artists that have influenced them. The course concludes with an exam project between February and May, where the outcome is created over three days in timed conditions. As with each of the personal projects, the content and subject matter for the project is open for each student to interpret from a list of given starting points.

Beyond the curriculum

The study of art extends far beyond the studios. It is vital that students undertake regular visits to galleries and exhibitions to develop their understanding of the ideas and techniques of other artists. The majority of the visual stimulus for projects will not be found in the studio; Paulinas need to go out into the world and find it! Regular school-organised exhibition visits introduce students to more niche and contemporary art spaces and shows beyond the big galleries such as the Tate and National Gallery. Accompanied by weekly single-period seminars and discussions in the VII, students are given direction on how best to enhance their experience and understanding while visiting a show and what they should be looking for.

Prior to starting the A level, students have the opportunity to spend a week of the summer in Berlin making drawings and photographs for three days. Students can then respond to the ideas fostered in this time when working with a Berlin-based artist in their studio for a further day-and-a-half. In the Senior School there is a trip to the Venice Biennale, and also, if numbers allow, a trip with a more practical, hands-on focus, most recently to St Ives.

Where it might lead

Every year Paulinas begin a foundation year at art schools such Central Saint Martins, City and Guilds or Camberwell. Some then take a specialised art or design degree, whilst others return to an unrelated university subject. There are numerous design careers beyond fine art, from theatre to fashion to product design to architecture, whilst the creativity and imagination necessary for art A level will prove advantageous in careers such as advertising and marketing. Finally, many students select art as a creative counterpoint to their other A levels and go on to every imaginable type of degree.

Classical art located in the art department.

A level


Mode of Assessment
100% controlled assessment (60% personal investigation, 40% exam unit).

Note that the exam unit is practical and runs over several months. The personal investigation includes a written component of around 3000 words that is worth 12% of the overall A-level.

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