Art and Design GCSE

Art and Design: Fine Art GCSE

Build technical skills as you respond visually and critically to the world, developing your creative ideas using a range of media. This course enables you to express your own identity, as well as exploring how art provides a unique window into other cultures and historical events.

Why St Mary's

In 2021, the St Mary's Visual Arts Department won a national Education Business Award, which recognises excellence in the visual arts.

Working in our dedicated Art and Photography Centre @ No.47 Bateman Street, with the support of our highly experienced teachers, you will explore a broad range of 2D and 3D media, including photography and Photoshop.

You will have access to exceptional facilities including our kiln, printing presses, digital art suite, professional cameras and lenses, photographic darkroom, professional lighting studio and fine art room.

Our enriched learning opportunities include:

  • A ‘en plein air’ drawing experience trip
  • In-school, regional and national competitions
  • Visits to galleries, museums, workshops and studios
  • University of Cambridge events and lectures
  • Community art initiatives such as Cows About Cambridge, Standing Tall and Jurassic Arcade
  • Leadership roles supporting Art Workshops for Year 7-9 pupils
  • Taster lessons for A Level Photography
  • Professional artists’ workshops – past examples include Mark Dutton, Fay Palkimas and Karin Eklund
  • Clubs including Art Club, Art History Club, Photography and Digital Art Club

Support and inspiration

GCSE students can access additional teaching support from our Art and Design teachers four times a week at lunchtime, plus two evenings. You will also have access to digital resources to reinforce your studies, plus regular skills workshops to enhance your technical skills.

Course overview

Component 1: Personal Portfolio

You will build a comprehensive portfolio of work, including:

  • Written annotations and evaluations which document your creative journey
  • Drawing to support your development process

Your portfolio offers opportunity to develop and explore ideas; to present research and contextual sources; and to experiment with different media, techniques and processes.

Component 2: Externally Set Assignment

You will develop a response to an externally set theme, in a 10-hour sustained focus period, working unaided over multiple sessions under exam conditions.


Component 1: Personal Portfolio - 60% of total mark

Your porfolio will be internally set and assessed through controlled assessments during Year 10 and Year 11. It is externally moderated at the end of the Year 11, as part of your final exhibition.

Component 2: Externally Set Assignment - 40% of total mark

This component is internally and externally moderated.

Each component is assessed separately and offers a maximum of 72 marks – 18 marks for each of the four Assessment Objectives

  1. Develop
  2. Refine/experiment
  3. Record
  4. Present

Components 1 and 2 are presented at the end of Year 11 as an exhibition of student work, which the external moderator visits.

At a glance
You will enjoy this course if you ...
  • Are keen to develop your visual skill
  • Have a creative and imaginative mind
  • Can sustain an investigation
  • Feel willing to experiment in your work
  • Enjoy reviewing work to make improvements

What our teachers say...

“Art allows students another channel by which they can communicate. For some students it can be the only real form of communication they feel comfortable with.

Visual Arts is an important and powerful communicative tool, it is a language, even though it is not subject to phonetics.”

"I prefer living in colour." David Hockney

Art has the power to record and communicate the underlying values of a society, documenting the communities we exist in or have existed in, and the history of cultural development and events. It helps us to know and reflect upon what it is to be human.

If you know how Art is created and executed – by understanding symbolism, colour, composition and more – you unlock another world. You gain an insight into creativity and a certain type of freedom with which to communicate with world. We study language to better our understanding of our environment and to connect as a society and art is no different.

Past students have gone on to study at leading universities including Central St Martins, Bath University, Bristol University, York University, Leeds Arts University, Norwich University of Arts, UCL, St Andrews, Loughborough University, Manchester University, London College of Communication and Southampton University.

Our alumnae are now pursuing successful careers in architecture, fashion, graphic design, fine art, sculpture, communication and advertising, curatorship, interior design, photography, illustration, urban planning and art history.


Our results

Achieve the results you need to fulfil your dreams.

Read more

Beyond St Mary's

Our Senior School students go on to pursue exciting futures.

Discover more