Stoke Newington School is a creative environment which supports all the creative subjects, acknowledging their individual and collective importance in the curriculum. The School values the student’s learning in these subjects and, especially in the visual arts, acts as an agent to extend their awareness across the student and teaching body.

Within this framework, Photography is well-placed to engage, inspire and challenge students, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to experiment creatively. This bolsters their learning within the subject and extends their resilience in risk-taking and problem-solving across their studies.

In all our projects students learn about the broader cultural background to historical and contemporary photography. This supports the inclusive ethos of the school but provides a learning space where students include their own cultures in their work.

Understanding the capabilities of the digital camera is an important starting point for Photography students and this encourages a critical dialogue with their own work. Students develop the practical key skills to underpin their knowledge which equip them to develop as critical thinkers and experimenters with a clear understanding of meaning and purpose.

Students in KS4 and KS5 at Stoke Newington School experience creativity through activities which engage students in practical skills-based learning. This supports them in developing a reflective awareness of their own learning process. Students learn through a range of group, individual and bespoke activities which target creative learning as part of the process. In this way, key ideas on the development of concepts, ideas and themes are introduced from the outset.

All members of staff have high expectations of their students and are experienced at making support available at appropriate times for students. At all key stages, the approach is to give every student a fulfilling learning experience. - Check out the department website.

6th form-26.jpg

Key stage 4 Photography (Art & Design: AQA)

Task sheets

GCSE Photography is strongly committed to offering an innovative approach to creative processes through projects that involve both traditional and experimental exploration of materials and concepts. We believe that there is a strong and robust future in the creative industries and so equipping our students with these tools at this stage can only be a positive step for them. Students will develop key skills in visual communication, problem solving, evaluation and critical understanding of contextual sources as well as an ability to develop and present ideas. Students will learn how artists use photography to convey ideas and will respond to the work of a range of photographers using a variety of methods. They will use up to date digital technology to express their own ideas which will build a strong foundation for further study at A Level. Photography is an excellent option that provide a balance with core subjects.

Photography is assessed through a combination of 60% coursework (two projects) and 40% exam (externally set project).

In GCSE Photography, students will be encouraged to:

  • Understand the purpose of visual communication.
  • Explore ideas & concepts behind the work of both contemporary and non-contemporary photographers.
  • Experiment with digital photography and editing techniques.
  • Visit galleries and exhibitions, enabling students to learn from the work of others and making connections with their own work and past/contemporary practices.
  • To record the creative process in sketchbooks, and present final outcomes in physical and digital final pieces.

Year 9 curriculum map | Year 10 curriculum map | Year 11 curriculum map
Students exhibit work in the annual SNS Summer Showcase

Key stage 5 Photography (Art & Design: AQA)

Over the two-year linear course students will develop a working knowledge and an understanding of both traditional and digital photography. They will investigate and learn about:

  • the use of light as the most important element in photography.
  • viewpoints, composition and depth of field.
  • darkroom techniques including the recognition of appropriate paper types, developing and printing, emulsions, exposure, tone and contrast.
  • manipulation of the image through electronic and mechanical means, using Adobe Photoshop CC.
  • the importance and influence of a range of different photographers and artists.
  • how to be critical and analytical of both your own work and the work of practicing photographers and artists.

Component 1: Personal investigation (60%) - The course begins with practical workshops and investigations based around a given Theme. During the project, students will learn the key skills and techniques necessary to complete the course and will investigate the methods used by practicing photographers when developing their own concepts. Students will learn how to develop and explain your ideas, both visually and in written form, and then move on to develop their own in-depth personal investigations based on an idea, concept or Theme of their own choice, leading to a final outcome. This will demonstrate an ability to sustain work from an initial starting point through to a considered conclusion. This is a practical component supported by written material of between 1000 and 3000 words of continuous prose.

Component 2: Externally set assignment (40%) – In this component, the awarding body (AQA) will provide a number of possible Themes to be used as starting points. Students will select one theme and, using the skills and knowledge gained through the Personal Investigation component, will produce a body of work exploring their chosen focus. At the end of the preparation period students will complete 15 hours of supervised time under exam conditions and present a clearly defined selection of work leading to a finished outcome or series of outcomes.

Year 12 curriculum maps | Year 13 curriculum maps
Exemplar work


  • There are a variety of creative opportunities for students at KS3, including Creative Day, gallery trips, and Photography club.
  • In Photography at KS4 and KS5 there are a number of trips and visits which contribute to the learning of students including visits to Kew Gardens and City Walk to complete location shoots.
  • We work closely with The Barbican and students have the opportunity to attend workshops both on site and in school to develop a project which is realised with a printed publication distributed by the Barbican. This allows students to learn from the work of others and make connections with their own work and past/contemporary practices as well as see their work in print.
  • As well as taking students out, we bring the arts in and we have been privileged to host visiting Photographers in the department including Tom Hunter, Bogdan Frymorgan and Red Saunders.
  • All GCSE and A level students are encouraged to attend open studio sessions after school, lunch time and during their free periods to refine and further their studies.
  • At A level, every student in Photography is encouraged to make independent visits to galleries and exhibitions specific to their current projects. Portfolio preparation classes are offered and we have talks from various arts institutions with a view to preparing students for transition into further education.
  • A level Photography students have an insight into curation when organising our annual Summer Showcase, celebrating creativity across the school.
  • Biennial trips to New York are organised for KS5 Photography students where they are able to experience the rich cultural landscape, including the International Center for Photography, Aperture, MoMa, The Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the photography galleries of Chelsea, along with the key photo opportunities of The High Line (responding to the work of Joel Sternfeldt), The Empire State Building and the concrete canyons of New York (responding to Berenice Abbott).

Students receive training in how to process 35mm film in our dedicated darkroom

Career and future pathways

Photography provides an opening for further study in the subject. Students can continue on to A Level and then onto a number of degree courses such as Fine Art Photography, Commercial Photography, Editorial Photography, Photography & Film, Fine Art, Animation, Graphics, Film & Media, Architecture and Advertising.

Several our students recently have progressed to prestigious competitive institutions like Glasgow School of Art, Central St Martins, Falmouth School of Art, The Slade School of Art, The Bartlett School of Architecture, Ravensbourne, Kingston, London College of Communication, Cambridge University, Oxford University, Camberwell College of Arts and Chelsea College of Arts.