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Art & Design

The Art & Design Department enjoys an excellent reputation for both its results in public exams and the highly visible way in which it exhibits pupils’ work around the School.

The Department is committed to offering your son a stimulating environment for a wide range of art and design practices, in the belief that creativity is a vital part of a full education. The accommodation afforded by the Art & Design Centre is currently organised in one large open plan space roughly divided into two teaching areas.


Jason Cordingley

Jason Cordingley

Head of Art & Design

Mr Cordingley has been teaching Art & Design since 1997. He was previously Head of Art at Carmel College, and has been Head of Art at Merchiston since 1999. He continues to be active as an artist, and exhibits both paintings and sculptures locally from time to time.

Fiona Darling

Fiona Darling

Teacher of Art & Design
Dip Des

Ms Blakeman has been a Teacher of Art & Design since 1985. In addition to her teaching duties, she is responsible for Scenery & Set Design at Merchiston, and she also designs the posters for school productions.


There are facilities for painting, drawing, sculpture, print-making, and photography. Observational and practical skills are taught in structured lessons to small groups, and there is ample opportunity to experiment with new ideas while learning from the study of old and modern masters. It is central to our philosophy that the studios remain open well beyond the timetabled day.


Pupils are given the opportunity to explore visual, tactile and other sensory experiences to communicate ideas and meanings. They work with traditional and new media, developing confidence, competence, imagination and creativity. They learn to appreciate and value images and artefacts across times and cultures, and to understand the contexts in which they were made. Pupils are encouraged to reflect critically on their own and other people’s work, judging quality, value and meaning. They learn to think and act as artists, craftspeople and designers, working creatively and intelligently.

From I Form to IV Form they are given the opportunity to develop their Art and Design skills. Each year they are introduced to ways of working in Art and Design, thus preparing them for the optional GCSE course in Shell and V Form. We use the Lower Sixth year as a ‘foundation’ type of course thus providing a good grounding for A level in the Upper Sixth. The A level course is the OCR (H600) Art, Craft and Design. This course consists of a Personal investigation, 60% of the total A level and, an Externally set task, which is the remaining 40% of the A level.

For those who do not continue with GCSE Art & Design, the aim of the Department is to provide them with knowledge and skills that can be transferred into other subject areas, develop their visual literacy and give a feel for the rich artistic tradition that mankind has developed throughout the ages. All work in the Department is underpinned by observational drawing as we feel that this is an invaluable tool for artists to possess.



On Monday and Thursday afternoons an Art & Design activity takes place. This provides an opportunity for those wishing to explore their Art making outside of lesson time and, for those boys following examination Art & Design to benefit from additional studio time and expert support. The Department also runs an evening prep secession each week in order to further support that the boys following the subject at GCSE and A Level.

The Department also encourages and supports Sixth Form pupils attending an evening life drawing course at either the Leith School of Art or the Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) when there is demand. In addition to this, those VI Form artists who are thinking about following this subject at a higher level are also encouraged to make use of the excellent portfolio courses offered at Leith School of Art and the ECA.

Exhibitions: Edinburgh and Glasgow have a very active and exciting exhibition programme and the Department, whenever possible/appropriate, runs visits to them. In this way we aim to enhance the work done in the Department. The Department also puts work out on display both in the Department and around the School, and from time to time we also hold exhibitions of work from contemporary artists. There is also a major exhibition of pupils’ work that usually takes place in the week prior to the summer half term break.

Examples of work carried out in the department that demonstrate both effort and ability are displayed outside the Memorial Hall. The work displayed here on The Headmaster’s Easels is changed regularly and has become a highpoint for our pupils.

The staff are passionate about the subject and are excited every year by the opportunity to inspire new pupils and help current ones develop even further.

A Morning in the Art Department

Our pupil-led Medical Society provides opportunities for prospective medics to collaboratively apply their scientific knowledge in a medical context. On average, 7% of our Year 13 students have applied for Medicine at university over the last three years.


Through our close links with the Roslin Institute, IGCSE and A Level pupils also get to experience advanced genetics techniques as well as a wide range of the usual practical work offered within schools. Being able to use the Roslin labs has enabled the department to deliver hands on experiments on subject matter elsewhere only able to be taught theoretically.

Ms Williams Head of Biology

Coming from a state school, science was taught very theoretically. Here at Merchiston, we do so many practicals to reinforce our knowledge. This has given me a totally different view on school in general: every day I wake up and I look forward to my lessons

Vincent B Year 11 (S4)

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