GCSE Photography


The Photography department at Ashbourne offers GCSE students a range of disciplines and working approaches to lens based media and image making. The course gives students the opportunity to explore darkroom techniques, build camera skills, digital manipulation and filmmaking in all forms.

The building of practical and technical skills is encouraged as well as the integration and contextualization of photography in all forms, combining the complementary balance of research and practice.

Students get the opportunity to visit leading London art galleries and museums, including the Photographers’ Gallery, Southbank Centre and Somerset House, in order to develop students’ critical thinking in response to their personal projects and to improve their camera technique.

Visual language and imagery is all around in the modern work, and students are engaged in critical understanding of how to interpret images and read the work of other photographers through visual understanding and critical questioning.

Students are encouraged to experiment with different digital and physical process of image making, allowing a more personal and individual visual means for the expression of their ideas and interests. Students are encouraged to push beyond their own boundaries to discover their own creative expression of their ideas. Photography a fantastic vehicle for communication and expression and students really gain insight into how to be innovators in this medium.

Why study Photography at GCSE?

Take one look at our modern day environment: images surround us. What do you see on your way to work? How of many of you use use social media and communicate through images these days? A huge amount of communication and understanding is done through pictures. They are becoming part of the fabric of everyday life and it is important that young people are engaged critically and have an understanding of how to read, process and create images.

A study of Photography at GCSE is the ideal basis to progress onto the full two year A-Level course of study that will ultimately lead to University of Higher Education, which then can open up a diverse number of creative careers such as in Photo journalism, Event Photography, Sports Photography and Product Photography.

Which syllabus do we follow?

We follow the Edexcel specification for GCSE Photography.

How many components are there?

There are two components in total.

Component 1Component 2

Personal Portfolio

The year begins by building the coursework portfolio unit made up from practical studio work and a personal project supported by sketchbook development. The portfolio will be produced under controlled conditions and consist of approximately 45 hours supervised activity.

72 marks, 60% of GCSE

Externally Set Assignment

The externally set unit normally is released at the beginning of January and students will have to fulfill the requirements in 10 hours of sustained and supervised work under examination conditions, which have to take place in a maximum of four sessions over 3 weeks.

72 marks, 40% of GCSE

When do the exams take place?

The exams take place in June.

Which Ashbourne teachers teach this course?

BA Painting at Camberwell College of Arts, PGCE in Art and Design at Goldsmiths University

Joanna Kay has a BA in Painting from Camberwell College of Arts and a PGCE in Art and Design from Goldsmiths University. She is also a freelance photographer and artist.

Beyond GCSE for Photography Students

Students may wish to progress onto the two year A level Art and Design and / or Photography course, and then subsequently onto Higher Education study – either on a Foundation Course in Art and Design or a University Degree Course in a selected pathway of their choice. There are many career opportunities they can include product design, fashion, illustration, graphic design, animation, interior design, jewellery, furniture, set design, painter, photographer, picture editor, to name just a few! New technologies are creating a whole new range of courses and careers where Art is being used in innovative and exciting ways.


The Fundamentals of Photography by Helen Drew

The Fundamentals of Digital Photography by Tim Daley

On Being a photographer: a practical guide by David Hurn and Bill Jay