In defence of school drama: don’t let arts fall off the curriculum

A narrow focus only on core English Baccalaureate subjects is putting performing arts and qualified drama teachers at risk, says Patrice Baldwin, a former primary head, Ofsted inspector and now chair of National Drama and president of the International Drama Theatre and Education Association. This is from the Guardian…

The future of drama in schools in England looks disturbingly bleak at the moment. Soon we may see the subject being cut from the curriculum altogether in many schools. There is no sign of any statutory drama curriculum in the offing, no secure entitlement for children to learn about and take part in regular drama lessons as part of a broad and balanced curriculum and no guarantee that they will be taught by specialist, qualified drama teachers.

The most recent proof came earlier this month when the Department for Education released a report, The Effects of the English Baccalaureate.

One interesting effect, uncovered by the report, is the withdrawal of subjects that do not fit into, to use the DfE’s words, “a core of academic subjects; English, maths, history or geography, the sciences and a language.”

Of the teachers interviewed for the quantitative survey: “Just over a quarter (27%) say that some courses have been withdrawn or failed to recruit enough pupils for the 2012/13 academic year due to the EBacc. The proportion of schools saying this has fallen significantly since 2011.”

The report goes on to say: “The most commonly withdrawn subjects are drama and performing arts, which had been dropped in nearly a quarter of schools where a subject had been withdrawn (23%), followed by art (17%) and design technology (14%). BTECs have also seen a decline (dropped in 20% schools where subjects have been withdrawn).”

Just prior to the last election, Sir Jim Rose’s ill-fated draft primary curriculum was thrown out. He had drama at last clearly placed in “understanding the arts” as one of the four main art subjects (art, music, drama and dance), all of which were considered to be of equal status. The Tories and Lib Dems united, even then, to vote against this well-rounded curriculum that most primary teachers had welcomed.

Later came Darren Henley’s report on cultural education. This followed his earlier report on music education which recommended drama and dance should be given equal arts status as curriculum subjects in their own right – as did the All Our Futures report had also recommended this in 1999.

However, Henley’s important recommendation was selectively ignored and none of the initiatives that received Michael Gove’s support following this report, were drama initiatives.

Drama’s position in education has been continuously damaged in many veiled ways since the election. When Gove surprisingly announced without consultation or warning, that schools should now be judged in relation to their performance in the English Baccalaureate subjects, I know of secondary schools that marginalised drama – placing it into after school study slots (competing with sports clubs).

In June there was another giant blow for drama in the shape of the minimal draft primary curriculum. National Drama, the leading UK professional association for drama and theatre educators, had expected some involvement in drawing up the programmes of study for English but it seems a decision had already been made to cut drama from English. Even the speaking and listening framework within which drama sat was being silently axed, ignoring the fact that speaking and listening is the bedrock of English…

More at:  In defence of school drama: don’t let arts fall off the curriculum

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