The Threat to Drama in Schools: Report on CLA Round Table event
Among the many changes to the Education system being introduced by the coalition government is the reform of GCSE exams. This will include a greater emphasis on end of course examinations, less opportunities to re-sit, greater rigour, and, according to the Sunday Times, plans to cut back on “soft” GCSE subjects including drama, and removing them from the GCSE “brand.” The government is also considering “discount codes” whereby a student taking GCSEs in Drama and Dance for example will only have one counted for league table purposes. So the Cultural Learning Alliance consultation on 21st November with Jeremy Benson, the Director of Policy for OFQUAL (the qualifications regulator) was timely and pressing. I represented TYA England at this round table discussion which restated the importance of maintaining Drama as a discrete subject at GCSE. There has in recent years been something of a tension between some drama teachers and drama teaching associations and the industry with teams on their part that theatre educators are trying to replace drama teachers in schools. Far from it. Teachers are part of the lifeblood of our theatres and theatre companies. For many children and young people they are the only point of access to live theatre. Schools need qualified, specialist drama teachers. And the best of drama teachers are adept at using our work as a resource to complement their teaching and curricula.
The meeting was largely positive with Jeremy Benson unwilling to state definitively that Drama will continue to be a GCSE subject but stating that he felt it was unlikely to be scrapped. He urged us not to restrict the curriculum to things that can be assessed and he indicated that the reforms are hugely likely to continue regardless of the outcome of the 2015 election.
The meeting raised other important issues:
- Theatre companies shouldn’t continue their offer to schools solely on the basis of careers in the industry
- We need to promote our commitment to rigour (which shouldn’t solely be assessed through written examinations)
We may not agree with Michael Gove and his Education agenda but he is dominating the political debate in terms of what our schools should look like. My fear is that there aren’t enough of us on the centre ground who are prepared to stand up for the values we believe should be reflected in our Education system. But it’s not too late to have your say as the government is still in consultation phase. If you are concerned write to your MP or Mr Gove himself. Drama and theatre are under real threat – are we prepared to sit back and see it disappear from our schools?