DRAMA CURRICULUM STATEMENT
The Drama department’s curriculum is designed to achieve two clear aims; to encourage students to be independent and creative thinkers equipped with a plethora of transferable skills, and to nurture students to see the world through the eyes of others, with a deep empathetical connection with both historical and contemporary events. The curriculum is adaptive and bespoke in its approach to the individual needs and abilities across all 3 key stages, enabling success within a safe and enriching environment. As well as practical exploration of historical and topical stimuli, students are shaped into critically analytical and evaluative thinkers through a broad range of plays and other literature. This study of literature and other stimuli exposes students to differing cultures and theatrical styles, at times marrying the two to create captivating performances.
Although Drama is not part of the National Curriculum in its own right, it is embedded within the Spoken Language section of English:
All pupils should be enabled to participate in and gain knowledge, skills and understanding associated with the artistic practice of drama. Pupils should be able to adopt, create and sustain a range of roles, responding appropriately to others in role. They should have opportunities to improvise, devise and script drama for one another and a range of audiences, as well as to rehearse, refine, share and respond thoughtfully to drama and theatre performances.
The Drama curriculum goes beyond the expectations of these opportunities, exposing students to a challenging range of stimuli and literature.
The KS3 sequence is set to ensure that a solid foundation of knowledge is built for all students, progressively applying the base knowledge of physical and vocal skills to a range of styles and contexts. The key concepts are covered through three topics a year which progress in challenge and interleave previous knowledge and skills. The chosen topics are specifically linked to key requirements of the GCSE and A-Level specifications: understanding of performance skills; character building; historical contexts; exploration of scripts and devising from a stimulus.
The topics covered are:
- Mime (Base techniques)
- Darkwood Manor (Character Building)
- Greek Theatre (Historical Contexts)
- Tableaux and Thought Tracking
- Melodrama (Historical Contexts)
- Pantomime (Genre and Style)
- Teechers (Exploration of script)
- Gangs (Devising from a stimulus)
The topics chosen use a Coat and Hanger system; the hanger displays the coat in its best light. This means that the hanger is the topic chosen whilst the coat is the key dramatical knowledge that is strictly taught. For example, we teach Staging with Year 8 (coat) but this is explored through The Hillsborough Disaster (hanger). The hanger is interchangeable so staff can explore the different staging formats through a topic that really interests them. This is not applicable for all schemes.
As each new topic is taught, previous knowledge and skills are enhanced and applied to different contexts. Providing students with opportunity to utilise the previous knowledge and apply it to newer styles or contexts. Taking, for example, the technique of thought tracking/soliloquys at the start of Year 8 and enhancing them to become two-way audience address at the start of Year 9. At the end of the KS3 curriculum students will feel confident enough to start the KS4 curriculum with a secure understanding of key dramatic principals and knowledge.
As students progress into the KS4 and 5, this foundation of knowledge is applied to more rigorous exercises shaped by the rubric and expectations of their respective qualifications. They are introduced to more challenging texts and the practitioners/theatre companies they analyse are placed into the historical context that was taught at KS3. The AQA specifications allow for a natural progression of knowledge with the level of analytical and evaluative skills requiring more depth.
The main justifications and outlines for assessment are within the Assessment and Feedback Policy. This is summarised below:
- At KS3 Students are assessed formatively every lesson through questioning and presentation of practical pieces;
- Assessment is varied between written and verbal: both peer and teacher led;
- Verbal feedback is shaped and modelled to ensure that students are aware of positive approaches to their work whilst also being aware of how progress can be made;
- Students are supported to provide feedback rich in key vocabulary;
- Written feedback addresses misconceptions and encourages students to review past learning;
- Students at KS3 complete a final practical assessment at the end of each topic (termly). These assessments are marked against the flightpath criteria created by the department;
- Marking at GCSE and A-Level uses specification mark schemes: both practical and written;
- All formative practical assessments for GCSE and A-Level are shaped towards the respective requirements and mark schemes.
This methodology is in place to support students in achieving academic outcomes and nurture their confidence in both practical and written assessments.
Teachers in the Drama department use Rosenshine’s principles of instruction to guide students to strong outcomes.
As Drama is more unstructured in its classroom setting, the nature of its teaching naturally lends itself to paired or group-based activities, particularly at KS3 level. This, in turn, allows for immediate adaptive teaching to take place. Groups are mostly mixed ability (in knowledge, skill set and confidence), enabling subconscious scaffolding to take place naturally within the group. Teachers are to monitor and, if required, ensure the scaffolding becomes more explicit to ensure progress is maintained for all students.
With a lot of the activities and knowledge taught through all key stages being heavily practical, modelling is a key feature of classroom practice. This is another aspect of adaptive teaching. It is imperative within any drama setting that the teacher models the expectations for all students as a baseline - they should then be encouraged and supported to challenge their creativity and enhance the given practical model.
There is an extensive range of activities and exercises used to teach new, and build upon existing, knowledge. Here is a brief example of how these activities encourage challenge and widen analytical scope is through playscript exploration in each key stage:
- KS3: Understanding of characters and how they are shaped by the style of the playwright or the particular aims of the piece;
- KS4: Understanding of characters and how they are shaped by: the potential style of the play and the choices of the playwright, the world that immediately surrounds the characters (social, historical and cultural context);
- KS5: Understanding of the key themes, characters and an analytical understanding of how the world within the play and the playwright impacts the lives of the characters. For example, how has Carlo Goldoni’s perception of Commedia Dell’Arte in the 18th Century influenced the ways the characters are portrayed and perceived.
A major decision at KS3 was to continue with no book/written work. This decision was made to ensure that all curriculum time created the solid platform of knowledge and skills required for GCSE level. This decision is vindicated with public GCSE Drama written examination results being at least 12% above national average since exams were reformed.
The impact of the aforementioned intent and implementation is seen through a thriving and enriching department. Each year the department showcases the exceptional talent of the students through a whole school production (Years 9-13). Students take place through a range of disciplines: performing, directing, stage management, backstage crew, lighting and sound. A range of departments contribute to the overall success of the performance. These include Art, Music, Design Technology as well as a strong community of staff that act as Front of House.
As well as the whole school production, students in Year 7 and 8 have access to a weekly Drama Club run by department staff and Drama prefects. This club is an outlet of creativity for students that can share ideas outside of the curriculum format. These sessions accumulate to an end of year production to parents/carers - this is usually a bridged play or a series of skits.
The department continually runs trips throughout the year to local, regional and national theatres. Students in examination classes are given more opportunities to see live theatre as this is a requirement of the GCSE and A-Level courses. KS3 students are given opportunities should the appropriate play be available for them. Students are also given access to streaming theatre links such as the National Theatre Collection.
As with the national picture for Drama as an option subject, the numbers taking GCSE and A-Level Drama fluctuate but tend to stay with national averages. Currently at GCSE there are 16 Year 11s and 26 Year 10s. A-Level numbers are 7 in Year 13 and 8 in Year 12.
The number of students going on to study Drama or performing arts related subjects at university sits at around 1-2 per year. A handful of those students either read Acting or Musical Theatre at a conservatoire theatre school.
Attainment at GCSE (a main focus on standardised public examination results) has been consistently strong with last year’s cohort (2022) reaching a positive SPI of 1.35. This is a result of the process and execution of appropriate planning and pedagogical approach. A-Level results tend to sit close to national averages with a handful of students confidently attaining the top grades across all components.
Lessons take place in either the Drama Workshop or the Drama Studio, a purpose built “black box”. The Drama Workshop is an atmospheric venue that has been modernised and fully equipped with flexible staging, stage lighting and a sound system. There is also a well-stocked costume wardrobe and props cupboard. Throughout the year, a number of performances are staged in the Drama Workshop allowing students to showcase their work to friends and family.
The Drama department has a long history of leading highly acclaimed productions which have been staged in collaboration with many other departments including Music, Art, Textiles and Product Design. Recent productions include:
- Bugsy Malone
- Little Shop Of Horrors
There is also a KS3 Drama Club run by Drama prefects and staff which meets weekly and puts on a lower school production in the summer term.
Mr Matthew Holdsworth (MPH): Head of Drama Department