St Ursula’s School
Drama Curriculum Intent
At its simplest and most obvious, the purpose of Drama teaching is to develop a range of theatrical skills and techniques and apply them to scripts or original devised work in order to create interesting, entertaining and intelligent performances. In doing this students are given the opportunity to exercise practical, physical skills – mime, voice work, puppetry, physical theatre, character work etc. They are encouraged to be inventive and creative and given many different stimuluses to this creativity. The aim is not just to turn them into skilled actors and directors but more fundamentally to understand how theatre and drama works and what it can be used to do – ie. not just entertain, amuse or tell stories but also ask questions of society and challenge the assumptions of audiences. To understand and improve, students are taught to practice and rehearse. They also have to evaluate their own performances and that of others and offer constructive criticisms and pointers for improvement. At KS4 this analysis and evaluation becomes written as well as oral, analysing the creative intention, process and success of their own work and work that they see on the professional stage. To a certain extent some of this writing is abstract (“if I was directing this play, designing the lighting for this performance, portraying this character I would…”) but it takes inspiration from practical performances they have already done and helps to prepare and inspire them for performances that, in the future, they will do. This leads to seriousness, agency and independence in learning. It also leads to ongoing learning conversations between teacher and student where teaching becomes less didactic and more concerned with guiding and facilitating progression. In this way, not all Drama can be taught in Drama lessons. There needs to be extra curricular Drama – plays, productions, LAMDA exams, showcases, competitions, auditions etc – to make abstract concepts real, to give detailed one on one direction and feedback and provide regular opportunities for performance.
Most obviously, this work prepares students for careers in the creative arts – performance, direction, stage management and design, in film, TV, theatre and the media all of which are of huge importance to the British economy. However, the related skills can be applied to virtually all careers and aspects of personal life – teamwork, confidence, creativity, working to a brief, discussion, leadership, analysis, evaluation and questioning. It also develops holistic skills such as thoughtfulness, empathy and understanding. Standing on stage, rehearsing, overcoming apprehension or stage fright develops resilience, robustness, perspective, confidence and joy.
It is essential that Drama is taught in schools and that students have the opportunity to perform and to see other people perform. Many students have clear and obvious talent and to not develop this is to let them down. Of these, many students excel in performance but struggle in other subjects. Drama provides them with a safe, happy space in school and develops skills that will be of particular use to them in the future. Analytical and evaluative content in Drama can be applied to all other subjects, particularly the humanities and there are obvious creative and content links between Drama, Music, PE (Dance), Art, English, History, RE and PSHE. Drama can also be used in the teaching of these subjects, and students with good Drama skills often gain an advantage because of their analytical skills and communicative abilities. The use of Drama in the teaching of Languages has been shown to increase vocabulary and grammar acquisition as well as encourage oral confidence.
Many students from what might be considered “underprivileged backgrounds” come from cultures or families where performance is a regular part of life and greatly valued. Similarly students with a Church or religious background often have an understanding of performance, ritual, movement, solemnity, tone and atmosphere, public speaking and rhythmic language.
The confidence generated by Drama and the good relationships fostered with teachers and students can help them develop in other subjects as well. In this way Drama is important in developing mature behaviour, community spirit and a sense of place and belonging. Some students have no idea that they are talented in Drama and have the potential to perform. It is a subject that rewards hard work, thought and preparation and public performances act as an exemplar for all students as to what can be achieved if they work hard at something and trust their teachers.
Substantive knowledge that students develop:
- Performance Skills – movement, control, tension, voice and projection, use of the stage, characterisation.
- Language and terminology – Use of key technical vocabulary both as important knowledge in itself and as a shared language for use in devising and evaluation.
- Knowledge of genre, mood and atmosphere – so students are used to and comfortable with realism, melodrama, comedy, physical theatre and contrived/stylised drama and know how to adapt their performances accordingly.
- How actors use physical and vocal skills and effects to communicate meaning and tell stories.
- How theatre practitioners use stage space, movement and ensemble techniques to have an impact on the audience and their understanding and perception of the piece.
- How set, props and costume impart meaning and develop character.
- How lighting, music, sound and set design create meaning and work in conjunction with acting to impart meaning, emphasise emotional states or important scenes and contribute to the narrative.
- How practitioners beliefs, ideals and interests influence how they work.
Disciplinary knowledge students develop:
- How ideas can be developed, altered and changed in order to create coherent, interesting performances.
- How practical work can be adapted and improved through the use of feedback. How analysing the work of other students can give insight into how to improve their own work.
- Analytical / Evaluative Skills – mainly verbal but also some written. Some of this will be about their own work, some about the work of other students. It should also be about plays they have been to the theatre to see.
Links to curriculum maps: