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.
Key Stage 4
In addition to development of their substantive and disciplinary knowledge, as outlined above, students also develop
- Knowledge of Individual Practitioners (eg. Brecht, Stanislavski, Boal) and their methods – this is very important at KS4.
- Technical knowledge of lighting, sound, staging and how effects can be created and used.
- Analytical writing skills – longer analytical appreciation and criticism of scenes or whole plays that is observant and insightful and uses (as a matter of course) theatrical terminology and concepts.
- Experience of a school production as a participant or audience member and knowledge of the amount of work / teamwork that goes into it.
Drama gives opportunities for students to take what interests them and combine it with new ideas, concepts and methods. The work produced is often of an extremely high standard. Last year’s practical NEA devised work was of a very high standard both in terms of performance and the ideas and practical design behind it. Many students ended up in the highest band for their practical assessment, 2 students got a grade 9 overall in the subject and are both going on to study Drama at A Level.
Similarly, the school production of “A Dolls House” shows the value of setting the bar extremely high. This is a complex play that is generally studied at A Level for Drama and for English Literature. Exposure to challenge of this nature develops the skills of high performing students more quickly and makes them think more deeply about complex historical, political and moral concepts.
Links to curriculum maps: