Why study­ing drama can build con­fi­dence

Child’s Play As sta­tis­tics re­veal that fewer stu­dents are tak­ing up cre­ative sub­jects to higher lev­els, what will the im­pact be on the di­ver­sity of ed­u­ca­tion cur­ricu­lums and the pro­fes­sional world?

Cotswold Life - - INSIDE - WORDS: Fay Watson Find out more by vis­it­ing open­door.org.uk

While not ev­ery drama GCSE hope­ful will be­come the next Judi Dench or Gary Old­man, there is lit­tle doubt that study­ing drama at school can be rev­o­lu­tion­ary in de­vel­op­ing con­fi­dence, al­low­ing pupils to think cre­atively and in­tro­duc­ing a bit of fun into an in­creas­ingly aca­demic work­load.

For this rea­son, many were con­cerned at the find­ings in the Septem­ber 2017 re­port from the Ed­u­ca­tion Pol­icy In­sti­tute re­veal­ing stu­dents tak­ing arts sub­jects to GCSE level in 2016 had fallen to the low­est in a decade.

Chair of The Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for the Teach­ing of Drama, Liam Har­ris, ex­plains that one rea­son cited as a fac­tor in the re­duc­tion is the in­tro­duc­tion of school ac­count­abil­ity mea­sures Ebacc and Progress 8, as they place smaller em­pha­sis on arts. ‘Be­cause of the progress mea­sures and the way that schools are as­sessed, those progress mea­sures then force schools to give ad­vice to stu­dents or struc­ture their en­tire cur­ricu­lum of­fer­ing in cer­tain ways, which is of­ten to the detri­ment of stu­dents hav­ing a full-on artis­tic choice or a full range of arts to choose from,’ Liam says. ‘So all of a sud­den you’ll have mu­sic, art and drama in one op­tion block, which means that stu­dents can only choose one of those things.’

As a re­sult, he ad­mits he’s been hav­ing a lot more con­ver­sa­tions about what drama will of­fer stu­dents in a ca­reer, rather than stu­dents tak­ing the course for pas­sion alone. But Liam stresses: ‘Ed­u­ca­tion should be about de­vel­op­ing well rounded hu­man be­ings, not just what the econ­omy needs or what we want them to do in a work­place.’

This per­spec­tive is shared by ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar pro­grammes de­signed out­side of the class­room to help a co­hort of young and di­verse ac­tors fall in love with drama. These vary in scale, rang­ing from the Na­tional Theatre’s Let’s Play ini­tia­tive to get Pri­mary School stu­dents act­ing (which was launched by Sir Lenny Henry), to Open Door, a pro­gramme help­ing young peo­ple from mi­nor­ity back­grounds get places at pres­ti­gious drama schools.

Ac­tor and founder of Open Door, David Mu­meni, launched the pro­gramme in re­sponse to the nar­row­ing ta­lent pool the in­dus­try is re­ceiv­ing, which he feels comes partly from a lack of funds and lim­it­ing of op­por­tu­ni­ties early on. ‘The in­dus­try has changed very quickly over the last seven years,’ he ex­plains. ‘And the in­fra­struc­ture hasn’t been there to sup­port young ta­lent of qual­ity com­ing up to meet the de­mand, due to cuts in the Arts, the Arts it­self be­ing taken out of the cur­ricu­lum, rise of tu­ition fees, train prices ris­ing, and au­di­tion fees ris­ing.’

Open Door tries to make up for these in­equal­i­ties on stu­dents with less re­sources and with over 200 re­calls, 86 fi­nal rounds and 34 of­fers be­tween their co­hort so far, it cer­tainly proves that the ta­lent is there – it just needs to be nur­tured. ‘We need to sup­port young ac­tors who may not know that they can ac­cess this train­ing, or even that it ex­ists,’ David adds. ‘It’s im­por­tant they know there is a place in the in­dus­try for them.’ N

BE­LOW: Na­tional Theatre’s Let’s Play, launched by Sir Lenny Henry

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