Drama can be hugely influential for students. The Drama Department at Bury Church of England High School works hard to establish a warm, supportive, mutually respectful learning environment in which students can develop self-awareness, confidence and self-control. We use Drama to raise self-esteem, build a positive self-image and promote assertiveness. We challenge prejudices and actively promote social, moral and spiritual values. Students develop their speaking and listening skills as well as learning how to express themselves physically. We encourage students to work outside their friendship groups, breaking down barriers through cooperation and negotiation and learning to work collaboratively. This empowers them to become independent, creative learners, developing skills that will support their learning throughout the curriculum and enable them to become well-rounded, confident citizens.
Key Stage 3
Year 7 and 8 – 1 lesson per fortnight
Our Drama schemes of work in Years 7 and 8 have a very practical focus.
In Year 7 students are introduced to a range of Drama skills and theatrical forms, such as creating a role, improvisation, scripts and physical theatre. They also develop the social skills of communication and cooperation and learn how to present themselves confidently and appropriately in any given situation. They use their creativity and critical skills when creating, performing and responding to drama, and explore issues relating to the wider world.
Term 1: Introduction to voice and movement skills, including freeze-frames, mime, physical theatre
Term 2: Teacher-in-role, staying in role, script-writing (Darkwood Manor)
Term 3: Devising (A Cautionary Tale) and Exploring a play by Shakespeare
The Year 8 course of study continues to develop these skills.
Term 1: Loop Dialogues and Pantomime
Term 2: Exploring issues with teacher-in-role (The Case of the Missing Teen)
Term 3: Devising (Three Wishes) and Working with Scripts
Years 9 and 10 – 4 lessons per fortnight
Year 11 – 5 lessons per fortnight
We follow the AQA GCSE Drama course, which can be found at: http://www.aqa.org.uk/subjects/drama/gcse/drama-8261
Students who choose Drama as one of their GCSE options build upon the skills they developed in Years 7 and 8. They work on longer projects and create performances, as well as writing about performances and studying a plays for the written exam.
In the new GCSE syllabus, first examined in 2018, there is an increased focus on writing skills, with only 30% of the overall grade now being allocated for performing, and the other 70% being awarded for written skills of explanation, analysis and evaluation of the dramatic process. This is assessed through a Devising Log (30%) and a final written examination (40%) which covers the study of a set text and a live theatre review. It is important that students understand that when choosing their options for GCSE.
GCSE results in Drama:
2018: 9 – 4 46%
2017: A* – C 62% +0.26 (positive progress score for drama students, compared to their other subjects)
2016: A* – C 68.8% +0.54
These are organised regularly, and although some are aimed primarily at those studying GCSE Drama, most are open to all, or targeted at specific year groups. In 2017-18 we saw “Around the World in 80 Days” at the Lowry and “Guys and Dolls” at the Royal Exchange Theatre, and have seats booked for “Blood Brothers” in April 2019. We go to evening performances, as being part of a mainly adult audience gives students a better experience of theatre etiquette. GCSE Drama students are expected to attend. Watching professional performances can be inspirational, giving students ideas for their own performances and broadening their understanding of theatre.
Anyone can get involved in this, provided they have the two essential qualities of enthusiasm and commitment, and I would encourage everyone to join in! The teamwork and discipline required throughout the rehearsal process, the adrenalin rush of the performance and the resulting pride in their achievement can have a lasting impact on an individual’s confidence and self-esteem.
Our school productions are ensemble pieces, with all performers on stage for as much of the time as possible, as this requires greater discipline from the performers, encourages their creativity and independence and celebrates everyone’s contribution.
Students can also get involved in other areas, such as set design, props, costumes, marketing and advertising, as well as joining the technical crew with responsibility for lighting and sound.
Our 2017-18 production was “The Demon Head Teacher – the Musical!”, based on a popular children’s book about a group of students attempting to stop their Head Teacher (not a real demon!) from taking over the world! Past productions include “The Rebels of Gas Street”, “Bugsy Malone”, “Sister Suffragette”, “Joseph” and “Our Day Out”.
Our 2018-19 production is a play we are creating ourselves about WW1, to fit in with the 100 year anniversary of the end of the Great War.
Other things to celebrate about the Drama Department at Bury CE High School!
Links with Primary Schools
Each year we invite local primary schools to the Dress Rehearsal of the School Production. The KS2 students give feedback on the performance and it is always very positive!
Links with Parents
Families and friends are invited to GCSE performances.
Last year we teamed up with the History Department to present an Evening of Drama, with GCSE performances by Year 9 and 10 GCSE Drama students and an entertaining History spectacle performed by Years 7 and 8 History students. It is rewarding for families to see the end result of the hard work put in by the students and good for the students to have an appreciative audience.
Parents are also welcome on many of my theatre visits, although, obviously, priority lies with the students! It is a good opportunity for parents to engage with their child in an extra way and promotes the community spirit of Bury CE High School.
Links with Charities and PHSCE
The GCSE Drama groups often make an important contribution to raising awareness of issues around school. In previous years students have created powerful Theatre-in-Education pieces. One performance challenged audiences about the plight of street children in Malawi, and another was a moving piece that compared and contrasted the Christmastime experiences of three families, a comfortable British family, a Syrian family and the holy family, Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. Last year some GCSE students performed devised pieces raising awareness of mental health issues.
Links with other Departments
The School Production creates many links:
- ICT – tech crew
- Science and MFL – script-writing
- Maths, English – assistant directors
- Art and Tech – props and set
- History – research and historical advice
- Music – music!
- Maths, Special Needs and the Office – front of house
- We are working closely with the MFL Department for this year’s school play.
- To celebrate Black History Month we enjoyed an African dance workshop.
I hope to continue to build links with local colleges, by collaborating with the Media department of Bury College, a team of whose students filmed one of our School Productions.
I also intend to continue holding GCSE Performance Evenings to celebrate the achievements of our students, and am working on improving the physical environment of the Drama room to make it a more performance-friendly space.
We may not have the fantastic Drama facilities that some schools boast, but what we lack in terms of a theatre and technical equipment, we make up for in positive learning experiences, enthusiasm and fun, with each student encouraged and supported to be the best they can be!