Bacc–ing the Arts in Education – Abigail
Arts Council England stated that “Drama communicates through the language and connections of theatre. This results in all pupils… gaining access to one of the great forms of human expression.”. As a Drama trainee, I can only agree.
Since the 1980’s, we can see how Drama has grown in education as its own subject, and how it can be a method of delivery in other subjects. However, the current situation surrounding the National Curriculum suggests that history may be repeating itself; the Arts once again are at risk, and Drama in particular is being threatened as a subject that has little academic value due to the recently introduced EBacc system. Drama was the most commonly withdrawn subject as the EBacc made its way into the curriculum; in 2011, the Department for Education conducted studies amongst ten schools in preparation for the 2012/13 academic year, and found that 23% had already withdrawn Drama, with Art, Design/DT and Textiles following behind at 17%, 14% and 11% respectively.
But why is this case? Any teacher of Drama can tell you of the importance Drama can play on a child’s development; it builds both interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, boosts confidence, and can turn the shyest of children into one of the most confident within their school. Any teacher of Drama can tell you how having a creative outlet like Drama can engage even the naughtiest of pupils. And any teacher of Drama can also tell you that it is rare for students to spend lessons pretending to be trees!
Has this research into the impact of the EBacc benefitted my teaching? In a sense, yes. It has made me realise that, as Drama seems to be making its way back into the English Department in many schools, I may have to continue to ‘fight’ for my subject’s recognition. Although Drama is more focussed on social and cognitive learning, with a focus on development overall as opposed to purely academic value, it does not seem to be enough to give Drama a place within the EBacc.
With this in mind, I wonder if perhaps it is the potential lack of written work that has caused problems for the subject. From experience, KS3 rarely engage in written work in Drama, meaning that when they begin to study it at GCSE, problems can arise when it comes to written exams as students are having to learn a different method of writing alongside everything else. Perhaps written work needs to be implemented into Drama lessons considerably more than it is, and Drama will be seen as a more academically viable subject than it currently is. Perhaps then it may not suffer at the hands of the EBacc as much.
Do I still think Drama should be available within the EBacc? Certainly. Already I have mentioned the benefits it can offer socially and cognitively, but the simple fact is that students need creativity. They need an outlet that breaks away from the academic rigour of school, and for those who struggle academically, Drama can be a fantastic tool. As Ken Robinson stated, “Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”