HMI: Curriculum Matters

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17 Drama

Drama from 5 to 16

The complete document is presented in this single web page. You can scroll through it or use the following links to go straight to the various sections:

Preface (page v)
Introduction (1)
Aims of learning through drama (2)
Objectives (3)
Elements of learning (6)
Principles of planning and teaching (12)
Evaluation and assessment (18)
Conclusion (21)

The text of Drama from 5 to 16 was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 13 June 2011.

Drama from 5 to 16
HMI Series: Curriculum Matters No. 17

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1989
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

[title page]

Department of Education and Science

from 5 to 16

Curriculum Matters 17


[page ii]

Crown copyright 1989
First published 1989
Second impression 1990
ISBN 0 11 270691 6

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Aims of learning through drama


Elements of learning

Principles of planning and teaching

Evaluation and assessment


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Since 1984 HM Inspectorate has published a number of Curriculum Matters papers designed to stimulate discussion about the curriculum as a whole and its component parts.

Drama from 5 to 16, the seventeenth in the series, sets out a framework to help schools formulate policies and practices for the teaching and learning of drama appropriate to their pupils.

Like all publications in the Curriculum Matters series, it is a discussion paper intended to stimulate professional debate and to contribute to reaching national agreement about the objectives and content of the school curriculum. That debate is now taking place within the arrangements which are set out in the Education Reform Act for developing the National Curriculum, particularly through the work of the National Curriculum Council (NCC). Drama has strong links with English and with other foundation subjects of the National Curriculum. It is hoped that the paper will contribute to the continuing debate about the nature of drama in our schools.

This document should be read as a whole, since all sections are interrelated.

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1. Drama in schools is a practical artistic subject. It ranges from children's structured play, through classroom improvisations and performances of specially devised material to performances of Shakespeare. It relies on the human ability to pretend to be someone or something else. Through this act of the imagination, pupils can explore how people in particular circumstances might behave now and at different times and in different societies. Though imaginary, the exploration can be experienced and shared as if it were real.

2. Through drama we recreate and examine people's actions, including our own, and see both how they might have come about and where they might lead. We test our individual viewpoints against those of others; this is what happens as soon as two people take on different roles in a drama. They are placed in opposition, or at the least they represent different points of view. The conflicts at the heart of drama carry the process forward. By testing and, where possible, resolving human predicaments, drama helps pupils to face intellectual, physical, social and emotional challenges.

3. In drama three things must be done at the same time. First, we must recreate other people's behaviour from evidence, observation, memory or imagination. Second, we must articulate a personal response based upon real or imagined experiences, which will give the action conviction and meaning. Third, we must distance ourselves from both the recreated behaviour and the personal response in a way that is often difficult to manage in everyday life, when our own reactions and feelings may be spontaneous.

4. To understand this complex process there exists a set of concepts specific to drama and to control it we use a range of dramatic techniques, forms and conventions. All of these need to be taught by drama teachers. Frequently some of these forms mirror those of everyday life in which, often unconsciously, we use a range of social conventions that shape and govern what we do.

5. The statutory orders for the teaching of English as part of the National Curriculum reflect the view that drama should be used to provide opportunities for practising varieties of language in different situations. Examples of how drama may be used are

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found particularly in the programmes of study for the attainment targets concerned with speaking and listening. Just as the study of drama is bound closely to English through language, literature and poetry, most obviously in the form of scripts for plays, so it has affinities with the media and the other arts, especially music, dance and the visual arts.

6. The potential links of drama with the rest of the curriculum are numerous. In the substance of what it explores it shares interests with history, geography, politics, economics and religion. Its techniques can be used as a teaching method in, for example, thematic work in primary schools or modern foreign languages in secondary schools. Furthermore, drama encompasses the art of the theatre and involves some of the technologies or the applications of the sciences, as in designing and making scenery or controlling sound and lighting. Running a theatre is both a cultural and a business enterprise.

7. Drama should involve pupils actively and it should also be enjoyable. At its best it can be a powerful, unifying force within schools. Because people must work together for the dramatic process to function it has a part to play in pupils' personal and social education. Drama provides opportunities for pupils of different ages and abilities to take part in joint creative ventures. In addition its public aspects, performing and sharing work with others, provide important links between schools, parents and their communities. Drama also contributes to vocational education: it can help to prepare people for work not just in the theatre or in film, television and radio, but for any careers requiring the understanding of others and their points of view.

8. In schools effective drama lessons and experiences rely upon the willingness of young people to co-operate in a wide variety of different groups. Understanding what working together as a community or society might mean and appreciating the role of the individual in that enterprise are two of the main educational purposes of drama.

The aims of learning through drama

9. Through their work pupils should:

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  • be aware of and observe dramatic conventions;
  • use a range of dramatic forms to express ideas and feelings;
  • practise the means of dramatic expression with fluency, vitality and enjoyment;
  • select and shape material to achieve the maximum dramatic impact;
  • appreciate drama in performance, both as participants and as spectators.
10. In addition drama helps to further a number of general educational purposes. Through work in drama pupils should:
  • develop a sense of aesthetic understanding;
  • explore the variety of human emotions;
  • gain confidence in their own abilities, particularly to communicate verbally and non-verbally;
  • learn to respect and, where necessary, depend upon others;
  • develop awareness and enjoyment of the ways groups work;
  • derive a sense of achievement from completing practical work for which they are wholly or partly responsible;
  • evaluate their achievements as individuals and through the groups in which they work;
  • appreciate the values and attitudes of their own and other communities.


11. The following learning objectives are cumulative. Those at the first stage should lay a foundation for pupils' experiences of drama. Subsequent stages should extend and deepen previous achievements. These objectives will need to be considered in conjunction with the attainment targets and statements of attainment for English in the National Curriculum, particularly those within the profile components for speaking and listening. Although they are presented separately, in practice they will be interrelated through a variety of opportunities for dramatic activity. This activity will, by the age of seven, enable pupils to:

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  • play inventively and with concentration, both on their own and with others;
  • understand and take pleasure in the difference between pretence and reality;
  • identify with characters and actions through role-playing, for instance in a dramatised story, and as spectators of a live performance;
  • have the confidence and ability to put across a particular point of view;
  • realise that the views of individuals do not always coincide;
  • learn how to work together to solve human and practical problems;
  • explore the differences between right and wrong in simple moral dilemmas posed through drama.
12. By the age of 11 pupils should be able to:
  • invent and develop convincing roles in specific situations;
  • create and take part in improvised scenes in order to explore particular issues which could, for instance, have a practical, social or moral dimension;
  • know how to structure dramatic sequences in order to convey meaning;
  • carry out dramatic intentions with a clear but unforced control over movement and voice;
  • organise and deploy physical materials, colour, light and sound to create a space for drama;
  • be able to use artefacts or properties as symbols in dramatic action;
  • experience the power of ritual and display and other structural means in order to appreciate the contribution these make to dramatic meaning;
  • select and use first-hand material which is relevant and dramatically significant;

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  • recognise good work in drama through a detailed and critical observation of the characters created, the issues involved and the processes employed.
13. By the age of 16 pupils should be able to:
  • demonstrate a knowledge of the basic concepts of drama which are outlined in paragraphs 14 to 17;
  • use appropriate structures to control dramatic action;
  • try out different ideas or unorthodox approaches in experimenting with improvisation and text;
  • recognise that there may be alternative interpretations of dramatic meaning which have equal validity;
  • appreciate dramatic ambiguity, for example when language and action work in opposition;
  • call upon a range of subtle skills in voice, posture, movement and gesture in order to sustain and develop dramatic action;
  • integrate sound and silence, movement and stillness, light and darkness to make effective use of spaces where dramatic action takes place;
  • create improvised or written drama for others;
  • understand the main characteristics of different kinds of drama and have practical experience of suitable classic and contemporary examples;
  • experience the organisation, discipline and teamwork necessary to perform drama to others, formally or informally, in or out of school;
  • recognise social conventions and stereotypes and be prepared to re-examine them;
  • show insight into, and sympathy for, human and cultural differences.

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Elements of learning

The following five elements of learning are acquired or developed in the context of the aims and objectives for drama and are inseparable from them.


14. In drama pupils create fictions in that they pretend to be someone that they are not. Even when they are apparently just recreating reality, it is still a fiction; an artificial world which they control. This control is exercised in part by their choice and use of symbols within that fiction, because symbols bring together the world as it is experienced with the world as it is imagined. For example, a crown may invest a character with both traditional authority and actual power.

15. Character or role can be very simple or highly complex. The king in a fairy story is either good or evil; King Lear is not. Pupils need to learn how to develop roundness and depth in the roles which they assume. It is often helpful to pupils when taking on a character to start from a stereotype, but this may set limits which they fail to recognise and unduly restrict the scope and meaning of their fiction. For example, unless explored more deeply, an understanding of old age may ossify into caricatures of old men and women with shuffling feet, bent backs and quavering voices.

16. The situation and setting in which the events of the drama take place and the sequencing of those events, creating a plot, are the result of conscious decisions made by teacher and pupil and are determined by what they want to say and how they want to say it. Plotting is broadly conventional in that it tends to follow a series of given forms, but the conventions should not be taken for granted; rules can be broken, traditions questioned and expectations challenged, provided the reasons are clear. The villain does not have to die in the end, nor the hero and heroine marry nor yet live happily ever after. Dramatic dilemmas or conflicts need not be resolved unless the pupils so decide.

17. Drama is governed by rules or conventions which determine the ways by which its meanings are created, controlled and conveyed to an audience. In drama, where

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realism is the commonest conventional form, pupils use many of the conventions of everyday social activity, such as those governing what, how and when we eat. They also use the conventions of drama itself which are different: for instance, a dramatic episode lasting five minutes can be understood to represent 15 years; an empty stage, a room. Where dialogue is used the conventions of language are brought into play. Different kinds of drama, such as a realistic play on television, a pantomime, a classroom improvisation or a nativity play, use different sets of conventions. Some conventions arise from practical considerations unrelated to the content. Limitations to the length of the drama, for instance, may lead to further decisions being taken, such as a restriction on the number of characters taking part. Pupils need to recognise and use an increasingly broad range of conventions, both dramatic and social.

Knowledge and understanding

18. Whilst drama deals with people and the ways in which they develop through time, it always happens in the present. Events are enacted or unfold before our eyes. So it is a powerful way of bringing alive knowledge and experience which might otherwise be inert. There are specific kinds of knowledge and understanding which pupils acquire or extend through their work in drama. These include:

i. knowledge which children derive from their own experience, both in and out of school. This includes an awareness of people, places and events encountered in fiction as well as in real life. Drama draws most usefully upon pupils' immediate experience to start with and extends it through the use of the imagination.

ii. knowledge which pupils are given or need to find out in order to have sufficient information for a particular piece of drama work. This may be knowledge from any area of the curriculum, bur it is most likely to centre upon social relationships, social issues or moral dilemmas. For example, in a classroom drama about the American West, pupils will need some accurate historical source material about, say, the Californian Gold Rush of 1849. The focus for the drama, however, would be the attitudes, values, feelings, personalities and problems of the people who

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sought wealth or a new life. In drama pupils need to develop an understanding of the lives of the people whose characters or roles they assume.

iii. knowledge which they acquire through drama itself. This will include knowledge of the same kinds as in (ii) above, although it may not be possible to identify in advance what the specific knowledge is to be. The question 'what would happen if ...?' should often be asked by teachers, but with potential areas of learning in mind. Pupils should be encouraged to look back periodically on their experience in drama to consider the knowledge which they have gained. Such knowledge can usefully be expressed in forms other than that of the drama itself, for example through various modes of writing and speaking, and visual and aural means such as photographs or video recordings made by the pupils themselves. Sometimes the most suitable way of conveying the knowledge pupils gain through drama is by showing it to others, for it is a feature of performed drama that it conveys meanings in a condensed and deliberate way to an audience.

iv. knowledge about drama and theatre as a cultural and historical phenomenon. This includes knowledge of the place and purpose of drama in society; of the beginnings of drama and its links with religion; of a range of forms of drama and theatre and their conventions; of the theatre as a place of work and cultural influence; of the contribution of the arts to the wealth of a country; of the educational uses of drama and theatre. Visiting a local theatre or having a visit from a theatre-in-education team can help children of any age to understand how these forms of drama are part of their culture.

v. knowledge of drama as an artistic and learning process. Pupils should build up a knowledge of the forms of drama and its techniques. Particularly in the early years and through much of primary education knowledge of this sort may be implicit. Nevertheless it is also in the nature of drama itself to seek to clarify the relationship between the implicit and the explicit. Much of drama, particularly improvised drama, is exploratory, and aims to deepen our understanding of experiences and feelings that are vague and intuitive to begin with. Children's play in the early

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years manifests these characteristics. As with the other arts, drama is a means of giving form to kinds of knowledge and experience that are not available to us in any other way. The rehearsal call be seen as the process leading to the gradual emergence of a common understanding, which is then developed further as it is shared with an audience. In classroom drama pupils follow a comparable path towards meaning, though often they have to create, or the teacher has to provide for them, forms and conventions that a text already offers to actors. The gradual emergence of explicit knowledge from a basis of personal experience is a feature of pupils' progression in drama.

19. Imagination shows itself in many different ways and is vital to the life of the mind; it is a projection of our unconscious as well as conscious thoughts and feelings, a way of attaining insight. Imagination links our direct experience with our reason by drawing previous observation and practice into present understanding. The use of the imagination transforms our perception of reality. It needs to be fostered regularly in schools.

20. The success of a drama lesson, or a lesson employing dramatic methods, depends upon the pupils' use of a disciplined imagination. For instance, in pretending to be someone else we are able to examine our own feelings and attitudes under the protection of the adopted guise. Drama enables children to explore the consequences of action and belief in a controlled and personally distanced manner.

21. In a similar way, we can appreciate something of our own world by creating worlds that are unreal, and in so doing learn to face unexpected challenges or what at first may seem overwhelming odds. Science fiction, cartoon films and fantasy dramas testify to the impact of imaginary worlds upon young and old. The elements of magic and illusion are part of theatre history, including, for example, ghosts in Shakespeare or transformation scenes in pantomime.

22. The range of possibilities for use of the imagination is limitless, but imagination may not often be given due emphasis, particularly among older pupils. Some poor drama lessons simply reproduce stereotyped social problems without the

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imaginative exploration of their depth and potential. On other occasions, imagined worlds are explored without enough background preparation, information and investigation. Sometimes pupils are invited to treat the historical events and people of the past as fictional without undertaking a sufficient critical scrutiny through the use of evidence.

23. Secondary schools in particular need to consider whether more emphasis should be placed on imaginative stimuli. Concentration upon social problems without cultivating the pupils' inner experience may give children a narrow or unbalanced understanding of the society and the world in which they live. Through the exercise of imagination in drama, heroic struggles can be identified with, human achievements celebrated and the comic as well as the tragic side of life better appreciated.


24. In the course of work in drama, children should be given a variety of experience in four broadly related and interdependent areas. They should:

i. develop an extensive range of language uses, including many of those referred to in the statutory orders for English. In both improvised and text-based drama, energy and conviction develop through the role or character adopted. This widens the emotional register, and hence the language required, whether it be the language of the courtroom, the interview, the quarrel, the conspiracy, the celebration, the farewell or any other dimension of the real or imagined world which children have constructed. Reading, research and observation in order to give substance to their drama provide opportunities for children to weigh alternatives and debate possibilities. Work in drama which stems from shared material and discussion makes demands on children's capacities for alert listening and questioning. The interactions of drama place children in situations within which appropriate patterns of language have to be devised.

ii. learn to move with confidence and purpose. Physical projection is achieved through posture, gesture, a sense of timing or an expressive stillness.

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iii. develop the range and flexibility of the human voice and its contribution to creating and sustaining a dramatic impact. This comes about through variations in speed, tone and dynamic control and the ability to articulate with clarity and vitality.

iv. be able to use any available resources to help them communicate dramatically. These resources might include dressing-up clothes, different lengths and textures of fabric, boxes, electric torches and classroom percussion instruments as well as the more formal theatrical resources such as stage sets, properties, costumes, make-up, stage lighting and live or recorded music. Through creating, adapting and using such materials children develop practical and technical skills and an understanding of how these can contribute to the impact and meaning of drama. Performance gives children the opportunity to manage time, space and physical and human resources.


25. 'Schools, homes and society at large are at pains to encourage values and qualities in pupils which will result in attitudes characteristic of a good citizen in a democratic, humane and free society.' (Curriculum Matters 2: The curriculum from 5 to 16, paragraph 103, page 41).

Drama teaching is able to contribute to the fostering of such attitudes; it can, for example, help pupils to develop qualities of self-esteem and self-reliance. Since drama takes place with other people it should help to encourage attitudes of openness, tolerance and mutual understanding.

26. As drama work develops pupils are able to initiate and invent, respond to spontaneity, accept the needs of the group as a whole and appreciate detail, complexity and richness. Pupils can be helped to question their own attitudes and those of others within an orderly and supportive framework, so broadening and deepening their understanding of people in different times and places. Work in drama should have a serious purpose, in that what is expressed may feed back into life, yet it should also be enjoyable. It ought to help pupils to show integrity in their dealings with others.

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Principles of planning and teaching


27. As implied in paragraph 18, drama offers enormous scope for the selection of subject material. Teachers should ensure that children do not suffer direct or indirect discrimination through the choice of content. Selection should relate to the changing needs and interests of the pupils concerned, both individually and as a group. It should take advantage of the diversity of British society:

i. Material should draw upon local heritage and cultures, so that pupils can better understand both how their own community came to be as it is and how it might develop. The examination of some aspect of social history or geography which raises relevant, present-day issues could provide a suitable example.

ii. Pupils should encounter, through practical experience, material drawn from a variety of artistic, oral and literary traditions: for example from myths, legends, folklore, fairy stories, narrative and lyric poems, songs and ballads, letters, diaries, newspapers, photographs, proverbs, carnivals and other seasonal and religious festivals. Pupils in secondary schools should also be introduced progressively to an appropriate range of classic and contemporary plays.

iii. Attention should be given to the attainment targets and programmes of study for English, to the potentially dynamic relationship of drama to other foundation subjects of the National Curriculum and to developments in design and media education. This would include a consideration of the contribution of drama to subjects and cross-curricular themes in the primary school and to specific schemes such as the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative. Opportunities in the performing arts, such as in music-theatre, dance-drama or puppetry, should be considered within the context of changing patterns in work and leisure and may contribute to pupils' economic awareness through, for example, their organising of performances for others or through relevant work placements (see also paragraph 37).

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iv. Pupils ought to understand the importance of the social context in which performed drama takes place; how choice of material as well as style of delivery are affected by the needs of others, the audience. This is particularly important when work is undertaken in the community, such as drama for the very young or very old. A variety of contexts like these gives a specific purpose to the acquisition of knowledge and skills.
28. Suitable tasks and challenges should be set which respect individual differences between pupils. The climate for learning needs to encompass the contributions of both the most and the least able; the shy child should not be excluded from the dramatic action nor the over-confident child allowed to dominate it. These matters should be borne in mind by the teacher when deciding upon the size and composition of groups for practical work and how far pupils are capable of making such decisions for themselves. Where pupils with special educational needs are present then particular consideration should be given to their contribution to the learning, but without detriment to the rest: the whole group should thereby gain in sensitivity and understanding.

29. It follows from the above that there must be equality of opportunity in drama work for boys and girls, for those learning English as a second language and for pupils from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds. A balance of interests must be struck and preconceptions about what particular groups of pupils are good at or concerned about should be questioned. Drama has a part to play in helping children with special educational needs to express themselves. Mime, for instance, is a valuable aid to children who have difficulties in manipulating words and is a well-established form of drama among the deaf. Clowning and puppetry add their own distinctive perspectives which have proved useful in this area of work for, like the other arts, they have the power to release actions, thoughts and emotions in a controlled context in both performers and spectators.

30. Progress in drama is difficult to generalise about. Dramatic experience should lead to the emergence of self-confidence, with an increasing awareness of oneself and the needs of others through the exploration of dramatic dilemmas or conflicts. There needs to be a growing understanding of the learning objectives set out in paragraphs 11 to 13, with a

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mastery of the necessary skills and dramatic concepts as more complex ideas come to be expressed. The work should gain in its power to communicate through its capacity to sustain ideas and maintain authenticity. Characteristically, this comes from a readiness to use the imagination, trust intuitive judgements and responses and develop a greater sensitivity in outlook. Whatever the chosen style of dramatic expression, pupils should demonstrate that they take an increasingly serious approach to their work (see paragraph 26). There should, for instance, be no place in the teaching or learning, as distinct from the drama itself, for ridicule or sarcasm. Periodic discussions about what progress has been made need to be held among the pupils themselves and between them and the teacher, in other words through the give and take of teaching and learning. The different levels of attainment set out for English in the National Curriculum will be an important guide for teachers.

31. Continuity of learning is partly achieved by the constant evaluation of the pupils' work during each lesson, together with those periodic reflections on the dramatic action which always should be built in. Special care should be taken of how the work is to be re-introduced at the beginning of the next session: the elements of surprise or suspense are sometimes great motivators. Pupil profiles may be compiled which record both individual achievement and the individual's contribution to group work and include the pupil's own assessment of progress. This increasingly comprehensive information, however recorded, should be handed on from year to year and from one phase of education to the next.

32. The teacher with responsibility for drama needs to formulate a scheme of work which outlines the drama practice in the school, the contribution of drama to the school's policy for the arts, its relationship to the attainment targets and programmes of study for English in the National Curriculum, and its links with other curricular areas and with more general aspects of the school's provision, such as language development, personal and social education, multicultural education and equal opportunities. This scheme should set down aims, learning objectives, teaching methods, evaluation and assessment procedures and a record-keeping system. It should foster progression through the years and contribute to progression across the different phases of education, reflecting both the range of pupil ability and the wider social context of the

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school and its community. It should identify the necessary resources and how best to use and maintain them. Such schemes of work are essential for proper planning. They also have a function in informing others, such as headteachers, governors, parents and other members of staff, of the place and purpose of drama in the school.

Organisation in the primary school

33. Younger primary-aged children should engage in social and dramatic play and be given opportunities to try out many roles through the careful adaptation of the play area and through the provision of clothes and properties. The use of well-chosen stories and poems, and of puppets and musical instruments, can further enhance such opportunities. The teacher's involvement here is vital, as imagination, understanding and language are developed through the challenging situations which are designed for children to explore. Pupils need to use drama as part of the everyday process of classroom learning, and this means that drama should not be confined to a set period of time each week. The same consideration should govern the choice of teaching space. The deciding factor as to whether the drama takes place in the classroom or in a larger space, such as the school hall, should be the suitability of the environment for the dramatic activity.

34. The task of all primary school teachers, and particularly of the teacher who takes responsibility for drama, is to see that opportunities for children to develop dramatic concepts, knowledge, imagination, skills and attitudes are woven into their general experience of the curriculum and that, through the curricular planning of the school, teachers are aware of what drama can contribute year by year. Where there is a drama consultant or co-ordinator he or she is likely to be a class teacher, so it is by giving advice about preparation or evaluation and about the dramatic potential in planned units of work that specialist help is likely to be most effective. The chance to work alongside another teacher, sometimes with one or both members of staff in role, can enhance profitable learning and give the less experienced teacher an opportunity to gain in confidence. Where a school decides to concentrate on a project approach using drama to explore history or geography, science or technology, then a consultant can co-ordinate and guide the work and encourage teachers to work as a team.

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35. In many schools children's drama features in assemblies, enhancing the occasions when work is shared with the rest of the school. It can help to establish the character of the school and can give children the chance to organise material and understand some of the responsibilities of working in a group. Because an essential part of dramatic progress comes through facing dilemmas, the subject has a particular value for the teaching of moral education. The use of the techniques and conventions of drama could be further explored in the teaching of religious education.

Organisation in the secondary school

36. Drama is likely to be provided in one form or another for pupils between the ages of 11 and 14 and it may be offered as an optional subject for 14-16 year-olds. Provision is most effective when time for drama is provided regularly, is planned and is of sufficient duration to develop the full implications of practical work. It is particularly valuable when pupils have regular access to drama, together with other opportunities for more extensive work over a longer period of time at certain points in the school year, perhaps in conjunction with other arts.

37. Schools often provide a range of extra-curricular activities in drama: weekly clubs, excursions to the professional theatre and experience in school productions are examples of ways in which enriching opportunities can complement the timetabled work of the school. Residential courses are occasionally arranged as are exchange visits with other schools, when practical work may be shared. Where there are opportunities of visits by outside theatre groups, such as suitable theatre-in-education teams, preparatory and follow-up work needs to be planned and carried out and arrangements made to receive the visitors in school. Work placements for pupils can sometimes be set up with local arts organisations, to mutual benefit.

38. The organisation of drama in secondary schools is frequently the responsibility of a single specialist teacher. This responsibility can be exercised within a separate subject department, within the English department, or as part of a creative arts faculty, with subjects such as music, dance, art, media studies and design. Because drama is often taught by an individual teacher there are dangers of insularity: a whole school policy for the arts should reduce this possibility (see paragraph 32) and facilitate joint programmes of work without

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jeopardising specialist interests. As part of this policy an annual report might be prepared for the school governors, setting out short- and long-term objectives for drama and the other arts and how they are being achieved.

39. Non-specialist teachers are also increasingly involved in drama, so specialists need to support and co-ordinate their teaching as well as acting as consultants to other staff who may, for example, be using drama methods in tutorial work. Joint teaching and the shared development of materials are valuable ways of supporting less experienced teachers and can be extended to a wide range of subject departments. The drama specialist should be seen as a valuable resource for departments who are seeking a more active style of teaching and learning. Drama teachers should not only be able to maintain curricular contact with other staff in the school but also establish links with other schools, colleges and arts organisations in the area. Teachers' drama associations are sometimes formed within a locality to provide professional support and guidance.


40. Characteristics of successful teaching in drama include:

  • defining the purposes of the learning for the pupils, so that they know what they are doing and why they are doing it;
  • selecting and organising activities and resources which open up possibilities and leave room for the unexpected, avoiding predictable and unvaried lesson patterns;
  • providing opportunities for pupils of all abilities to participate in an effective and interesting way;
  • looking for occasions to make suitable links between drama and other subjects in order to increase pupils' awareness of the common elements of learning;
  • organising time and space so that lessons have coherence and allow pupils sufficient opportunity both for the structured planning and for the constructive criticism of practical work;
  • seeing where breaks in time between teaching sessions can be used to deepen pupils' understanding and prepare them for subsequent work;

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  • using the social and dramatic skills of voice, eye and demeanour to encourage concentration and determination in the learning;
  • observing closely but sympathetically, gauging the growth in understanding which is taking place;
  • being ready to intervene in practical work in order to improve pupils' motivation, skills and knowledge;
  • approaching a drama improvisation or an interpretation of text as provisional and likely to need improvement;
  • adopting teaching techniques particular to drama, such as the technique of the teacher taking on a role, so that the course of the dramatic action may be suitably sustained, developed or modified from within.
41. Teachers need to decide about the place of performance in school drama. They should not assume that the work has to lead to presentation, for pupils should never be faced with the danger of overexposure of their work. Yet performance may sometimes be the obvious and necessary culmination of the work which precedes it (see paragraph 18 iii). Even so, the nature and scale of any presentation should always be considered carefully. Work may be shown, for example, to the teacher, to the class, to the whole school, or to parents or some group in the community outside the school. Concern for the learning involved should be at the forefront of any decision about whether to show and to whom. A clearer definition by schools of the educational purposes of performance could help teachers, children and others, including parents and governors, to understand its proper place in schools.

Evaluation and assessment

42. To acquire a sense of value and to recognise and appreciate quality are central educational purposes. Determining, articulating and interpreting significance and worth lie at the heart of any artistic process; such decisions are primarily judgements of aesthetic value. In this broad sense therefore evaluation, the determination of value, is an essential part of the artistic work of both pupils and teachers.

43. Assessment and evaluation are closely-related concepts. In schools, assessment includes judging the quality of pupils'

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learning, their achievements and sometimes their personal qualities. It has been described as the 'assessment of performance'. Drama teachers have a particular contribution to make to a better understanding and a clearer use of 'performance', as part of a broader process of teaching pupils how to evaluate, how to make judgements about value. Good teaching and learning in drama depend upon the continual use of judgement and interpretation by both teachers and pupils. In its document on aesthetic development (1983), the Assessment of Performance Unit argued that 'the judgement and interpretation should be informed by considerable consensus about the criteria to be applied when determining quality'. Such an agreement is probably lacking among teachers of drama at present. An outline of the purposes of assessment in drama is offered here as the basis for establishing a consensus.

44. In the earliest years children can discuss what has happened in their drama. From the later primary years they need to develop the habit of standing back, talking and, where appropriate, writing about the way it works, their responsibility for it, what they have learned and how improvements might be made. This kind of reflection can also result in other types of response (see paragraph 18 iii). Earlier sections of this document have given guidance on objectives and on the concepts, knowledge, imagination, skills and attitudes which pupils should acquire through drama. Assessment is part of the process by which teachers and pupils should judge how far these have been achieved.

45. As a practical subject drama needs to develop a wide range of forms of assessment which are sensitive to the essential qualities of the subject. Because of the transitory nature of dramatic activity, its live interactions may best be judged, and least inhibited, by informal assessment throughout a course. The informality is important, because even a discreet video recording of a spontaneous improvisation may change its nature. Another special feature of drama is its group character. Teachers have to find ways of assessing the quality both of a group presentation and of the individual's contribution to it. Much needs to be done here, particularly at public examination level, where the difficulty is heightened when certificates record only individual attainment. A third aspect concerns the central place of evaluation by pupils. Effective drama teaching encourages pupils to evaluate work in progress continually with

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a view to improvement: one purpose of rehearsal, for instance, is for participants as well as teachers to judge the quality of performance in order to refine the presentation. Their critical and analytical powers can contribute to the shaping and focusing of the work.

46. In primary schools, the assessment of drama is likely to contribute to the reporting of attainment within the profile components for speaking and listening, for reading and for writing at or near the end of Key Stages 1 and 2. Teachers should be alert to quality and should gauge how far the elements of learning in drama are being grasped in order to establish the extent of the children's own inventiveness and their confidence in handling different dramatic forms. Sometimes these will be in contexts which may not have learning in drama as their central purpose. Discussion with children of the work in progress is important and should not only occur at the end of a lesson. The opportunity to reflect on dramatic activity and evaluate it is valuable for infants as well as for children of junior age. For the teacher, discussion with colleagues may help to reveal how far common objectives have been realised. Simple written records or profiles of children's progress in drama may be kept. These records sometimes lead to reports to parents in terms of the quality of children's contribution to group drama as well as to their individual development.

47. In secondary schools continuous assessment by teachers is essential. This includes their moderation of pupils' judgements of their own work, given both in writing and orally, for example in discussion within a period of reflection during a lesson. More formal assessments tend to occur when there is a polished product and a resulting performance or showing of work to others. The range of possible audiences is wide: groups may share their work within a class; classes might show work to their year group in assemblies. The audience may be one other teacher, chosen because of a known sympathy with the work or with expertise in drama itself or in the subject from which the matter of the drama has been taken, or it may be a group of parents and the wider community of the school, offering their critical response to pupils' work (see also paragraph 41). Assessment of pupils' performance in English at or near the end of Key Stages 3 and 4 will need to take account of any drama work related to the attainment targets and programmes of study.

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48. The boundaries of drama are wide. It can be taught as a subject in its own right and dramatic methods can be applied to the teaching of other subjects, particularly languages, the humanities and the arts. Successful drama teaching develops interpersonal relationships which transcend divisions of age, sex or tradition, and helps pupils to understand and value their own experience and achievement and those of others.

49. Dramatic work undertaken by pupils becomes particularly their own group creation, however modest the individual contributions may be. That is why learning through drama can bring a sense of satisfaction and pleasure to those taking part. Performance brings a need for self-discipline and collective responsibility. It also develops quick thinking and adaptability so that dramatic contact can be made with a range of audiences.

50. Drama, however, is much more than the exercise of methods or techniques: it is to do with the development of personality and human spirit and the realisation of shared insight. This document sets out to provide a framework within which schools, parents, governors and local authorities can discuss and locate the place of drama in the life and learning of their children.