The words ‘new’ and ‘national’ in relation to the primary national curriculum are misnomers. Much is similar to my primary school education in the 1950s, when there was a relentless focus on passing the 11+. Academies, free and independent schools don’t have to follow the ‘national’ curriculum anyway, so it is not national.
With a rapidly increasing number of schools jumping (before being pushed) into academy status, soon most schools won’t have to follow it. However, will they focus on developing a more balanced arts curriculum or not? What children learn, and the ways they learn it, influence the development of their brains, minds and attitudes. Education with insufficient arts is a form of deprivation.
I talk with teachers from many schools. I have been told, ‘We used to do drama but there just isn’t time now,’ and ‘We have been told that if we don’t have to teach something, then we mustn’t waste time on it.’ The curriculum is being shaped by fear of poor test results, with young children being overdosed on spelling, punctuation, grammar, phonics and maths. Art and design and music are at least in the national curriculum, so these subjects get some attention but drama is increasingly pushed to the wings.
Many secondary school Drama teachers are also finding that their subject is being minimalised. I spoke to one teacher who had gained a job in a school only to be told, a year later, that they were removing Drama from the curriculum. She moved schools and exactly the same thing happened! Now she is teaching a Year 10 G.C.S.E. Drama group after school with no added remuneration and no recognition from the school.
England used to lead the way internationally for drama in schools but no longer. Ironically, Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary coincided with drama in schools being diminished. I believe that schools certainly should provide opportunities for children to work with artists and visit galleries, museums and theatres as part of their planned curriculum but these experiences and opportunities are no substitute for regular curriculum arts teaching in schools by qualified teachers with arts training.
If we are not careful, the teaching of Drama will be limited to after school activity. We at The Wake Up Drama Academy will do our best to fill the gap. If your children are missing out on Drama, then WUDA is the place for them!