Last year’s Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank production, The Merchant of Venice (Credit: Amit Lennon)
Shakespeare’s Globe has announced that 2016’s Playing Shakespeare schools’ production will be Twelfth Night, running from 25 February–18 March 2016. Secondary state schools in London and Birmingham are eligible for an unlimited number of free tickets for weekday performances at 2pm during the period 25 February–10 March, and for the 7pm performance on 1 March.
State schools outside the London and Birmingham areas, as well as independent schools and colleges, can book reduced rate tickets ranging from £5 to £15 for weekday performances at 2pm during the period 11–18 March.
Supporting the production will be free schools’ workshops, launching in December, CPD sessions for teachers, classroom resources, and a dedicated Twelfth Night website which will launch in January next year.
Othello was 2015’s Playing Shakespeare production (Credit: Cesare DeGiglio)
The play, specially designed for GCSE and A-level students, will fit the National Curriculum specification for KS3 (where students are required to study two of Shakespeare’s plays) and KS4 (where students are assessed on one of the Bard’s works).
The Playing Shakespeare initiative will celebrate its tenth anniversary in 2016. Through Globe Education’s partnership with Deutsche Bank, Playing Shakespeare has presented over 117,000 free tickets to schools, with over 70% of schools taking part from every London borough.
The Department for Education announced in February the subject contents for GCSE, AS and A-level drama to be taught from 2016, so in our Summer 2 issue of Teaching Drama, out now, we’re asking our panellists:
What is your view? Vote in our poll and comment below. Read the views of our panellists in Summer 2 2014-15, where the issue also includes a ‘Curriculum focus’ column, outlining a basic summary of the guidelines on which exam boards are currently finalising their new specifications.
Paul Roseby is the chief executive of the National Youth Theatre
Speaking at the Artsmark conference in late October, the chief executive of the National Youth Theatre was reported by The Stage as saying that drama at GCSE has ‘no relevance’ and that ‘we don’t need drama on the curriculum in such a formalised way.’
Roseby suggested that drama could be integrated into other subjects rather than continue to exist as what is perceived as a ‘very soft and easy’ stand-alone subject. He said: ‘You and I know it’s not, but the perception of it is, and that’s the battle.’
He said: ‘I would love to see schools become more like creative hubs and revolutionise the way we learn. They would create formulas and ideas that would stimulate subjects by actioning stories – Alan Turing, for instance, or Marie Curie, or re-enacting the cabinet war rooms. It’s taking the practical side of what theatre is and applying it to all subjects.
Roseby’s comments have attracted criticism from drama education figures such as Patrice Baldwin, chair of National Drama; Ian Kellgren, chief executive of Drama UK; and drama practitioner and professor Jonothan Neelands.
Neelands said Roseby’s comments were ‘not a helpful suggestion’, continuing, ‘It would be the end of drama in schools, frankly. If you don’t have it at GCSE, you’re pretty much saying that it doesn’t have any importance’.
Following the publication of Roseby’s comments in The Stage, the chief executive has taken to Twitter to clarify what he meant, saying: ‘In my speech I called for more drama in schools not less [and] enhanced role for drama teachers – question over GCSE format [and] it’s perception.’
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Exam regulator Ofqual has confirmed a set of radical changes to GCSE examinations taken in England, which will alter what is studied as part of the qualification, and how. Head of Ofqual Glenys Stacey has described the changes as ‘The biggest change in a generation.’
Students due to take GCSE exams in 2017 will be the first to face the new changes
GCSE examinations will be studied for across the current two-year period, however all exams will be taken at the end of two-year study, abandoning the current modular system. It is speculated that coursework and controlled assessments will also be scrapped for most subjects.
The current GCSE grading system of A*-G is to be replaced with a numerical system, ranking achievement from one to nine – with nine being the highest grade. The lowest grade applicable will be U for unclassified.
The first phase of changes will be instigated with students due to take GCSE examinations in 2017, with English and maths being the first subjects affected. The two-tier paper option for students studying maths will remain in place, however will not do so for English – meaning one exam will be taken by students of all abilities. A further 20 GCSE subjects will face these changes for exams due to be taken in 2018.
The government has dropped plans to replace GCSEs for English Baccularate Certificates following concerns from the Commons Select Committee on education.
Education secretary Michael Gove has now twice had his plans for GCSE reform rejected, as he had originally intended for GCSEs to return to the era of CSE’s and O levels.
Gove described the implementation of the Ebacc as, ‘one reform too far’. Students were due to begin studying under the new qualifications in 2015.
The backtrack has been due to concerns raised by MPs, including deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, exam regulator Ofqual, teachers and students. One of the suggested reasons that Gove was prompted to make the decision to abandon the Ebacc was that his intention to have one exam board to act as provider for a particular subject might be in contention with EU regulations. Exam boards too had expressed their concerns with the new measures.
While GCSEs will remain, they will be subject to major reform: Gove is keen to reduce coursework and modules in order to rid students of ‘bite-size learning and spoon feeding’.
When questioned by the MP for Slough, Fiona Mactaggart, about the place of creative subjects as part of the reconstructed National Curriculum, Gove stated that: ‘Artistic and creative subjects are central to a broad education.’
Speaking in the House of Commons, the education secretary said: ‘Let’s work together, as we have so successfully on other issues, to ensure children get the high quality education they deserve.’
Exams in key subjects are set to be overhauled with the English Baccalaureate certificate (Ebacc) set to replace GCSE examinations.
The new format will see the abolishment of coursework in English and maths. Modular exams will be culled, leaving students with one intensive exam at the end of study. There are also plans to have the Ebacc certificate administrated by just one main exam board.
Education secretary Michael Gove announced the changes to parliament, saying the Ebacc would create ‘truly rigorous exams, competitive with the best in the world, and making opportunity more equal for every child.’
Head of the Nasuwt teachers’ union Chris Keates responded to the announcement by saying: ‘The government will have to work hard to ensure that these reforms are not the final nail in the coffin for the provision of a broad and balanced curriculum.’
Changes are currently under consultation, with plans to introduce the Ebacc into schools in 2015. The first students to take the new exams in English, maths and science will be those starting secondary school this year – set to take the KS4 exams in 2017.
There are plans to further roll out the exam format to other subjects, including history, geography and languages in 2016 – where history coursework will also be scrapped. Further research will then be conducted to see how the Ebacc might be used to structure other subjects.
Teaching Drama contributor Susan Elkin tried to ease the fears of drama teachers, writing in a blog for The Independent: ‘Subjects such as history, geography and languages will probably be phased in gradually. But drama, dance and music will not. And quite right too. You can’t assess these subjects through a three-hour silent exam as you can maths, chemistry or English. Music or drama need to be taught by building up practical skills in regular sessions over a long period of time.’
Over 3000 vocational qualifications have had their value cut by ministers, losing the exams recognition in the league tables. Currently some courses, such as nail technology and fish husbandry, can be equivalent to up to 4 GCSEs.
The government has accused some schools of using these kinds of vocational qualifications as a way to boost their ranking in the league tables. Education secretary, Michael Gove said: ‘For too long the system has been devalued by attempts to pretend that all qualifications are intrinsically the same. Young people have taken courses that have led nowhere’.
After the cuts, schools will still be able to offer these qualifications but there will only be 120 courses that will be applicable to appear in the league tables. Vocational subjects that will still be included in the league tables are health and social care, sport, media, music and performing arts.
The past seven years has seen the number of students participating on vocational courses rise by a staggering half a million, according to statistics from the department for education.
General secretary of National Union of Teachers, Christine Blower, said in response to the news: ‘It should not be up to the government to decide which exams are of more merit than others. This is something which should be assessed by major stakeholders such as the teaching profession and awarding bodies. Vocational education has often suffered from being viewed unfavourably. These reforms are likely to exacerbate the vocational/academic divide.’