Drama classes hit by 60% teacher cut

Lalayn Baluch

Secondary school drama teaching is at risk from a serious “dilution” in quality because of government plans to cut the number of new specialist teachers by 60%, education experts have warned.

Figures from the Training Development Agency – which regulates the allocation of teaching programmes – reveal that in 2005 there were 261 places on postgraduate PGCE Secondary Drama courses nationwide.

By 2011 that number will have fallen to just 109.

Emma Brown, PGCE course leader at Central School of Speech and Drama and member of the Standing Committee of Initial Teacher Education in Drama, believes that without sufficient specialists, the government will struggle to carry through its initiatives to increase participation in the arts – such as the recently announced Find Your Talent scheme, which promises five hours of culture to youngsters every week.

She told The Stage: “There are lots of implications. If you only have 100 trained drama teachers for 4,000 secondary schools [each year], obviously what you are going to have is a dilution in the quality of drama teaching and also a limited number of people who are specialists.

“Schools might still have an arts offer, but it will be delivered by a non-specialist, such as English teachers or music departments.”

She warned with fewer specially trained teachers, the campaign to push the subject’s prominence on the curriculum would fall by the wayside.

According to Brown, drama examination entries in the 14-19 age range are at an all-time high, with 82,389 pupils being entered for drama qualifications in 2007. This figure represents 14.7% of the total student entry.

While some drama teachers are trained on the job rather than through postgraduate studies, Brown claims that they are insufficiently prepared for full-time teaching and do not compensate for the loss of PGCE students.

SCITED is now looking to gain funding to create a manifesto to be used as an advocacy document for drama education.

A TDA spokesperson explained it set the number of places on PGCE courses in line with targets set by the Department for Children, Schools and Families – which declined to comment – and that GTP allocations depended on the needs of individual schools.

He added: “With [predicted] falling pupil numbers, the DCSF’s Teacher Supply Model shows a reducing demand for newly qualified teachers in many secondary subjects over the next few years – including drama.

“The TDA has to have regard to these recruitment targets when allocating initial teacher training places.”

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