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Exam proposals edge out practical work in dance GCSE and A levels

GCSE and A Level reforms could reduce access to the dance profession, it has been claimed
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Proposed government reforms for music and dance GCSE and A Levels that reduce the emphasis on practical work will be “hugely damaging” to pupils if they are introduced, industry bodies have warned.

Draft documents released earlier this month by government body the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation state that there are plans to decrease assessment through coursework and performance for both subjects.

Currently, a maximum of 80% of assessment for dance and music GCSEs can be through non-examination. The government has proposed to reduce this to 60%.

Similarly, for AS and A Level qualifications, the government plans to decrease practical assessment for dance – from 60% to 50%  – and for music, from 70% to 60%.

The National Dance Teachers Association said the reforms would force teachers to spend a larger amount of time preparing students for theoretical examination.

Veronica Jobbins, spokeswoman for the NDTA, said that a reduction to the amount of practical work would be “hugely damaging.”

“When you get into higher education, you are expected to audition. So once again, those children whose parents can afford the extra practical classes outside of school will be the ones who are able to enter the profession,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Department for Education has also released draft documents on what the content for music and dance courses should include.

The Incorporated Society of Musicians said the proposed music GCSE focused too much on a final exam, rather than addressing the process of composition and making music.

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the ISM, said: “To obsess over language and the ‘musical elements’ while forgetting about musical skills and the real musical learning of pupils seems absurd. It may serve examining boards to have a cheap method of assessment, but it does not serve the profession, industry or pupils.”

Jeremy Benson, Ofqual’s director of policy, said the proposals would put in place a “better balance between exams and other forms of assessment”.

“Where non-exam assessment is used, we will look closely at the strengths and weaknesses of the current arrangements and strengthen them where we think necessary. It must test the skills it is meant to test, better withstand pressures to maximise results and provide results that differentiate between candidates’ performance,” he said.

The NDTA and ISM will submit responses to the government’s two consultations on the reforms, which close in September.

The new dance and music qualifications are due to be taught from September 2016. Draft course content and assessment for drama qualifications are due to be published in the autumn for consultation.

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