National Youth Theatre chief executive Paul Roseby has claimed drama should be scrapped from the GCSE curriculum as a stand-alone subject, with its teaching integrated into other lessons instead.
His comments have attracted criticism from industry experts, who have said removing the subject from the curriculum would spell the “end of drama in schools”.
Speaking at the Artsmark conference at the British Film Institute in London last week, Roseby said he did not think that drama needed to be on the formal curriculum, describing GCSE drama as having “no relevance”.
He added: “We don’t need drama on the curriculum in such a formalised way. It’s simply because everybody talks about it being very soft and easy. You and I know it’s not, but the perception of it is, and that’s the battle. That’s not to say I don’t believe in drama in schools – absolutely not. Actually [I would like to see] more than there is currently. But in terms of GCSEs, I’m not so sure it really works.”
He said: “If we continue to debase some of our arts work with formal qualifications, it will be taken less seriously as a result.”
However, Patrice Baldwin, chair of National Drama, which represents drama teachers and theatre educators, described Roseby’s ideas as “ridiculous”.
She said: “It’s obvious that having a formal GCSE qualification for drama gives it more status in schools, not less… As soon as a subject is not in the legal curriculum as an entitlement for all, as soon as a subject is deemed by politicians to be among subjects that matter less or not at all, then the subject in school is potentially doomed.”
During his speech, Roseby suggested implementing drama across the curriculum and having drama teachers as creative directors within schools.
“I would love to see schools become more like creative hubs and revolutionise the way we learn,” he said. “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.”
Drama is currently part of the national curriculum for English, for children aged five to 14. However, it has no set programme of study. After the age of 14, schools must offer a minimum of one art form – drama, dance, arts and design or music.
Baldwin said: “Does Mr Roseby think creating a performance on a core subject is sufficient, or does he see drama as just an extracurricular activity that can be parcelled out by schools to cultural providers and only be about performing theatre?”
Drama practitioner Jonothan Neelands, professor of creative education at Warwick University, said: “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, and at a time when the arts are being crowded out of most schools’ curriculum, it’s not a helpful suggestion.”
Roseby admitted his proposals would be “a nightmare for a headmaster to get their head around”, but said: “I think it’s something we can help inform and discuss. We need to offer something better, rather than just criticise what’s going on now.”
Ian Kellgren, chief executive of Drama UK, said: “Drama needs to be linked to a GCSE. Ideas of integrating it in core subjects are hopelessly unrealistic in the current climate. A drama GCSE is essential for developing the passion, skills and knowledge needed to become both producers and audiences for theatre.”