Letters of the week
I want to raise, not scrap, study
Last month, I called for compulsory drama, taught across the curriculum, by specialist teachers (NYT chief’s call to end ‘irrelevant’ drama GCSEs sparks fury, October 30, front page). Little of that was reported, but headlines always shout the loudest. I did not call for the “scrapping” of GCSE drama, but for reform through a specific idea. I worry about the current status of drama in schools and how it’s often perceived to be a ‘soft’ or ‘irrelevant’ option at GCSE. I, of course, know that it is anything but. However, young people tell me they’re put off studying drama because it’s seen as second class by some parents, employers and universities.
I see the value of drama as being greater than any qualification. However, I hear those teachers who say that without a formal qualification, drama has no chance in schools. The question is: how do we join up the need for every young person to experience drama in schools with the wider sector, and the undeniable economic and artistic successes of British theatre, TV and film?
We shouldn’t ‘scrap’ but reform the current drama GCSE to appeal to a wider range of young people by making it more industry relevant and rigorous as a necessary way of examining the world, and I support the current Department for Education – proposed GCSE drama reforms in line with this. But also, the intrinsic value of studying drama as a stand-alone subject and its ability to enhance the learning practice of other subjects should not be seen as mutually exclusive. By engaging other subjects in the value of drama, I believe it will gain respect – not just from those who practise and preach it, but from those who don’t currently ‘get it’. This isn’t about devaluing drama; it’s about raising its currency across the board.
There is never a good time to talk about prospective change, particularly when teachers feel constantly under attack. To teachers who feel distanced or angered by the misinterpretation of my efforts to bring drama into the core of the curriculum in schools, I offer a sincere and unconditional apology. I am only here because a teacher took me to see a theatre production as a teen, and I see the great impact drama teachers have in the young people we meet each year at the National Youth Theatre.
My observation of the way drama is perceived is cultural, not personal. Some may consider my ideas as unrealistic, but I have always sought to be as ambitious as the young people we serve.
NYT chief executive
Email address supplied
No need to be discrete about it
Paul Roseby’s remarks last week about scrapping GCSE drama is a continuing saga with him, earning him push-button headlines (such as his previous remarks about drama schools). How better to stay in the public eye and ear about this complicated debate?
The fact is that the learning and teaching of drama seriously starts, vitally and importantly, with GCSE study but then is distributed throughout the education life cycle: in the study of English, history, classics, politics, religion and innumerable other parts of the curriculum. It is a key subject in all humanities studies.
As someone who did not study GCSE drama (or any GCSEs), that never stopped me or others from embracing drama training at every point of my life from school up through university and postgraduate studies and into a wide-ranging career. The best of our theatre artists and workers have never let discrete subject categorisations stop them in the pursuit of the art of the stage.
Principal and chief executive
Rose Bruford College
Email address supplied
Do you know who’s kneeling?
I own a production photograph signed by Lord Snowdon. Titled “Unknown Actor – Kneeling”, (see main picture, above) it was printed “some time in the 1960s”. However, during the past few years, despite having shown the photograph to many actors, directors, agents and stage managers, I am still unable to confirm the identify of this actor, or indeed the production for which it was taken. I wonder if it may be a pre-production, publicity photograph?
Perhaps readers of The Stage might offer a suggestion as to whom is shown in this picture (my email address is below)?
With kind thanks for both your and their anticipated help.
Former stage manager
Leicester Haymarket, Liverpool Playhouse and Birmingham Rep