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Devonport High School for Girls

Name of Head of Department

Mr T Newman, NPQML+, BA (Hons), PGCE

Statement of Intent 

Drama makes learners of us all by offering an integral view of society. It delivers meaning to its students, purpose to its performers, and understanding to its audiences. All the while challenging society to reflect upon itself and the world we have created. 

 Drama instils a passion for the Performing Arts and teaches the students at DHSG to explore performance skills, enhance academic skills, and refine interpersonal skills. Our students have a dynamic and ambitious curriculum evolving from the foundations of KS2 skills and knowledge, leading to a framework of knowledge and skills, deliberate practice, and self-evaluation in KS3. This allows further building blocks based on theatre history, influential practitioners, and the ability to operate as an actor, director, and designer in KS4. Consolidating all this knowledge and theorising on the psychology of the character, conceptual vision of the director, and the thematic choices of the designer equip students as active practitioners encompassing all the above in KS5. 

With a reflective and academic approach to all aspects of the course, we aim to explore both process and performance theatre. Process theatre being the progressive tradecraft where students actively learn skills as they engage with stimuli, explore techniques in rehearsals, and devise scenes all to learn in the moment. Performance theatre being the traditional approach to starting a production and working with a stimulus or script, developing acting, directing, and designing skills with previously learnt techniques to produce a completed performance for assessment, analysis, and evaluation. 

We take as many students to theatre as possible during their time at DHSG, believing that the cultural investment deepens and broadens minds and benefits the students in all aspects of their learning and of their life. 

Contribution to School Curriculum 

Drama’s place, both in lessons and in the wider extracurricular program, is to offer an incredible set of skills vital to all students’ social, cultural, historical, and political (SCHP) education during their informative schooling years. We pride ourselves on being a modern subject that explores any human need or issue through the medium of performance and reflect the learning from many other curricular subjects such as English, History, Psychology, Music, Dance, to name a few. 

Drama brings value to students using their brain uniquely, introducing them to alternative learning methods. We balance adaptive and critical thinking with an open and creative mind-set needed to not only envision a performance, but to access the skills and knowledge as an actor, director, and designed to see the idea of the performance become a production. 

Many of the practical and academic skills practised and refined within Drama compliment many other subjects, such as an investigative analysis and evaluation of one’s performance has pedagogical links to a scientific experiment in Chemistry, Biology, and Physics, whereupon the student will analyse and evaluate their findings. 

It is the positive performance pressure and individual resilience our students embrace that reinforces the self-belief and confidence we see in cycle assessments and GCSE examinations. Coupled with desirable 'soft skills' our students present themselves as confident, purposeful, and communicative individuals, which are the qualities further education and future employers require. The students are increasing their chances for success in future interview prospects such as university and employment opportunities, by applying their learning beyond the classroom and using it for real world purposes. 

Extracurricular 

At DHSG we make sure that all students have access to drama through a bi-annual large-scale musical production, such as Bugsy Malone, cast, rehearsed and performed to the highest possible standard. Students from year 7 to year 13 were involved in acting, singing, dancing, backstage management, lighting, sound, props, costume, and set design to produce a truly memorable experience for all. In the desire to create as close to a professional experience as possible for our students, we perform with a live band to accompany the performance and radio mics to showcase our amazing talent. 

On the opposing bi-annual year we present a Sixth Form production performed at the Plymouth University theatre to create further access for our students to experience, in a first-hand manner, the reality of the profession in acting, directing, and designing, which can be a uniquely developed, and originally devised performance or a play script that is re-interpreted for a modern-day audience. 

A student favourite, also on the bi-annual Drama extracurricular calendar, is the ‘Theatre Land’ London residential trip. This comprises 3 days and 2 nights of backstage tours of the National Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, whilst seeing a play at the National Theatre such as Phaedra, a play at the Globe Theatre such as Tutus Andronicus, and West End musical such as Matilda. This once in a lifetime experience provides our students access to the country’s best Live Theatre that they will need to analyse and evaluate in their Component 3 written exam, but offers incredible aspiration for those students who wish to pursue a career within the performing arts. Not only is this a wonderful cultural experience in the country’s capital, it is also an opportunity to view the career paths that branch out from Sixth Form, university, and apprenticeships within the professional world of drama. 

Key stage 3 (Year 7 and 8)  

From September 2017, Year 7 and 8 students will have one term of Drama lessons in each academic year, as part of a subject rotation with Food and Textiles. This will enable all students to identify and develop the key performance skills which underpin the GCSE and A-level courses.

There are also plenty of other opportunities for Years 7 and 8 students to get involved with Drama. In Key Stage 3 students can enjoy opportunities in Drama through their English lessons as well as in their Citizenship and Tutor time activities.

Key Stage 3 students are also able to audition for parts in the School Production, performances taking place in the Summer Term to celebrate the hard work the students have put in over the year. With the Drama and Music department working closely together, along with staff who volunteer their time, DHSG's summer musical production will not be an opportunity you want to miss.

Key stage 4 (Year 9, 10 and 11) 

In Year 9 students develop an understanding of the fundamentals of the actor’s craft and how design and technical elements can enhance a production. Students develop and perform both original material, such as a monologue or scenes in pairs. Students also explore ways to develop characterisation from scripted texts, in preparation for their final assessed GCSE work in Years 10 and 11. Students are also introduced to the key practitioners they need to study, to produce a range of performances in contrasting styles; this includes exploring the work of Stanislavski, Brecht, Steven Berkoff, Frantic Assembly and Le Navet Bete. Students also begin developing the evaluative skills needed for evaluating their own devised work (Component One) and also the live theatre element of the written exam, by analysing a live professional performance they have seen at the theatre (Component Three).

In Year 10 students begin working on the set text for their Component Three exam, by exploring how as an actor they would perform key text, how as a director they would select appropriate rehearsal techniques, and as a designer how they would use costume, set and lighting to bring the play from ‘page to stage’. In the summer term, students are given their exam stimuli for Component One, and work to create an original devised performance, supported by written observation, analysis and evaluations. This work will be examined at the end of the summer tern allowing students to complete 40% of their GCSE as they launch into Yr 11 ready to begin the examined scripted performances for Component Two.

In Year 11 students complete their final assessments in Components Two and Three; in the first half of term one, students will re-engage with their Component Three play-text and practice writing a review of Live Theatre, for the final written exam, after seeing as much streamed and live theatre as possible. In the second half of term one and into term two students prepare for their Component Two text performance of two selected extracts from the same play. The final part of the academic year is spent revisiting the set text for Section A of the Component Three written exam, as well as refreshing the students' skills in analysis and evaluation to answer a live theatre response (Section B) based on the live theatre production the students have seen throughout their GCSE Drama course.

More details about the specification DHSG’s Drama Department use at GCSE level can be found on the Eduqas website, via the link below:

Full details of the specification and assessment criteria can be found on the WJEC website GCSE Drama Specification

Extra-curricular activities 

The School’s Summer Production is open to all students, not just GCSE & A Level Drama students, to audition for. Auditions generally take place between Christmas and February half-term, with rehearsals beginning for lead speaking/singing parts then bring in the entire ensemble as the year goes on.

For GCSE and A-level students, a series of additional support sessions are run outside of lesson time, at lunch time and after school continuously through the academic year.

The department also arrange a variety of trips and visits annually. These include going to Theatres to watch professional productions. We have also hosted visiting Theatre Companies such as Downstage Write and The Barbican Theatre, who have run workshop activities for our students.