New (2016) Drama GCSE Subject Content: Seperating Theatre from Drama

With the exams over and the coursework (nearly) sent off, it is time to turn my attention to preparing for the new GCSE and A Level courses that will come online in 2016. Initially I’m reading the subject content document straight from the DfE, which pretty much says very little about specific content but it does point towards the direction that the DfE wants us to go. You can download it from this link.

The first major point is that the course is going to be wide in it’s scope but really deep in it’s level of study. This is going to be a course that will have set texts, or like Unit 4 in Edexcel A2 Level, have set periods of time from which you have to select a text. These texts will have to contrast, so that students are not developing one specific skill over the 2 years but building a broad but knowledgeable base of theatre. That last word is key – theatre. I wouldn’t be surprised if the DfE wanted to distance themselves from the term Drama and rename it GCSE Theatre Studies.

Drama has a connotation to times gone by, of explorative activities, of process drama and recreating scenarios to learn about life. The Edexcel GCSE still has elements and terminology that link directly back to those times. The AQA GCSE has pretty much removed those links. These new GCSE’s will finally move Drama away from that link completely. I say finally, because that is a move that I’m happy with.

The new GCSE will be about not just about students making theatre, but studying the theory so students understand how theatre is made. There will be no room for explorative process based drama. It will be much more like, in content (if not in standard) to the As Level (where traditionally the idea of explorative process based drama has always been dropped).

As might be expected with that shift in focus, understanding contexts of both the play, the author and the practitioners are going to play a more important role, as will understanding the work of professional theatre will have on their own work.

Structurally, there will be a written exam and a series of performances (a minimum of two) that must include a scripted piece and a devised piece. Structurally it will be very similar to the AQA GCSE, and if, like me, you’ve been teaching this course the move over to the new GCSE might not be too difficult in terms of it’s philosophy and adapting your approach to teaching drama.

Personally, although I’m yet to read any of the specifications, I like the look of these changes and I think they’ve been long overdue in Drama.

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