Drama is a thriving department at Leicester Grammar School. All students in Years Six, Seven and Eight have Drama lessons with a subject specialist and a large proportion of Year Nine students continue with the subject as one of the Creative and Technical options. GCSE Drama is also popular, with around sixty students following the Eduqas specification, and at A Level we offer Eduqas Drama and Theatre, which balances academic rigour with practical application of skills. Our students go on to a wide range of courses and careers covering everything from Drama schools and professional work in the theatre to medicine, law, the sciences, humanities, philosophy, politics, English, art and business.
There are many opportunities for students to be involved in Drama outside of the classroom. We run a number of theatre trips each year, professional actors work with students in workshops, and the GCSE and A Level students perform to full houses throughout the year. Those wishing to perform can audition for the annual school production, or take part in the biennial House Drama competition, which is directed by students. We also run an annual Weekend Workshop for students in Year 7-9 in which students devise and perform a piece in masks. In addition there are student Sound and Lighting Teams, who are responsible for the technical aspects of all examined performances and the school production, and the Props and Costume Teams manage and run the department’s Drama Store.
The course introduces students to curricular Drama, supporting work in other areas of the curriculum where appropriate and encouraging them to develop effective group-work skills and an imaginative approach. Working through individual, pair and group work they will use text, pictures, sound, music and other stimuli to explore real and imagined situations, beginning to create roles and characters and learning how to use their bodies and voices effectively to communicate. Assessment focuses on four main skills – contribution, group work, evaluation and performance – and students are given a mark and written feedback on each of the two assessments, together with targets to address in the subsequent work (there is no written exam). Students also complete two self-assessments, analysing their work and setting their own targets.
The Year 7 course allows students to explore a range of Drama techniques, develop their communication and social skills and begins to encourage an understanding of theatre. Core skills developed include: individual, pair and group work; role-play situations, including spontaneous and prepared improvisation; techniques such as hot-seating, thought-tracking and tableau; preparation for roles and character development; evaluation of work. Assessment focuses on four main skills – contribution, group work, evaluation and performance – and students are given a mark and written feedback on each of the two assessments, together with targets to address in the subsequent work (there is no written exam). Students also complete two self-assessments, analysing their work and setting their own targets.
The course is designed to build on the work covered in Year 7, introducing students to more complex Drama techniques, further developing their communication and social skills and increasing their understanding of theatre. Core skills developed include: individual, pair and group work; in-role work, including spontaneous and prepared improvisation; techniques such as forum theatre, non-naturalism and an introduction to Stanislavski’s method; physical and emotional development of character; and evaluation of work. Assessment focuses on four main skills – contribution, group work, evaluation and performance – and students are given a mark and written feedback on each of the two assessments, together with targets to address in the subsequent work (there is no written exam). Students also complete two self-assessments, analysing their work and setting their own targets.
Drama is offered as one of the Creative and Technical options in Year 9. The course aims to: increase and develop students’ ability to use dramatic techniques; expand their knowledge and understanding of drama and theatre; increase individual, pair and group work skills; improve confidence in practical and performance work; and offer a solid foundation for those wishing to continue with the subject at GCSE and/or A Level. The core of subject-specific skills to be covered during the year will include: individual, pair and group work; polished and spontaneous improvisation; technical and design elements; exploration of dramatic and performance techniques; research and preparation work; analysis and performance of dramatic text; evaluation of practical work; discussion and analysis of theatre performances. These are explored through a number of units, each lasting between three and five weeks, with the material used in lessons covering a range of issues and concepts – topical, historical and imaginative.
We follow the Eduqas GCSE Drama specification, and students taking the subject can expect a course which is varied and stimulating as well as challenging. The specification tests a number of skills: besides acting ability students must demonstrate that they can research a role or topic, develop their ideas; work well in a group, manage their time effectively, reflect upon and evaluate their own work and that of others, and analyse performances. Because the course is so varied no two lessons are the same and homeworks will be similarly diverse – writing up practical work, undertaking research, learning lines, finding props and costumes, and so on. Drama is not an easy GCSE, but it is extremely rewarding and students can expect to gain much in terms of self-confidence and teamwork skills, as well as developing their dramatic ability and understanding of theatre and performance.
Universities and employers look favourably upon students who can demonstrate a wide range of skills, and Drama can contribute much towards creating a ‘well-rounded individual’ for those who are prepared to work hard at it. It does, however, demand a sensitive and considered approach as the success of group work depends upon the concentration and commitment of every student. Those whose behaviour is likely to impact negatively on those with whom they work or whose attendance record is poor would not be suited to the course.
To develop students’ performance skills, understanding of theatre and experience of live productions, as well as helping students with the written elements of the course, there will be opportunities to attend a number of theatre trips organised by the school. It is hoped that students will take advantage of these opportunities, although trips are rarely compulsory and are often to local venues. In addition to this, all students taking GCSE Drama are expected to attend school productions and performances by other examination candidates, which form an extremely important part of students’ learning and are used in class discussion.
The course is based on the following structure: in Component 1 - Devised Theatre (40%) - students create, develop and perform a piece of devised theatre, produce a portfolio of supporting evidence and write an evaluation of the final performance, all of which is internally-assessed and externally-moderated; Component 2 - Performing From a Text (20%) - is an externally-examined performance of two extracts from a script; and in Component 3 - Interpreting Theatre (40%) - students answer questions on a set text and write a live theatre review in an externally-marked written examination (1 hour 30 minutes) at the end of the course.
We follow the Eduqas Drama and Theatre specification which provides students with a diverse and challenging experience of the subject, with much to offer students interested in acting and the study of theatre and dramatic text. The course is rigorous and requires a broad range of skills, but the demands made on students also allow time to study set texts and practitioners and to develop the practical work at a considered pace. The emphasis is on the practical exploration and application of theatrical works and techniques, combined with aspects of dramatic theory.
Drama and Theatre is a challenging and respected A Level, accepted by Universities including Cambridge. It complements Arts, Humanities, Languages and Science subjects alike and, for those wishing to take the subject alongside English, there is little or no overlap and they work very well together. With Universities and employers increasingly looking for a breadth of experience from students, Drama and Theatre is ideally placed to offer this, testing as it does a wide range of skills and approaches to both academic and practical work. In the past A Level students have gone on to Drama-related degrees and professional work in the theatre, but also to pursue other areas of study as varied as Medicine, Law, History, Environmental Science, Philosophy, Politics, English, Art, Midwifery, Business – the list goes on!
The course is varied and challenging, and much of the success of the work (and particularly the practical elements) depends on the commitment of students. This is not a course for those who expect to sit back and have the work done for them: students must be prepared to involve themselves with the material in an intellectual, as well as practical, way through discussion and workshops. It is not essential for students to have taken Drama at GCSE (although this is obviously an advantage) - an interest in theatre is what matters most.
The specification is divided into three components: in Component 1 - Theatre Workshop (20%) - students create, develop and perform a piece of theatre based on a reinterpretation of an extract from a text; Component 2 - Text in Action (40%) - is an externally-examined performance of a devised piece and extract from a text, both based on a stimuli provided by the board; and Component 3 - Text in Performance (40%) - is a written examination based on two open-book set texts and an extract from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
There are many opportunities for students to be involved in Drama outside of the classroom and we encourage participation in whatever capacity a student might enjoy. The School stages a large-scale production each year, with a musical every three or four years, and these are very well attended, with audiences of up to 1000 over the three-day run. Student participation is considerable: alongside the cast, all lighting and sound is run by student teams, and students are involved in all aspects of the production including front of house, costume, make-up, props, scene shifting and publicity.
As well as the main school production there are performances by Year 10 and 11 GCSE Drama students and A Level Drama and Theatre students. They enjoy full houses, and the diversity of their work allows younger students to experience a wide range of theatrical styles and genres. The biennial House Drama competition enables large numbers of students to get involved - in directing, performing and providing backstage support. For students in Years 7-9 there is also the annual Weekend Workshop in which they devise a piece of mask theatre over two days which is then performed to friends, family and members of the school. We offer one-to-one Speech and Drama lessons for students wishing to take LAMDA examinations, the higher qualifications carrying UCAS points. Those whose strengths lie in technical elements of Drama can join the Sound or Lighting Teams, which are responsible for the technical aspects of all examined performances and the school production, and we have student-run Props and Costume teams who manage and run the department’s Drama Store.
The School is also fortunate to have strong links with Lemon Jelly Arts, which runs weekly classes at LGS and locally. They offer a wide range of activities including film-making, street dance and acting. Their annual summer schools are also very popular and well-attended.
In addition to in-house performances, we run a number of theatre trips each year, making good use of the excellent work locally at Curve in Leicester, as well as going further afield to venues such as Warwick Arts Centre and Nottingham Playhouse. Year 9 Drama students have the opportunity to see a professional production, and there is a wide range of theatre trips open to GCSE and A Level students. Every year we also invite professional actors to work with students in workshops. These vary year on year, but regular events include performances by Splendid Productions, Year 7 learning basic mask techniques with a practitioner and actor, Year 8 exploring Commedia Dell’Arte with a workshop leader.
The Drama Department has a purpose-built, black box studio with a full lighting rig, supplemented by lighting booms, and sound system. Perimeter curtaining provides a professional backdrop against which to perform and also provides a backstage area. Our flexible staging system provides tiered seating for an audience of up to 150, and can also be used to build stage areas of a vast range of dimensions and heights. All teaching takes place in the Drama Studio, giving students from Year Six upwards the opportunity to work and perform in a professional space. In addition, all examined work is performed in the Drama Studio.
The school production takes place in St Nicholas Hall, with the bleacher seating accommodating an audience of nearly 400. A pipe-and-drape system creates a backdrop and backstage area, there is a lighting rig and sound system, supplemented by moveable lighting booms, and a full-height cyclorama with LED batten lighting.
The Drama Store houses a large collection of props and costumes, as well as much of our lighting and sound equipment. Additional storage space in the original farm buildings is used for larger items of furniture and staging flats. The Departmental office contains a large library of resources, including a number of plays, collected works of major playwrights, and books, CDs and DVDs on a wide range of practical and theoretical topics.