GCSE Drama has "no relevance" Paul Roseby, Artistic Director of the National Youth Theatre (NYT), was recently quoted as saying. This wasn't what he meant. Soon after, the NYT website had published a very articulate and precise clarification of what he was getting at. When I read The Stage magazine article I wanted to immediately come to the defence of GCSE Drama. As a subject specialist for Oxford, Cambridge, RSA (OCR) of course I would want to defend my course and it soon became clear I was not alone; his comments angered the whole drama community and let's face it - we're not a quiet bunch.
But I don't believe the qualifications themselves are the issue here. Over the past 20 years GCSE Drama has evolved into a rigorous and challenging qualification. Yet it is still seen as easy and labelled ‘soft’. This is all about perception. Arts are not included in the EBacc measures- an initiative which raised the profile of humanities and languages. Arts are not on the facilitating subjects list produced by the Russell Group and sold to parents as 'the' list of A Levels universities want. Whilst all of this hasn't helped, I don't think it can be blamed. I'm not sure drama has yet won over the public.
We need to prove that industry is crying out for a workforce with the skills students learn by studying drama. This is partly why Roseby called for drama to be compulsory, but let's not run before we can walk. We are in a time of reform with GCSE Drama being reformed for first teaching in 2016 alongside A Level Drama and Theatre and a multitude of other subjects. My role as OCR's Subject Specialist for Performing Arts is to lead the development of the new drama courses and I think we need to fix this perception problem first. Let's make the new GCSE Drama a great course and let's show the world that drama is not something soft or easy but a worthy subject to study. Perhaps the perception comes from the idea that drama is a GCSE subject which students enjoy more than others and I would say a large part of that is the wonderful community of drama teachers who refuse to be put down and refuse to stop being fantastic teachers of a valuable subject.
I'm not alone in this desire to prove drama’s worth as a subject; by Wednesday of last week, Mark Londesborough from the Tricycle Theatre had started the Drama Futures campaign and I wholeheartedly support the campaign’s aims. #dramaworks is calling for talk- talk about how important drama is and the positives we all know studying drama brings. I believe talking works-I'm visiting schools, industry and universities over the next few months as part of OCR’s Creative Arts Forum simply to talk in order to make the new GCSE drama course brilliant and I ask you all to talk to me; email, Tweet, Facebook it doesn't matter how-talk to me.
Let's change this misconception that what we do is lesser in some way, then let's work on world (or at least school) domination.
Subject Specialist (Performing Arts) Oxford, Cambridge and RSA (OCR)