At the moment of writing this blog I am sitting in a rehearsal room filled with young people. Young people and the adults who help to inspire them with their love of the Performing Arts. Amongst the young people are students who study or have studied Drama, Dance and Performing Arts at GCSE. Amongst the adults are a variety of teachers, and others from all walks of life, who are passionate about the importance of the performing arts. Some of us also studied so-called ‘soft subjects’ at GCSE. Some of us even went on to study them at university and make a successful career of teaching that subject to others.
As a Drama teacher I love nothing more than the camaraderie of an ensemble working towards the common goal of a polished performance. Every individual integral to the success of the whole group, whether on stage or behind the scenes.
It is this feeling that I aim to inspire in my students. Reading first term evaluations from my Year 10 class, I am in awe of how well they are able to express what they have learnt in such a short amount of time, and am touched by the thanks that they proffer. However this thanks is not due to me: it is due to the arts.
Students with a variety of different needs and levels of experience come together and learn from each other through this shared passion. Students who didn’t dare open their mouths for fear they wouldn’t be able to control their temper wax lyrical abut how quickly their trust in others has improved, and how they use breathing and relaxation exercises to not only improve their performance skills but also to calm down in difficult situations. Students with severe special needs, for whom the study of Performing Arts has led to a positive impact in the lives of the extended family, not just in that student.
In order to illustrate my point, following are some quotes from a few of the young people I was working with tonight:
“Drama GCSE helped me to develop my confidence in public speaking and boosted my self esteem whilst also expanding my imagination and creativity – attributes that are valued in any career path. For me it ultimately aided me in choosing my hopeful future career in the arts.”
“GCSE Drama helped me research, and enhanced my knowledge of drama practitioners and their methods. It also is solely responsible for my love of Berkoff.”
“I will be opting for GCSE Drama because it develops my skills. This means I can use them during my out of school shows.”
“GCSE Drama is important for students because it is confidence building and involves team work, discipline, and communication while helping with the written and spoken word.”
“GCSE Drama has helped me by letting me come out of my shell and not being shy on stage. It also builds my confidence up which helps me when I’m doing shows.”
“Taking Dance as a GCSE subject gave me a huge confidence boost, and at a time where I was lacking faith in my ability. My academic subjects were strong but I wanted to use Dance in the future as a career, and I adored my Dance teacher.”
My own experiences in GCSE Drama gave me the confidence to be a leader and to feel my opinions were valued – something I hadn’t felt up until that time, despite the fact that I was classed as ‘academically gifted’. On stage I could say and do the things I didn’t have the confidence to say or do as myself, and over the years I was able to develop to the point where I COULD say and do these things as me. I AM important. I DO have something valuable to contribute. So here it is.
Essentially, the most important thing that the arts give to young people is a voice. If you want to limit that voice, Mr Gove, go ahead and try.
Young people and their teachers are ready for the fight.