I've spent a fascinating evening with drama teachers, theatres, students, and other interested parties, all passionate about drama in education, at the Lyric Hammersmith for the London Theatre Consortium's Drama Education Symposium. There were big conversations, lots of complaining, a few rants, some potential actions, and a huge amount of optimistic ambition to change and champion drama education for the better.
There is an acknowledgement that there's a flaw in the way drama is taught with students blaming teachers, who blame exam boards, who blame government (who probably blame Europe). However, if we're part of the system we share responsibility for it, and collectively there is more we can do.
Tonight, as was the recent D&D open space with Improbable, was very much the start of bigger conversations to come, of people trying to find the right people to collaborate with, if testing the waters and digging into what is actually wrong, why its wrong, so we can work out what needs to change and how we achieve that, some of which are conversations I have with myself frequently. For myself as an educator, I'm not bound by Ofsted or an exam board. I teach what is asked of me, and I find not all drama teachers in schools know what they need. Some do just want to be taught a song and dance routine from a West End show. Others want a fresh perspective on the process of devising, of acting, choreographing a dance or fight scene. My experience is that the latter are more engaging, inspiring, and creative for me, students, and the teachers.
I champion the process because theatre isn't the replication of a formula. It's reinvention, discovery, evolution. Teaching of technique and history informs, but creativity is boundless, and so giving students, teachers and artists the freedom to do so, guided and supported, is vital.
So, what can we do to change drama education for the better?
Theatre Workout will be publishing new resources for teachers, some rooted in West End plays and musicals, others just on techniques. You can access what we already have online here. I'd love to create video content to support this process, but we're not there yet. However, I do hope to video interviews with industry creatives working on and off stage.
I'm working on more partnerships with shows, theatres, and other bodies to champion drama for schools. London has more to offer than the West End, and I hope to facilitate the joining of schools with work, maximising their experience with bespoke workshops, and continuing these conversations with all concerned.
So much can be done to improve drama in schools, to make it relevant to students, but also to parents, heads and governors, etc. I sense a desire for it, for engagement between education and the industry, for more inclusive networks which can help diversify the future of the industry with new opportunities.
It'll take time, but where there's a will there's a way!
Talk to us. Have the conversation.