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Demise of the drama student

Drama examiner Robin Strapp on the impact of Covid-19 on GCSEs

Drama students
Drama students

This year’s GCSE external assessments have been cut short by coronavirus and it’s heartbreaking for those who have been working on their live theatre performance for months and won’t get their time in the spotlight. Now they will have to rely on teacher assessment as OCR visiting drama examiner ROBIN STRAPP explains. But there are positives to take away

THE closure of schools due to the Covid-19 virus has seriously affected this year’s GCSE drama exams, which now rely on centre assessment by teachers based on what the students would have most likely achieved had they sat the exams.

By its very nature, drama is a practical subject with several components to be achieved, including a devising element, where students are asked to research, explore a stimulus and create their own drama. They are also asked to perform extracts from a play text and sit a written paper and analyse and evaluate a live theatre performance.

As a visiting examiner for one of the examining boards, OCR, it is always a pleasure to see the work of these
youngsters in performance. They have spent many months in preparation and have the opportunity to showcase their skills with confidence and commitment with pleasing results.

However, many of the planned visits could not take place.
One of these schools, John Hanson in Andover, was particularly badly affected. Head of drama Jane Michel told me:
“My drama GCSE students were stopped in their tracks one week before their exam. They had prepared – researched about their playwright and style of performance linked to their text, learned lines, planned movements, rehearsed gestures, created props, costume sound tracks and effects all ready for their performances which they had been working on since January.
“It was a huge anti-climax after all the hard work they had put in during lesson times and in after-school rehearsals.”

More fortunate was Maiden Erlegh Chiltern Edge in Sonning Common. Their head of drama, Tom Harte, said: “My cohort were able to complete the performance exam in the days before the school was closed. “They were able to experience the great joy and sense of achievement with all their hard work being seen by a visiting examiner. “They ‘had their moment in the

“What they won’t have is the validation of the results from this performance.

“They will never know just how well they did, but I hope they know just how proud I am of each of them.”

Heidi Moreton from King Alfred’s Academy in Wantage wrote an uplifting letter to all her drama students, in which she said that “our subject is more than a final exam, it is about finding out who you are, making connections to others and developing a sense of empathy”.

She continued: “At such a difficult time, don’t forget the power the arts have to bring you together and to raise your spirits and make you feel part of something.”

“You have been brave, you have learnt to work together, you have all grown in confidence and I’m really proud of each and every one of you.

“These skills are things that will stay with you for life.”

Kennet School’s drama teacher Beccy Preston also expressed the disappointment of her students. “Many of our pupils were initially upset, but they talked about their love of the subject and how it’s brought them together as a group.

“We discussed all the things they had learnt and developed and they were super proud of all their achievements.”

They said that “drama lessons had been their favourite subject as they had been allowed to be creative and it had brought them together as a group”.

I admire the dedication of all these teachers who help to shape the next generation of free-thinking, confident, articulate and analytical young people.

Such is the creative power of drama.

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