The Drama Department has grown in size and stature over the last few years, and both curricular and co-curricular segments of the Department are flourishing. With specialist staff providing academic lessons from the Lower First to the Upper Sixth, Drama is highly regarded within the School.
The study of drama helps promote self-confidence, control and discipline in practical situations. It also helps to instil good practice in working as part of a team. These ideas form the core of the programme of study in the Lower School, with boys partaking in weekly or fortnightly lessons up until the Upper Third (Year 9). We aim to give every boy the opportunity to be creative in drama lessons, and potentially opening up the world of performance in stage productions away from the classroom. Drama is, by its nature, collaborative and all-inclusive, and this is certainly the way the subject is viewed here at Whitgift. As well as encouraging academic commitment to the subject, the Drama Department seeks to produce a variety of productions every year, of a near-to-professional standard, making use of professional set and costume hire throughout the year.
Boys in the Lower First to the Lower Third explore fundamentals of theatre and drama, with a focus on acting and performance. At this stage, pupils are taught to evaluate and analyse their own, and others’, work. As boys progress through the School, the course takes on a much more academic feel, with theatre vocabulary being taught in abundance, but building on the theatrical fundamentals taught in previous years.
Drama in the Upper School follows the Edexcel specification for GCSE and the AQA course for A Level, with pupils being taught by two specialist members of staff. The breadth and balance of the curriculum ensures that students are taught how to create and respond to drama, by working with a variety of stimuli from different sources and traditions. Courses in ‘Theatre’ and ‘Literature and Performance’ are currently offered for the International Baccalaureate. For practical examinations at GCSE, A Level and IB, pupils are encouraged to make text choices themselves; it is important that pupils feel comfortable with their choices and go on to flourish in their practical assessments.
Schemes of work
Schemes of work are written by members of the Department to suit the development of each Year Group. The schemes often contain challenging ideas that can engage students on many levels, helping them develop, dramatically, along the way. Schemes of work can be based around practical stimuli, scripts, devised work, or even props and costumes. There are no restrictions with what the Department can work with for each Year Group.
The Department takes frequent advantage of the many theatrical opportunities presented in London and surrounding areas. Trips to the theatre are always based around responding critically to what has been seen, and this is then translated into focusing on what is required for different examination elements.
In recent years, there has been an increase in departing pupils deciding to study combined English and Drama degrees at university, with the subject becoming more academically recognised. Boys who have chosen to study the subject in the Sixth Form in the last few years have had conditional university offers from Durham, Warwick, York, Bristol and Leeds, which have taken into account the grade awarded for Drama and Theatre Studies.
Each year, the Department organises many workshops and seminars for GCSE, A Level and IB students. Visiting practitioners and actors from different educational companies and theatres have worked with the boys to develop their dramatic outlook, and to coach them for a certain aspect of examination preparation. Hollywood actor, Kevin Spacey, is perhaps the most renowned personality who has spoken to the boys in recent years; our on-going link with The Old Vic Theatre is sure to provide similar opportunities for our pupils in years to come.