Request for your help: Should Drama be taught in schools?

21 August 2012

Responses needed urgently.

The Department of Education (DfE) is asking for your opinion on the place of Drama in the National Curriculum.

The DfE has published a draft of the new English Primary Curriculum and is asking for stakeholder responses from the sector. This is in advance of a more formal consultation in the autumn.

In contrast to the current Curriculum, the new programme makes no specific mention of Drama. It also seems clear from a recent letter to Tim Oates, (Chair of the Expert Panel that contributed to the Review) that Drama will not be included as a subject in its own right in primary schools.

It is likely that there will be no statutory provision for Drama in primary schools in the future.

The CLA has been in discussion with the DfE on this issue for some months. As a result officials have asked us to survey the Alliance on the place of Drama in the National Curriculum and to present them with a summary of our thoughts.

We strongly urge all our signatories to take part in this online survey

and to send it out through your networks. We know that many of you are already in discussion with the DfE and will be making your own detailed responses, however this is an excellent chance for us to supplement these submissions and present the joined-up voice of our wider alliance membership.

As ever, we need to move very swiftly on this to maximize the impact of our response and to make sure that our submission is considered in the development of the next draft. We are therefore asking for responses as soon as possible, but by 10:00am on the 7th of September at the latest.

We know that this is an extremely busy time for everyone, and that many of you will be away, but if you can prioritise this task then it will make a real difference. It should only take about 15 minutes to read the documents (they are fairly short) and a few minutes to respond.

In addition to the survey questions, we are also collecting brief statements from leaders, practitioners and young people from across education, learning, theatre, business, industry and culture. We are asking colleagues for a few sentences outlining their position and feelings on this issue. It would be particularly useful for head teachers, teachers, directors, CEOs, chairs, artists and employers and young people to comment. You can use the textbox on the survey to do this or you can e-mail us directly at

To help you respond we have prepared the following briefing:

Which elements of the National Curriculum are we talking about?

This particular consultation relates to the English Primary Curriculum only (Key Stages 1 and 2).

The DfE has yet to publish any information on the Secondary Curriculum for English and we have not yet had any indication of the other subjects that will be statutory at Key Stages 3 and 4.

The Cultural Learning Alliance, Darren Henley and many others have urged for Drama to be included as a subject in its own right across all key stages. This now seems very unlikely at Primary Level and we therefore need to respond to its omission from the English Curriculum.

What is the current status of Drama in the National Curriculum?

You can read the content of the current English National Curriculum here (Key Stage, 1, Key Stage 2 and Attainment target level descriptors in a menu on the left)

The current curriculum is separated into ‘Speaking and Listening’, ‘Reading’ and ‘Writing’ (though it specifies that all should be integrated). In the ‘Speaking and Listening’ section there is a specific heading for Drama and the knowledge, skills, understanding and breadth of study expected at each level are detailed. For example:


Key Stage 1

Knowledge, skills, understanding

To participate in a range of drama activities, pupils should be taught to:

  1. use language and actions to explore and convey situations, characters and emotions
  2. create and sustain roles individually and when working with others

  3. comment constructively on drama they have watched or in which they have taken part.

The range should include:

  1. working in role

  2. presenting drama and stories to others [for example, telling a story through tableaux or using a narrator]

  3. responding to performances.

In addition to thse specific Drama sections the whole programme includes references to play scripts and to skills, knowledge and understanding that supports drama development.

What is the status of Drama in the new Draft English Curriculum?

You can read the new draft curriculum here

The new draft is separated into ‘Reading’ and ‘Writing’. There is no ‘Speaking and Listening’ section. The curriculum is presented as a table, with a statutory programme of study outlined on the left, and non-statutory guidance and notes in the right-hand column.

There is no separate section for Drama and it is not mentioned at all in the statutory section of Key Stage 1. It is briefly mentioned in the guidance section for Year 2 but only within the context of its contribution to writing:

Drama and role-play can contribute to pupils’ writing by providing opportunities for pupils to play roles and improvise scenes, including those involving fictional characters (note 88)

It is also alluded to in the ‘Grammar’ section of the Key Stage 2 statutory programme but only within the context of discussing characters rather than enacting them:

discussing dialogue in narratives or characters’ language in drama [note 118]

In the ‘Comprehension’ sections of the ‘Reading’ programme, scripts are mentioned as texts to be read aloud but not also as the basis of developing theatre performance.

What are the other issues we need to be aware of?

Working with our steering and advisory group we have prepared a document that lays out some of our main concerns and priorities for the National Curriculum Review as a whole. You can read some of the extracts from this document here.

I want to respond, but cannot access the online survey.

Please do answer the questions below and e-mail your response through to us at


Name of organization:

Do the aims for the new Primary English Curriculum set out the right teaching and learning priorities for English?

If not, how could they be changed and why?

Does the new Draft Primary English Curriculum facilitate Drama teaching and learning in every school?

If yes, what new opportunities does it offer?

If not, what barriers does it create?

If these draft proposals became the curriculum would you expect that, none, all or some aspects of Drama would be taught effectively in the English curriculum?

Would Drama also need to be placed a) additionally or b) alternatively elsewhere in the curriculum?

If so, where should it sit?

Does the content outlined in the draft Programme of Study for English set the right expectations for 5 to 11 year olds, taking account in particular of the expectations set in high-performing jurisdictions? If not, what expectations do you think need to change and why?

If the Programme of Study were to focus on fewer things in more depth, what do you think should be prioritised any why?

What would be the practical implications for schools of teaching this Programme of Study, including the training requirements for teachers?