Many voices, but one future

Drama faces a challenge, say Pam Bowell and Jan Macdonald

National Drama, the association of drama educators, held a conference in York in April to celebrate the first 10 years of its existence.

Against the background of drama's increased profile in the curriculum and concern about creativity, the conference's focus on the shape of things to come was timely. In future, what might be a universal entitlement to drama experiences for learners of all ages? How would this be shaped by local political, social and cultural circumstances?

The conference brought together 230 delegates from 25 countries, some of them well-established in their careers and others at the beginning of theirs; some teaching in schools and others using drama in wider educational settings. What emerged was that the challenge to arts educators of the future would be to secure the humanising influence of education through and in the arts.

This view echoes Government concerns for the cultural, spiritual and moral development of pupils. Alongside cross-curricular issues of citizenship and information technology, creativity seems to be tip-toeing back on to the agenda. Creativity is, apparently, now of such political and economic import that resources are being provided o train teachers of dance and drama to satisfy demand from this year's further education students.

One Forum - Many Voices is the mission statement of National Drama and that concept resonated throughout the York conference. Unity in diversity emerged as the theme and a picture of future drama education emerged: an intercultural, multi-formed arts process, inclusive rather than exclusive; a form with artistic endeavour and creativity at its heart that engages participants aesthetically, cognitively, emotionally, kinaesthetically and spiritually.

What also emerged was a common concern about the lack of provision within both initial teacher education and professional development, particularly in the primary field, to develop the expertise and confidence to teach drama. The current review of Circular 4.98 has already flagged up governmental concern in this area.

National Drama looks on this challenge as an opportunity to help form "the shape of things to come". We invite all those who are concerned to ensure the strengthening of drama provision in education to join us in seizing this opportunity.

Pam Bowell and Jan Macdonald are co-chairs of National Drama, 14 Edward Avenue, Eastleigh, Hants SO50 6EG.

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