Performing arts GCSE gets show on the road

New qualification could lead to a career in showbusiness behind the scenes or in the limelight

A generation of teenagers brought up on High School Musical, Fame Academy and The X Factor will soon be offered the ultimate GCSE - in the performing arts.

The latest course from the WJEC, Wales's only exam board, could pave the way to a showbiz career, says Elaine Carlile, the board's music and drama officer.

But she is also keen to emphasise the course's academic side. Pupils will be expected to carry out their own research into a chosen speciality and understand the industry behind the scenes.

"We were looking to develop something that had a big emphasis on performance as a whole and not just music or drama," said Ms Carlile. "This will allow pupils to specialise in a variety of performance disciplines."

These can include acting, dancing, DJ skills, music, music technology, technical production skills and circus skills. The course is flexible enough to allow schools to teach other performance skills, subject to board approval.

The WJEC does not know how popular the subject will be, but examiners feel there is a growing demand for more practical courses.

"A lot of people now have aspirations to be a performer," said Ms Carlile. "We are trying to give them a good grounding in all aspects."

The WJEC is only the second board - after the AQA in England - to offer the GCSE, which is available for single and double award. Pupils will choose a discipline in the first year of the course, and throughout the course they must show how they are developing their skills by recording their progress on DVD or CD and evaluating their performances.

They must also research the skills and qualifications needed for two jobs in the industry and produce a written report, as well as putting on a themed group showcase performance.

If pupils opt to continue to the double award, they must choose another discipline, then extend their skills beyond the classroom - for example, in youth clubs or community drama groups.

Finally, there is a group performance during which candidates must demonstrate two performing arts skills. The show is filmed and sent away to examiners.

Ms Carlile thinks that although music and drama courses tend to attract more girls than boys, this course will appeal to both sexes.

"An argument could be made that, with its more practical approach, it is more boy friendly," she said. "But a large number of girls enjoy participating in the performing arts too."

Pupils will be able to start the course next September. Training days for teaching start next spring.

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