Cracking ahead

6th October 2000 at 01:00
Progression in drama should get a boost from new training, says Martin Tibbetts of NATE

I have written enough in these columns of my concerns about the effects of the literacy hour on extended writing. Year 7 entries to The TES Write Away competition this yearpowerfully highlighted the issues for me as a member of the judging panel. I know that the Department for Education and Employment and Her Majesty's Inspectorate have become increasingly worried about the issue and new thinking is taking place behind the scenes.

We are all now working with the so-called new Orders, but sadly not a new curriculum. The National Association for the Teaching of English lobbied hard about the need for something that was different from the retrospective model of the future represented in the older versions.

Why such stubbornness about prescribed lists of texts to be studied? Where was ICT in the draft we were presented with? Where was any reference to the hierarchy of skills that students need to learn to both create and make meaning from screen-based texts? Where was media going to be taught? Was Speaking and Listening still going to be regarded as a "second class citizen". Where was drama?

It was interesting that at NATE's last annual conference in Swanwick, Derbyshire an unexpected deputation arrived from the QCA and National Literacy Strategy to present a draft version of Scheme of Work for Literacy at Key Stage 3. The major departure from the original strategy for primary schools was the addition of a fourth column: Speaking and Listening, which included a subset called Drama.

Much heartened, the drama committee abandoned the conference and set to work toimprove draft document's notion of progression in drama, and address the rationale behind it. Teachers of Year 7 English classes and "literacy catch-up" groups will know of their partial success.

However, drama is back in the curriculum and OFSTED will no doubt have to undergo a series of Section 7 training sessions to enable their inspectors to be able to judge the quality of teaching and learning in that area. A battle won but not the campaign!

NATE, however, has set up an INSET teacher training programme in drama for teachers of English that will coincide with the association's autumn publication of Cracking Drama: progression in drama within English. The publication covers all key stages and is both accessible and very practical. The training will be a feature of NATE's regional conferences and annual conference in Manchester in February next year.

Happily, drama lives to fight another day. Sadly, ICT and media are conspicuous by their absence in the new ring binders. The curriculum revision is no more than another delivery from a tired-looking, ageing vineyard and has failed to recognise both the global communities that our students currently inhabit and the real needs of "Citizen 2000". To make a success of this rapidly changing and increasingly technological world, young people deserve a more forward-thinking and enlightened English curriculum.

Martin K Tibbetts is headteacher of Cheslyn Hay primary school, Staffordshire, and chair of NATE, 50 Broadfield Road, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S8 0XJ. Tel: 0114 255 5416. E-mail: Web: Drama will be published in October and available from NATE

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