12th May 2000 at 01:00
DEVELOPING DRAMA SKILLS 11- 14. By Joss Bennathan. Heinemann pound;19.99.

The last page of Developing Drama Skills 11-14 reproduces the 1999 Ofsted guidance on assessing drama teaching. As Joss Bennathan points out in his introduction to this drama course for key stage 3, these are Ofsted's first published criteria for judging drama as a subject in its own right, not solely as an aspect of English, and they concentrate not on course content but on outcomes.

Drama teachers who are freshly nervous of Ofsted's baleful eye will find plenty of help and reassurance in this programme, because it systematically relates good drama practice to the Ofsted terms of reference.

Provided the intrusion into curriculum content is not too prescriptive, drama can benefit from Ofsted's bullet-point formalities.

Despite abundant imaginative teaching and student enthusiasm in many schools, drama has never convincingly fred itself from the tussle between process and product, knowledge and skills, means and ends. Too many students (and teachers) have enjoyed drama without quite knowing what it was for. A successful programme must now articulate and explain its purposed outcomes, and Bennathan's book is just the kind of aid required.

This is a complete programme for Years 7-9, based on a notional weekly double lesson of 70 minutes for half the year, but readily adaptable for other situations. The organisation, from year programmes down to units and individual lesson plans, is thorough to the point of congestion, and Bennathan's inventive and stimulating practicality is obscured at times by thickets of Ofsted-speak, but the effort it requires is well worthwhile. Developing Drama Skills 11-14 is a substantial, confidence-boosting resource for teachers, whatever their level of previous experience.

Peter Hollindale

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