Sport could rain on dance parade

19th September 2008 at 01:00


By Michael Shaw

The increasing focus on competitive sport may reduce the teaching of dance, according to a researcher who specialises in the subject.

John Connell, a lecturer in dance and physical education at Birmingham University, wrote in his research that the fact dance tended to be taught as part of PE increased the danger of it being squeezed out.

"There is a real risk that the current focus on competition in sport, in the run up to the 2012 Olympics, may result in dance being marginalised in schools," he said.

Dance has seen a recent increase in popularity, with the numbers taking the subject at GCSE growing by 28 per cent between 2005 and 2007. Dr Connell said increased television and media coverage of the subject during that period was a likely cause.

He cited the appearance of celebrities learning ballroom routines in the BBC programme Strictly Come Dancing, and the large proportion of young people entering ITV's Britain's Got Talent, which was won by 14-year-old George Sampson. He performed a fusion of street, hip-hop and "popping and locking" to an updated rendition of Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain".

Dr Connell surveyed 198 secondary school dance teachers and 189 secondary and primary pupils for a pair of reports published at the British Educational Research Association conference, examining their perspectives on the subject.

He found that dance teaching remained a largely female-dominated profession, and 74 per cent of the teachers he interviewed had a background in PE rather than in dance.

"If dance were to become a subject in its own right, then arguably there would be a severe shortage of specifically trained teachers who could teach it at secondary," he said.

The responses from teachers suggested that most felt greater clarity was needed about how dance should fit into the national curriculum and what it should involve.

Dr Connell said teachers should give greater consideration to using dance in a cross-curricular way. For example, extending work on Shakespeare by getting pupils to express themselves as characters.

But this approach might not prove popular with boys. Only 45 per cent of those surveyed had positive comments to make about dance, compared with 78 per cent of girls. Meanwhile, more than a third of boys had negative things to say, such as that it made them feel embarrassed or stupid.

- `Dance Education: An Examination of Practitioners' Perceptions in Secondary Schools' and `Pupils' Perceptions of Dance in Schools: Implications for Teaching and Learning' by Dr Connell.


By William Stewart

Schools are being encouraged to study the ancestral homeland of thousands of British pupils and the scene of one of the bloodiest conflicts of the 20th century.

The Punjab has been split between India and Pakistan since Partition and the bitter inter-communal violence between Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus in 1947. Now a Royal Geographical Society exhibition is examining this divided region as a single entity, looking at its history, culture and how British Punjabis of all backgrounds view their homeland today.

Schools are being encouraged to take part, with free cross-curricular workshops and online resources that take in geography, history and citizenship.

The exhibition, organised with Sikh and Muslim community groups from around Britain, makes the most of the society's 19th-century photographs, maps and texts, many of which will be available for schools to use from October at

Workshops will run during November and December at the society's base in Kensington, London.

- To find out more about `The Punjab: Moving Journeys', see www.rgs.orgcrossingcontinents. To book a place on one of the two-hour workshops call Harpreet Kaur Sanghera on 020 7591 3057


By Michael Shaw

the legendary London jazz club Ronnie Scott's is to give free tuition to talented secondary school pupils who aspire to become professional musicians. The club this week launched a scheme, Jazz Youth, which will give 11 to 16-year-olds the chance to work with established jazz musicians and perform live at the Soho venue.

Starting in January, it will provide them with workshops in playing big band tunes and jam sessions, as well as classes on the history of jazz. One-to-one tuition will also be provided in bass, clarinet, drums, guitar, piano, trumpet, trombone, saxophone and vocals.

The club plans to run three terms lasting eight weeks, each for 30 pupils. Musicians involved in running the courses include Mike Mwenso, a trombonist, singer and multi-instrumentalist who has performed with James Brown and Jamie Cullum; Jay Phelps, a highly regarded young trumpeter; and James Pearson, the club's musical director and house pianist.

To nominate a student contact


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