‘Not everything that matters can be measured, and not everything that is measured matters’. – Elliot Eisner The Arts and the Creation of Mind. But if we can’t measure something how do we know it is any good? Unfortunately today schools continually have to prove their worth by carefully assessed results, and measuring Arts is a tricky one.
The new specifications for Drama curriculum are certainly attempting to measure knowledge and understanding of the subject in a more ‘robust’ manner, requiring an increase in written tests to replace practical assessment and coursework. Live theatre is still seen as a key part of the course and Salisbury Playhouse is aiming to support teachers with the new structure to the qualifications.
Our Page to Stage talks and workshops are designed to reveal the secrets behind the creative process and provide students with a more detailed appreciation of the productions they see. This Spring we have a Technical Workshop day (18 May 2016) which allows students to work alongside our production professionals. They will experience of a range of career opportunities in the Arts and learn about the creation of theatre from behind the scenes.
With the focus on EBACC, Salisbury Playhouse is also very aware of the need to offer learning experiences for subjects other than Drama. The artistic programme includes writers and texts that suit the literary syllabus, and relevant historical events such as last year’s Magna Carta.
Engaging secondary schools in particular can feel like a bit of a struggle, I have to admit. Having been a teacher for over two decades, I am well aware of the constraints of time and finances and these seem to become more restrictive year on year. But I am also aware of the positive impact of theatre on young people. I lose count of the number of students I have taken to the theatre, some for the first time in their lives. So much of our time today is spent viewing through a screen – be it computer, TV, mobile phone, games consoles – and when we do have the opportunity to see something live, the effect is profound. One student offered me £100 if I could get him a ticket to see Headlong theatre’s 1984 for a second time.
And it’s not just about watching; there is so much to be gained from making theatre. As a teacher, the highlight of each year for me was always the productions – watching young people of all ages working together, supporting and encouraging each other, learning about responsibilities. And then seeing them grow in the warmth of the applause. Where else in school life can they get this experience?
In time perhaps the value of subjects such as Drama will be recognised again, not necessarily as a path to a career on the stage or screen, but as a subject that teaches essential skills for all manner of careers: collaboration, commitment, creativity, communication, self-belief; things that are difficult to measure on paper but vital for success in any line of work.
Visit our website to find out more about what the creative learning team offers.
Kate Robinson, Creative Learning Director, Salisbury Playhouse