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What am I teaching this September?

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This is a re-post originally posted by OCR and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here.

With the summer holidays drawing to a close many teachers have started preparing for the new school year. As always, social media is buzzing with new ideas and conversations about the coming year, but the one question that keeps popping up on social media is ‘What am I teaching this September?’

So here is a quick rundown...

Year 11 and Year 13

These students will continue on with the courses they started last year. Any students starting a new (1 year) course in a performing arts subject will complete the current specification.

Year 10 and Year 12 

These students are the last cohorts following a traditional 2 year course of study that will complete the current specifications. The OCR Performing Arts courses these students can complete are:

An important note for Year 12 is that some reformed A Levels start their first teaching this term so they may have a mix of ‘old and new’ courses in their timetable. The year 10’s will be starting the new 9-1 English and Maths GCSEs but all their other subjects will be the current specifications.

Year 9

There are a number of options with Year 9 depending on their curriculum arrangement. 

Final year of Key Stage 3: These students will be the first group to sit the new GCSE (9-1) in Drama (and Music and Art amongst other subjects) The draft specifications are already online for teachers to view in preparation for choosing a specification for 2016 and this will help when planning content for Year 9 students.

One concern that teachers have raised is the written requirements of the new GCSE Drama, and how they can best prepare students for this. A good starting point is to focus on key analysis and evaluation skills as part of students learning. Peer feedback can be used to develop these skills, encouraging students to be more critical of what they have seen by offering evaluative comments.

Final year of Key Stage 3 with options classes: Some students will make choices in Year 8 and study fewer subjects in depth at the end of KS3. Usually teachers focus on skills needed for the GCSE without formally starting teaching the course. These students again will be part of the first group to sit the new 9-1 GCSEs.

My recommendation to teachers of both of these groups is to focus on devising from a stimulus and performing texts this year. This will help students develop the skills they will be assessed on in the non-exam assessment of the new drama GCSE. I would avoid starting a set text with these students at this point. This is for two reasons: firstly, it will give you more time to decide which specification you want to teach. The accreditation process is very complex and takes time to complete, meaning there is still time before any board’s specification is fully accredited. Draft materials from all exam boards are subject to change until they are accredited.  Secondly, it means that the text will be new and exciting to your students when they actually start to study it ‘for real’. This should avoid the ‘are we doing this again?’ conversations in Year 11.

Three year KS4: These students will also be sitting the new qualification at the end of year 11 so the advice from above is also applicable to this group. However, there are is another option which can be explored within this curriculum model. Teachers may decide to sit the exams at the end of year 10. This would mean the students would sit the current specifications. When the students reach year 11 there is opportunity for them to take part in extended performances or they could complete other qualifications, for example the Arts Award or the EPQ. You will need to think carefully about whether this model will work for your students, and as ever, there are issues to investigate, such as retake opportunities with legacy qualifications, and the impact this route may have on your centre’s progress measures. 

The transition period is rapidly approaching and I am excited about the new courses that are going to be on offer. Having designed the new OCR specifications I am confident that Drama will go from strength to strength, and I am here to support teachers through the changes and beyond.

Karen Latto 
Subject Specialist (Performing Arts) Oxford, Cambridge and RSA (OCR)

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