Keeping Dance on the Curriculum in Wolverhampton
My name is Katy Sterran and I am Head of Dance at Coppice Performing Arts School, a mainstream mixed comprehensive, in Wolverhampton. My current Year 11 GCSE group is made up of only 15 students, because of the effects of the EBacc. In response to this, we put new strategies in place to evidence the impact of dance and have now seen an increase in the update for next year; with 27 students in Year 10, over 40 in Year 9 and almost 40 opted for GCSE Dance next year. Our strategy has included offering the courses as twilight sessions, where one of my highest attaining GCSE cohorts was taught as an evening session, with A-Level Dance being taught as a twilight session for the last two years.
Intervention starts in Lower School, where I am very proud that dance at Coppice is delivered weekly throughout KS3. Schemes of work based on current works and artists, focused on technique, performance and choreography. Accountability in Dance is upheld in Lower School through high standards of behaviour and discipline and strong outcomes monitored through practical and written assessments, preparing the students to access the GCSE course. To raise standards, increase uptake at GCSE and to provide further opportunities, I piloted a training programme for KS3 students four years ago. The programme provides selected KS3 students four extra dance classes a week, that are added to their official timetables signed into by the parents and students, that focus on their training in Contemporary Dance, Jazz, Ballet and Creative Studies. The programme has been a huge success, evidenced in the increased numbers and in student attainment. The programme has also provided performance opportunities for the group who showcase their work at platforms and festival events.
Despite the endless restrictions faced in Education, it is so important to maintain being a Dance Artist yourself and providing opportunities for students to recognise their worth and their place as dancers and to experience the art form not just to achieve a grade. 15 years ago, I founded Flexus Dance Collective, this was never intended to be such a big venture but originally a Youth Dance Company for G&T students to access. Flexus Dance Collective still remains housed at Coppice Performing Arts School but the Youth Sector of Flexus is now accessed by dancers from across the Region not just Coppice students. The Youth Sector of Flexus houses 4 Youth Dance Companies including Flexus Touring Company.
A huge part of our role as Dance Teachers in Education is to build confidence, provide personal skills that are transferrable to all aspects of life and work and to teach students to recognise the worth of their work. This should not just be work created by the elite in extra-curricular time, but the work created in lessons by those at different ability levels. The attitude, commitment and interest of students in dance alters greatly when provided opportunity to showcase their work, be it through informal sharings with other classes, in house performances, or participation at festivals and platforms, providing them the opportunity to see work by other young people also.
Sadly, careers advice in general in school is still ignorant to the wide career opportunities in dance, with students and parents rejecting the idea of dance qualifications, as they do not see their worth or progression. As part of my role at Coppice I feel it has been very important for students to be educated in progression routes, higher education and jobs in the arts, ensuring students from a young age attend careers events, trips to HE establishments and have opportunities with professionals working in the field.