The importance of high quality dance in Primary Education Case Study: Déda and Becket Primary School, Derby

Isobel Davis is Déda’s Dance Development and Learning Coordinator.

As someone who has teaching in primary education for over 7 years, I have seen first hand how dance can enrich the lives and learning of children. I am passionate about the empowering nature that dance has and how dance can lend itself to learning and childhood development, including cognitive, social, emotional, physical and creative development. I am extremely proud to be one of the team that delivers Déda’s exciting Dance Development and Learning Programme, and am inspired each day to deliver high quality work as I recognise the positive impact of my work and the learning that can take place as a result.

I am particularly proud of the dance activity embedded at local Derby City School, Becket Primary School, who have had a long-lasting relationship with Déda for over 10 years. Becket Primary School started their dance journey with us through weekly after school sessions, which soon grew to further opportunities such as seeing live theatre and dance at Déda and other cultural venues across Derby. We have delivered Arts Award in partnership with the school and they are just about to submit their Artsmark Case study this month. This will contain the range of opportunities we have created in partnership with the school such as their students performing at Déda in an annual event called D3 – a school commissioned piece that is produced professionally for the Déda Theatre and brings the whole school into the theatre.

In 2018 Déda and Becket Primary took a further leap forward and began to include dance delivered by Déda as part of the curriculum through years 1-6. Dance skills, technique and choreographic tasks are delivered based upon cross curricular themes such as planting and growing, elements and materials and even the skeletal and digestive systems! Trust me when I say dance can be embedded into ANY curriculum area!

Matt Chell, HLTA, Learning Mentor at Becket Primary School works to program all curriculum dance and regularly takes part in CPD to help him embed dance further into the school. Matt says…

‘Our students relish opportunities to work creatively, share ideas and have a voice in the decision-making process; this validates their participation, authenticates the experience and dictates a real need to commit, persevere and overcome disappointment or failure.’

A usual curriculum session at Becket Primary consists of the following; 

  • A physical and creative warm up
  • Exploration of the key choreographic device or technique – usually through a game or memorable activity
  • Didactic learning of set movement repertoire (taught by Dance Artist)
  • Guided discovery tasks enabling young people to use their learnt repertoire, knowledge and understanding creatively and begin to work alone, in pairs or small groups
  • Opportunities to perform, appreciate and develop
  • A short plenary to help recap knowledge learnt

A resource I created to help the children at Becket Primary School engage and understand Dance and Choreography was my Becket Primary Choreography Toolkit.

The toolkit is usually broken down over a 5-7 week term and in the final sessions the full toolkit is given to small groups so that they can prepare their own choreography. This is a great way to assess termly learning and progress. The toolkit includes cards that list choreographic devices and dance repertoire that has been learnt through the term. This visual prompt assists and enhances the student’s learning.

So far this approach to Dance in Primary Education is working well at Becket Primary School and we have seen positive effects on the participants’ social skills, ability to work with others and communicate effectively, creative thinking and problem solving, confidence, physical ability including coordination, spatial awareness and musicality. Through this process, each child has developed an ability to trust their own ideas and creative thinking.

The positive relationship and curriculum that the school has developed with Déda has been long term and not a ‘quick fix’. The impact of this is we now have a dance curriculum which is embedded, robust and is a right of every child in the school. You can clearly see from performances over time how the children’s skills have developed not only in their dance technique but in their skills of cooperation, musicality and performance level. It is a joy to see children of all ages, abilities, gender and cultural backgrounds express themselves freely through dance in an atmosphere which is structured, supportive and constructive. In a school where 30 different languages are spoken, the language of dance is a great leveller and fully supports the inclusive nature and wider curriculum of our school.

Susan James, Head Teacher, Becket Primary School, Derby

Pictured: Key people in the partnership with Becket Primary School (from left to right)

Clare Limb – Déda Head of Dance Development and Learning

Isobel Davis – Déda Dance Development and Learning Coordinator

Matt Chell – HLTA, Becket Primary School, Derby (holding a Déda Partner School plaque)

Susan James – Head Teacher, Becket Primary School, Derby

Find out more about Déda here