a picture of a group of students with masks on

Never have creativity, adaptability and cooperation been more important.

Drama as a discipline is uniquely placed to help instil a number of qualities that are essential to future success in school, university and the great, wide world.

Curriculum drama begins in Year 7 with a weekly lesson of largely practical activities and exercises, including improvisations, role-play and some scriptwriting, but also beginning to look at the technical and design sides of theatre-making. As well as developing boys’ knowledge and understanding of performance, other skills encouraged and developed include confidence-building, leadership, creative expression, teamwork and communication in its various forms.

Weekly drama lessons continue in Year 8, with students looking at various scripts, studying theatre practitioners and learning about the history of theatre to help them perform in a range of styles. Students can opt to choose Drama as one of the two arts subjects they continue in Year 9 before making their final GCSE choices.

GCSE Drama provides a syllabus that is balanced between practical and written work, which is both internally and externally assessed. As well as the academic qualities of studying and analysing scripts and live shows, the combination of group work and individual responsibility that are essential for performance success ensures pupils develop significant and essential personal skills as well as gaining a good exam result.

Although live performance is a fundamental part of the course, that doesn’t necessarily mean acting. Most boys choose to develop their acting skills but there are always a few who want to learn about set or costume design, or work on the technical design elements of sound or lighting, taking advantage of our industry-standard facilities and qualified technical support.

IB Theatre, available at both Standard and Higher Level, is tremendously exciting and provides a real freedom to explore all aspects of theatre-making in a dynamic and practical way. As well as being introduced to a variety of ways of creating theatre, we explore the methodology and practices that lie behind theatre of different traditions and cultures, and see, and talk about, a lot of shows.

The course combines the practicality of theatre-making with the theory and ideology that underpins its success. Thus research into the theory and history of theatre practice including practitioners, such as Artaud, Boal and Grotowski, and international theatre forms, such as Kathakali or Topeng Dance, is further developed through physical and practical work. Students participate in research, workshops, rehearsal and performance; fulfilling the roles of dramaturge, director, designer, performer and audience.

IB Literature and Performance (which is available at Standard Level) is also offered at KES. This is an interdisciplinary subject which combines studying the ways that literature works when performed on stage, and the different ways that texts can be transformed by the performance process. It provides an opportunity for careful and enthusiastic engagement with the detail of how writers express their ideas, helping to transform our understanding of ourselves and others, and with this understanding being enhanced further through performance.

Future careers

The ability to communicate effectively is intrinsic to both theatrical performance and everyday life and is a valuable asset for any career path. Students who study drama are strong leaders with excellent interpersonal skills. They are versatile, creative, open-minded and collaborative, all of which open a diverse range of career opportunities for them. Within the world of drama itself, performing, directing and designing are just three career paths that are widely discussed, but there are also opportunities for careers in drama therapy, film, stage management and education to name a few.

Beyond the classroom

The Drama department produces two school productions in the Ruddock Hall each year. The Junior Production takes place in November and is open to students in Year 8-10, followed by the Senior Production which takes place in January for Year 11-13.

The shows offer students a chance to develop their skills in the technical aspects of theatre too, with students assisting with design and stage management. Some of our most recent performances include Burn (2021), Pride and Prejudice (2022), Goodnight Mister Tom (2022) and Little Shop of Horrors (2023).

Each year group also has their own Drama Club which rehearses during one lunchtime on a weekly basis. The Drama Clubs enable students to work with like-minded individuals, gain experience performing in front of an audience and improve performance skills to assist in future projects. Drama Clubs are open to everyone and the work produced within the sessions is celebrated through a drama showcase for each club at the end of the year.

House Drama competitions are an event in which students from each of the eight Houses stage a short extract from a play of their choosing. Students have a real sense of agency with this competition, sourcing their own props, costumes and set to enhance their performance.

The Drama department organises a range of trips to theatres throughout the year to strengthen students’ understanding of and appreciation for live performance, enriching their theatrical experience as they progress through the school.

We often organise workshops with external theatre companies and value the contributions that they make to pupils’ learning and creativity within the field.

Meet the Head of Department

Miss McKinley

Miss McKinley holds an honours degree in Drama and Theatre Studies. After finishing her undergraduate degree, she went on to complete her PGDipEd with the King Edward’s Consortium in Birmingham.

Her love of teaching arose from her study of Applied Theatre at university, and since then, she worked as a Teacher of Drama and English before becoming Director of Drama at KES. In addition to her work in education she enjoys horse riding, hiking and travelling. 

Georgie McKinley - Head of Drama

Meet the Head of Faculty (Arts)

Mrs Higgins

After studying Drama and Film at university, Mrs Higgins followed a career in film and TV production before retraining to teach Drama. She started her teaching career in London before moving to Devon with her husband to work in various grammar schools whilst also enjoying life by the sea. City life beckoned and she started working at King Edward’s School in 2015 which has allowed her maximum access to professional theatre, her passion. 

Alongside this, she has developed a career as a Senior Drama examiner and is a Governor at a school in the King Edward VI Foundation. She is particularly interested in boys’ education and enjoys exploring new developments in teaching to optimise the boys’ learning experience. She is delighted to work with such talented and creative people in the Faculty of Creative Arts. 

She regularly travels around the country at weekends to catch theatre productions and particularly enjoys new theatre. In her spare time, she has recently started an Olympic Weightlifting course.

Polly Higgins - Head of Creative Arts

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