31 Mar HT Blog 27 – Personal Expression
Last week, during our half-termly year council meetings, our superbly articulate and wonderfully opinionated students from all year groups discussed with me the key issues that they feel are impacting upon both their learning and their wider Daubeney Academy experience at the moment. Since the beginning of this academic year, I have watched with genuine pride as the individuals who comprise each council have not only grown in confidence but also developed the incredibly useful life skills of being able to put points, including very emotive ones, across thoughtfully, intelligently and assertively and being willing to listen to and take on board the views of others. Before and after each meeting, our students are required to read instructions and access previous minutes online via a shared portal (Google Classroom) and what is covered in the year council meetings will then move forward to the school council meeting which is due to take place with Mrs May this week. Even though there is always a clear, set agenda for the meetings, it can almost be guaranteed that certain points will frequently come up that aren’t on the list of items that are to be discussed, namely school lunches, toilets (in every school that I’ve worked in, this has always been the case!) and Drama lessons (this one is very much unique to Daubeney!) Our students, it would seem, absolutely love their Drama lessons and want to have even more opportunities to express themselves in a dramatic fashion! Luckily for them, of course, they attend a school where we have not narrowed our curriculum (even though we’re a small school, which makes offering a curriculum as large as some other schools quite difficult at times!) and where we believe that the skills learned through the personal expression opportunities offered in Drama lessons, student voice and student leadership opportunities, Music and Sports clubs are vital to the healthy development of our young people.
Although all students have Drama on their timetables in KS3 and students are able to opt for this subject at KS4, this is far from a tokenistic gesture on our part, and the teachers who plan, lead and deliver Drama lessons to our students have a passion for it that both inspires our young people and impresses their senior leaders. This week, for example, our Year 7 students will be giving their final Wild Wild West performances, following a carefully planned curricular theme that has offered our young people opportunities to demonstrate their ability in not only acting but also costume design and prop creation. Earlier in the year, each of our Year 7 form groups was given one of four scenes, which, once performed in order, form part of a greater whole and tell a coherent story. At the start of the project, our students auditioned for the part of a character within the scene that they had been given, and then, using a blind vote, students are cast and tasked with learning their lines, sourcing costumes and creating props. Over the course of the term, leading up to the final performances that will take place this Thursday, students rehearse their parts, give and offer feedback to each other and share ideas about how each section can be improved before they are confident that they are ready to perform in front of their peers (and, hopefully, be awarded for their efforts by claiming the title of either best form group, best costume or best actor!) Although it goes without saying, clearly, that I am proud of the resilience, teamwork, motivation and responsibility that our confident Year 7 students have shown during their Wild Wild West project, I should also add that I am just as proud of the wonderful effort and skilful teaching of Miss Harris that has led us to the final performances; without its excellent teaching, this theme would quite simply not have been the success that it has been.
Elsewhere in Daubeney, many of our students have spent a great deal of time so far this year developing a performance of Hairspray unde the expert tutelage of the amazing Mrs Adamska (if you want to know how much she also values the importance of Drama, just look at what her outstanding classroom, stage, spotlights and all, looks like!) It should also be said, however, that although Mrs Adamska is present each week and is always available to offer guidance and support, this performance really belongs to our wonderful Year 10 students, who are wholly responsible for both its direction and its choreography. Personal expression, which we value so highly at Daubeney Academy, is not just about being on stage and being noticed, it’s also about shunning the limelight and leading quietly from the back of a crowd; as a school that puts character education at the forefront of everything that we do, we know that each student is an individual and needs to find their own way of being able to express themselves confidently. It is also worth noting that the performance of Hairspray, which is set, of course, in 1950s America and which deals with the topic of segregation, is the one that our students were adamant they should put on as their aim is not only to develop their dramatic skills but also to raise awareness of both equality and tolerance. Racism, clearly, is still a major issue in our national and global communities and Daubeney Academy, as a proudly multicultural school, wants to send a clear message that we are truly inclusive and that we will not tolerate racism in any form. During my time as Headteacher at Daubeney I have always wanted our students to know how important it is not only that they stand up for issues that they believe strongly in but also that they are able to do this in an appropriate, intelligent and purposeful manner. With both our ongoing student voice exercises, of which the year and school councils are but a part, and the superb Drama opportunities that we offer, our students will continue to have many chances to do just this.