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Animated Edition - Summer 2007
The changing face of education in England and the possibilities for dance
W. Richard Jones, national specialism co-ordinator for music and performing arts at the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust looks forward to a bright future for dance in schools

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 W. Richard Jones article tables.doc
2008 is the next turning point in English education for by then it is the Government's aim that all English Secondary Schools will be Specialist Schools or Academies. Therefore we can say that over the last 20 years we have built a specialist system where schools focus on a curriculum area to raise attainment for all students not only in that area but across the school. The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust works to give practical support to the transformation of secondary education in England by building and enabling a world-class network of innovative, high-performing secondary schools in partnership with business and the wider community.

The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) is committed to a philosophy of 'by schools, for schools'. This means:
  • Ensuring that student achievement and raising standards are at the heart of all that the organisation does
  • Ensuring that headteachers and schools drive the strategic direction of the organisation's work
  • Commissioning headteachers and schools to design and deliver the organisation's programmes, activities, research and development
  • Inspiring, challenging and motivating headteachers and schools to raise standards, and to provide mutual support and challenge
  • Validating and accrediting practice and measuring outcomes.
With raising student achievement and raising standards at the core of our work SSAT assists schools in a number of areas (see figure one in attachment).

Schools self select the specialism in which they will work based on a detailed strengths and weaknesses audit of the school and community and then project plans for a four year improvement cycle via a detailed bid to the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) for assessment and validation.

To date there are 2,693 schools designated as specialist (see figure two in attachment).

There is also a category for High Performing Specialist Schools. These are schools which have made good progress in raising attainment during their period of designation as a specialist school and, upon invitation by the DfES, are invited to take on either a second specialism or another responsibility such as a Training School.

Of particular interest in this area is a new specialism 'Vocational' which 107 schools have now added to their portfolio of expertise and development.

Schools opting to specialise in the Arts can decide to be a Performing, Visual or Media Arts College by selecting from a menu of subjects (see figure three in attachment) or indeed can perm any three from the menu and designate as an 'Arts College'.

As specialist schools they are required to work within the school to;
  • Have significant (and increasing) numbers of students studying the specialist arts subjects - ensuring that learning in the arts is marked by creative rigour and discipline
  • Place high status on vocational courses in the arts - considering how they might be utilised to engage a wider range of students
  • Develop the artistic skills and understanding of teachers and make imaginative use of new technologies as a means of raising the quality of teaching and learning in the arts.
Explore the potential of the arts to enhance learning in other curriculum areas, and promote strong participation in extra-curricular arts activities
Schools must also work with a 'community'. This is defined as a group of partner primary and secondary schools and arts organisations in the wider community. In this context designated schools;
  • Work with other schools and the wider community in sharing facilities, human and other resources with a view to developing learning opportunities in the arts, through partnerships with local, regional, national and international creative industries and arts institutions; and
  • Involve professionals from creative industries in school/community activities.
The first specialist school in the arts was designated nearly ten years ago and it must be significant that the popularity of dance in the curriculum has risen hand in hand with the increase of Arts and also Sports Colleges for they too have a roll in developing dance. This is evidenced by the numbers of students taking public examinations (see figure four in attachment).

In 2006 - 313 Arts Colleges entered 5,757 students and 207 Sports Colleges entered 3,275 students. Of course dance is not the sole domain of specialist Arts and Sports Colleges but their work with partner schools may well impact somewhere in the 555 other schools that entered 6835 students.

The Dance Network was formed in 2003 as a joint support group consisting of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT), the Youth Sport Trust (YST) and the National Dance Teachers Association (NDTA). In that time the Dance Network has;
  • Developed a new website ( dancenetwork/default.asp) which is a repository of current practice. Within the website there are: 21 Case studies, resources for boys and dance, Identification of Gifted and Talented and Key stage 2 -3 Transition discussion forum, sections on news, events, CPD and web links page to other resources
  • Released a DVD to all Arts and Sports Colleges exemplifying boys and dance, identification of Gifted and Talented and Key stage 2-3 Transition
  • Created a series of regional and national dance Platforms to provide further opportunities for Gifted and Talented dancers
  • The SSAT has established a team of Lead Practitioners for Dance who develop a local network of dance teacher by running CPD events and Learning Visits
  • The YST has established Schools Sports Partnership Dance Development Project which is based in five regions
  • Worked with NDTA to develop a coordinated approach to developing dance within the curriculum.
The future for dance education in England is bright. As with other art forms dance has strong support within the National Curriculum even though it is not a subject in its own right. Both Arts and Sports colleges are doing excellent work to promote the artistic and health benefits of dance for all and they have increasingly embedded relationships with professional dance companies and are indeed offering a base for external companies or forming their own to give a vocational slant to their work. The very existence of Youth Dance England is also a strong benefit to the young dancer for the organisation provides opportunities for dance development outside of school hours or for those who have missed out on the dance boom in schools in recent years.

With such a groundswell in the interest in dance from so many angles there has never been such an opportunity to develop the cradle to grave opportunities that dance can give and with the ever widening appreciation of the multi cultured facets of the art form young people today have, 'never had it so good'!


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Animated: Summer 2007