Dance is sometimes seen as an 'easy' option for students and finding support for teaching dance can be a challenge. Sophie Gregory, the subject leader for Dance at The Colne Community School and College, challenges some of those assumptions and looks at ways to embed dance and ensure teachers get the support they need to thrive.
Over the past 12 years I have worked as a secondary school dance teacher, examiner and moderator and I have adapted my practice to the ever changing expectations of the government, and to the exciting opportunities that new technology has brought about. As the head of a small but successful department I can now reflect on some of the ways that the culture for dance has shifted during my tenure and the scope for further development in the future.
Studying dance in school gives students the chance to be challenged physically and creatively
Simple Steps to Support Dance in Your School
In my opinion schools can support the provision of dance by taking some simple steps:
Insist that dance lessons are taught in a clean and safe space - not all schools have access to a studio and many will offer dance in a multipurpose space such as a hall or gym. Students will not engage in dance if they have to pick their way through the remnants of lunch!
Promote and celebrate dance internally - performances at assemblies, awards evenings and other school events show other students that dance is a valued subject and that they too have the opportunity to grow in confidence and share their skills in this way.
Promote dance to your stakeholders - use school communications such as newsletters / social media feeds to share the success of your young people with the local community. Performances at events such as local carnivals or fetes enables the stakeholders of the school to see the value of the work that is going on.
Support Beyond Your Own School
The process of championing dance as a subject is not a quick one and there can be many other factors to overcome - the key to success is perseverance and taking time for your own professional development. A recent BBC News article explores the NUT research that claims 50% of teachers plan to leave the profession within the next two years. Each school will be faced with its own challenges but dance teachers in particular can access support and advice by networking locally and engaging with organisations such as Dance UK and the National Association of Dance Teachers.
I completed the Dance Teacher’s Mentoring Scheme in 2014 and I am incredibly grateful for the support and professional development I received. Over a twelve month period an industry professional mentored me and opened my eyes beyond the bubble of my own school. The experience of working with other teachers and professionals reconnected me with my own reasons for pursing this career and I haven’t looked back.
The best advocates... are the students themselves. If they can articulate their passion and ambition to be successful this reinforces the teachers view of the importance of dance in the school
The study of dance can be confusing for parents and carers when they themselves might not have much experience of the subject. Many of my students have surprised family members by showing them the depth and content of their choreographic journals or by explaining how physically demanding their rehearsals have been. From my experience dance can be viewed as an ‘easy’ subject and changing this culture has been a challenge at my school. The best advocates of the subject are the students themselves and if they can articulate their passion and ambition to be successful this reinforces the teachers view of the importance of dance in the school.
Studying dance in school gives students the chance to be challenged physically and creatively, and also engages them in a way that many traditional subjects cannot achieve. Dance enables young people to learn about difference cultures and to appreciate the ways that ideas can be communicated by choreographers and other arts professionals.
Without a place for dance in our educational framework many students will miss out on the chance to engage in the subject, as they might not have the time or resources to connect with the private sector. Whether they choose to pursue dance as a career or not, the study of dance often equips students with a significant range of transferable skills and crucially the confidence to express themselves.
Written by Sophie Gregory, subject leader for Dance, The Colne Community School and College
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