Horizons – Secondary Schools

2010 - 2011

Horizons 2010 developed the delivery of the devising modules in Secondary and 16-18 education. The aim was to develop a coordinated approach that involved venues, writers, teachers and students in exploratory learning.

Horizons was conceived as a programme to rejuvenate the way Theatre Centre engages with schools across England. Supported by The Ernest Cook Trust and Anvil Arts, Horizons paired TC writers with five schools across England to develop a professionalised approach to the delivery of the devising module of the Drama scheme of work in secondary education. Further to this,  the programme looked to embed a professional process within the drama departments of partner schools, ensuring student’s learning is connected to contemporary practice.

Horizons began by building communities of learning in different areas of the country; Sheffield, Crawley, Basingstoke and London. The Theatre Centre writers and teacher(s) worked together to explore the ways in which the techniques and discipline from Theatre Centre’s commissioning process can be applied to the teaching of devising in secondary and 16-18 education.


Project Structure

·         Launching the Commission

Together the writer and teacher delivered a session with their students that set up the programme, introducing them to the idea of commissioning and in particular to the commission question with which they needed to work. Inspired by The Day The Waters Came their commission was:

“To create a “Big Moment in History” play that explores what happens when you scream HELP and nobody comes? Or worse, they come, observe, and do nothing.”

The workshop demonstrated a process that the students could replicate over the following weeks in more depth with their teacher. It introduced the concept of teacher as Dramaturg, acting as an enabler rather than providing answers.

Over the following 4 weeks the teacher worked with the students, exploring the techniques they had been learning, to develop a first draft (written or performative). During this period they received remote support from the writer.

·         The Day the Waters Came

Students saw Theatre Centre’s performance of The Day The Waters Came either at their school or a local venue. This provided stimulus for the students devising and demonstrated how dynamic the creative writing/ devising process can be. In most cases the performance was also be used for the Live Theatre Review element of the GCSE Drama syllabus.

·         Redrafting

Students performed their piece to their target audience posing certain questions to the audience to help them identify how the piece needed to develop. The teacher, acting as dramaturg, took a lead role in workshopping further ideas to move the pieces forward. The focus at this stage was on practical application of writing techniques.

Over the following 4 weeks the teacher led the students in the redrafting process. This process, by focusing on redrafting, highlighted the importance of being able to think critically about your own work and developed literary intelligence.

·         Learning Community

Throughout Stage 2 teachers and writers kept in touch by email and regular phone conversations. In Sheffield video was used for students to send their work to the writer and for the writer to reply via You Tube. Teachers were encouraged to be in contact with other participating teachers in their region and contact details were shared. However it seems that while conversations took place between teachers in the same school regarding the discoveries they were making through the programme this did not happen between schools.

Teachers were provided with two resource booklets: one specific to the production of The Day The Waters Came giving insight into the process and one for the Horizons Programme which provided articles and exercises to encourage teachers to consider their own practice.

·         Final Sharing

A final sharing day brought students together to perform their work to an invited audience. In most cases this happened at the partnership venue and took the form of a whole day allowing them to take over a space, add lighting and sound to their pieces before performing. Performances were to their peers except in Basingstoke where they performed in local primary schools. This was a key consideration throughout the students’ process and an extra element for them to consider in developing their commission.

Where schools came together, teachers were encouraged to work with students from other schools to cement their learning by taking themselves out of their familiar teaching relationships.   Students also benefitted from a variety of teaching styles and fresh eyes on their work.

Time was also given over to teachers on this day to share their experiences of the programme, identifying their learning and how they can apply these new skills to their future teaching.

The project was deemed a success by students and teachers alike. Of the 128 students who took part in the project, 71% increased their predicted academic grade by at least one.  On the basis of the success of the project, a similar project was conceived for Primary Schools in 2011.

"I have been on a journey to try and develop better learner independence and step back, suggesting or asking learners to unstick themselves with creative solutions rather than directing."

Drama Teacher, Firth Park Community Arts College, Sheffield

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