The new Edexcel AS syllabus makes a clear link between the teaching of the two play texts in Unit 1 and the practical assessment in Unit 2. Consequently, in planning for the second unit it is important to have an overview of the students’ learning over the year and over the course as a whole. With a new syllabus, it is easy to become so concerned about the specific requirements of the course that one can forget to consider the overall aims of teaching drama at A level.
The starting point should be the particular students within the group, their abilities, interests and needs. The new syllabus is well-designed to give maximum freedom to teachers to design a course to meet the needs of students of very different backgrounds and abilities.
Unit 2 is slightly more complex than previous practical assessments in the choices it gives students. The unit is divided into two sections, A and B. Candidates can opt to perform in both sections or may choose a design option for either or both sections. In this scheme of work, I will only be considering the performance options, but teachers should be aware of the opportunities offered by the design options, these may give some students greater understanding of theatre and may offer them an opportunity to develop a range of skills.
Section A also contains two options: either the performance of a monologue or a duologue from a ‘complete and substantial play text’. There are upper time limits of two minutes and five minutes, respectively. I will discuss the ways in which teachers and students might consider this choice in more detail in the next section, but this is another crucial decision which will need careful consideration bearing in mind the needs of individual students.
Section B is the group performance from a different play than that used for Section A. This performance is directed by you and consists of groups sized from three to nine. If you have small AS groups you will have a clear advantage, and schools and colleges with large classes will need to plan carefully how they will manage the task of staging more than one group performance in a class, perhaps by alternating work on Sections A and B.
This unit is assessed mainly on the practical performance and contains only one piece of written work, which is the written performance concept for Section A. The two sections are equally weighted, which will be important for candidates to be aware of, and share three out of the four assessment objectives. This is an external assessment carried out by a visiting examiner; as experienced teachers will be aware, careful preparation for the assessment of both the candidates and the paperwork is essential.