Performing Arts Curriculum

Departmental Curriculum Statement 2020-21 Performing Arts (Music, Drama and Dance)
Curriculum Intent Statement

The Performing Arts department at Cowley International College is a fully inclusive and thriving department, which provides opportunities for all students to develop a love of learning in a collaborative, autonomous, exciting and supportive environment.  The department has a state-of-the-art music technology department with 2 suites of Apple Mac computer stations set up with garage band software.  The tutor rooms and 8 practice rooms are fully equipped with keyboards, a complete samba kit, a class set of ukuleles, drum kits and a wide selection of guitars and amplifiers, which are used regularly to develop ensemble skills.  Drama and dance lessons take place in the Emerald Theatre and Cowley Concert Hall that each have a large performance space, professional stage and lighting: giving our students an engaging environment in which to devise and perform. Through high levels of tutor commitment, the department prides itself on the core ethos of high standards of performance opportunities of which are regularly delivered within school, the local community and on foreign concert tours.

Performing Arts is all around us. It has the power to build confidence, to develop self-esteem, to enable young people to express themselves in dynamic and creative ways. It has the power to transform and enrich young people’s lives: from picking up an instrument at school, to developing a character, to learning how to choreograph with a range of dance styles, problem solving a range of stimuli, to composing popular music, from jamming with friends in a homemade band to devising a piece of innovative theatre. The opportunities to create performing arts, from the conventional to the unconventional, can open up a world of expression and creativity, leading to a huge variety of different employment opportunities.

Students at Cowley are encouraged to participate and collaborate with others to build on their social and communication skills which enables them to reflect, evaluate and improve their talent.  Students gain a deeper understanding of music from other traditional cultures or traditions and experience different styles of drama and dance during lessons.  The performing arts develop a student’s ability to be creative, gain confidence and also provides the opportunity to build on prior skills as an individual or in a group by developing accuracy, expression and communication.  Students gain a deeper understanding of the work they perform and create through studying a variety of styles, genres and practitioners.

Curriculum Implementation Statement

The curriculum model and topics, at all key stages, adopts and promotes independent and inclusive learning as the epicenter to all teaching and learning pedagogy. This key emphasis on autonomous learning prepares the learner to not only excel academically but to ensure the necessary skills are embedded for future employment. This also provides the necessary stretch and challenge for learners at all abilities.

Key stage 3 – Year 7 , 8 , 9 

Pupils build on the knowledge and skills gained in KS1 and KS2, learning to further appreciate a wide variety of styles and genres of music whilst continually developing as performers, composers and producers through an innovative and skills based curriculum. In KS3, our curriculum is designed in line with the statutory National Curriculum for Music. Pupils sequentially develop their key skills and application of subject knowledge through exposure to a variety of topics. These are revisited and extended in Year 8 and 9* to improve fluency of skills and understanding.

Topics include – The Basics, Group Singing, Blues, Class Bands (Next to Me), Indian, Pop Project, Samba, film music and Keyboard Skills. *The ‘Musical Futures’ model used in year 9 core includes – Use your ears, song writing and set song performance.

Cowley values the importance of the core skills that Drama and Dance enriches upon our learners. Although the music curriculum holds president throughout key stage 3, we aim to keep InTouch with the core skills and techniques in drama and dance will allow students to thrive in all three disciplines of the performing arts. Pupils will explore fundamental building blocks of Drama and Dance, which will allow for complex and highly creative stories to be told. Essential elements such as Performance Skills, Devising/Choreographing Skills, Characterisation and Reflection and Analysis will be applied to a wide variety of contexts. The curriculum is planned in such a way that any gaps in Drama and Dance experience can be plugged within the first term allowing for access to Drama and Dance for all.

In all disciplines students are taught through various stimuli and are assessed individually against the mastery skills criteria within the strands of performing, composing/devising/choreographing and understanding. Leaners who opt have a choice to broaden their knowledge and skills of the National Curriculum further with more allocated lesson time and innovative topics explored within year 9 extension lessons.

Each essential building block will be revisited through KS3; each time building in complexity and creativity in their application to performance. At the end of KS3 pupils will be equipped with a wide range of skills; each of which can then be applied to KS4 with confidence, flair and creativity.

Years 10 & 11

At KS4, vocational courses are offered as option choices for students who have a passion and enjoyment whatever their experience.  The courses allow students to explore and develop theories, knowledge, skills and techniques through vocational, workshop and practical application. The advantages of technical learning allow for a wider choice of units, which support the individual skills more appropriately.

In Music, students follow the Level 2 RSL Music Practitioners (performing approach) course. It allows students to develop an interest and skills in the area of music performance. It is broken down as follows:

Unit 1 – Instrumental Study (internal assessment 40%)

Unit 2 – Musical Knowledge (internal assessment 20%)

Unit 3 – Live Music Performance (external assessment 40%)

In Dance, students follow the BTEC Tech Award in Performing Arts (dance approach). This allows students to develop an interest and skills in a range of Dance styles. This is broken down as follows:

Component 1 – Exploring the Performing Arts (internal assessment 30%)

Component 2 – Developing skills and techniques in the Performing Arts (internally assessed 30%)

Component 3 – Responding to a brief (external assessment 40%)

In Drama, students follow the Level 2 RSL Creative Practitioners course. The course allows students to develop an interest and skills as an actor/singer.  It is broken down as follows:

Unit 1 – Performing Text (internal assessment 50%)

Unit 2 – Final Performance (external assessment 50%)

Years 12 and 13

At KS5, students can opt to continue their vocational learning through the BTEC Level 3 national suite of qualifications.  Although experience from a level 2 course is desirable, it is not essential as the department lead a calendar of open auditions.  Students continue to develop and refine a range of skills/techniques to enable them to continue their flight path towards achieving entry to universities, drama schools, and conservatoires or gain employment in the performing arts/music industry.  Units of work chosen for both the music performance course and performing arts (musical theatre) are bespoke to the cohort’s strengths and areas, to develop them into a versatile/employable performer.

In Music, students follow the BTEC Level 3 Subsidiary Diploma in Music (performance) covering six units over two years including;

Music Performance Techniques* (core), Working as a Musical Ensemble, Solo Performance, Live Music Workshop, Marketing and Promotion and Organizing a Music Event.

(All units are internally assessed and samples are externally verified.)

In Performing Arts (Dance and Drama), students have the option to either follow the new and innovative BTEC Level 3 National Foundation Diploma in Performing Arts Practice. Units consist of Skills Development (45O GLH) and the Performing Arts Industry (90 GLH).

(All units are internally assessed and samples are externally verified.)

Curriculum Beyond the Classroom

The Performing Arts Department provides a wealth of opportunities for students to perform inside and outside of the school community. The current extra-curricular programme is extensive and includes the following:

·         Choirs – Senior, Junior, Boys, Girls

·         Rock School

·         Whole School production

·         KS3 and KS4 Drama groups

·         Devising Club

·         KS3 and 4 Dance Club

·         Voice Lab

·         Dance Company

·         Wind band

·         Brass group

·         String Ensemble

Peripatetic teachers also provide 1:1 music tuition which takes place during the school day free of charge to students.

Cowley International College regularly participates in local community events such as the St Helens Rotary club, Age UK, Tunza Pride, Young Carers Holocaust Memorial Services, Remembrance Day events, faith groups, and St Helens Council Christmas light service.  We collaborate regularly with local primary and high schools at external events.

Students also have opportunities to audition for the annual large-scale musical theatre production at Cowley.  Recent previous productions include Into the Woods, Les Miserables, Billy Elliot, Sister Act, Miss Saigon, The Phantom of the Opera, Fame with the most recent performance being Grease. Other performance opportunities include Cowley’s Got Talent, the Greatest Dancer, Battle of the Bands, Curriculum celebration, KS3 musical and the annual Summer and Christmas reviews.

We also offer invitations on the International and European Concert Tours, where we perform to large audiences in exquisite locations. These include Paris, Italy, New York, Belgium and most recently many of the senior choir have received personal invitations to return to Stuttgart, where we had the privilege to perform at the 70th anniversary of the twinning of the towns.  The feedback from the mayor of Stuttgart in 2019 is below:

“Watching your school made us feel proud to be twinned with St Helens”. It is amazing to see a high standard of talent for such young people, who clearly have a passion for performing”. Thank you Cowley International College and the wonderful performing arts team”.

Subject Expertise

Performing arts staff at Cowley are highly experienced and committed, to ensure that the standards of teaching and learning are at the forefront of the student’s education.  Both teaching staff and support staff working with the department are encouraged to develop subject knowledge and continue their professional development through a range of avenues such as examination board training sessions on new and existing specification, attending the St Helens performing arts network meeting to share best practice and becoming EQA/standards verifiers for our KS4/5 examining boards.  We encourage our staff to continue to partake as practitioners in their spare time, e.g. choreographing, casting directing, artistic directing, vocal coaching, performing lead vocalists, lounge pianist and musical theatre performers, to ensure tutors are up to date with the latest industry developments.

Staff are highly proficient with their performing disciplines; however, if support is needed there is an extensive package available through:

Internal training: subject booster master class delivered across our recently formed soft federation with Haydock High school, lesson observations, team teaching, standardisation and internal verification processes.

External: online networks Twitter/Facebook forums and face to face training events


The curriculum is designed as a tiered, filter system, planned to prepare students for success at the next key stage. Performing Arts’ students can expect to walk into a purposeful and engaging learning environment in all lessons.  Students are challenged with a range of tasks, which quickly develop skills and reinforce prior learning.  Performing Arts’ students learn predominantly through practical work, even for theoretical concepts.  They are expected to develop and confidently use a high level of language for learning.  The fully skill-based curriculum is designed to ensure that all students leave Cowley International College with a love of learning within the Performing Arts and a gained confidence in communication, collaboration and social awareness as well as skills for life, through the delivery of the exciting yet challenging curriculum we offer.