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Four new plays bring greater diversity to AQA drama qualifications

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The country’s biggest exam board, AQA, is giving GCSE and A-level Drama students access to a more diverse range of texts by adding four new plays by writers from ethnic minority backgrounds to its courses.

From September, GCSE Drama students will be able to study The Great Wave by Francis Turnly and The Empress by Tanika Gupta – and A-level Drama students will be able to study The Convert by Danai Gurira and Three Sisters by Inua Ellams.

The Great Wave is based on the true story of Japanese citizens abducted by the North Korean regime in the 1970s and ’80s and echoes the experience of Megumi Yokota, who was just 13 when she went missing.

In The EmpressRani Das and Abdul Karim step ashore onto London’s Tilbury Docks in 1887 after a long voyage from India. Rani has to battle a society who deems her a second class citizen, while Abdul forges an entanglement with the ageing Queen who finds herself enchanted by stories of an India she rules but has never seen.

The Convert is the story of a young Shona girl, who escapes an arranged marriage by converting to Christianity and becoming a servant and student to an African Evangelical.

Three Sisters is a new production of Chekhov’s play, which sees the iconic characters relocated to 1960s Owerri, Nigeria where the country is poised on the brink of the Nigerian Civil War – a conflict which saw the eastern region of Nigeria temporarily declared as a new republic called Biafra.

In addition to the newly-added plays, the stage adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses has featured in AQA’s Drama GCSE since it launched in 2016. Theplay reverses traditional racial stereotypes and shows racial prejudice from a different perspective.

To help drama teachers to introduce the new plays, AQA is also providing a range of resources including specimen questions, the key social and historical backgrounds of each of the plays and free training.

The free, online training events have been developed in collaboration with mezze eade and Romana Flello of the London Theatre Consortium (LTC), who will also be delivering the events. They will introduce the new texts, give teachers a practical toolkit for preparation and teaching, and cover topics such as stereotypes, accents and casting, as well as working with students’ own identities. They will also look at how to teach the current texts with a focus on equality, diversity and inclusion.

The updates are part of a broader range of revisions and reviews being carried out by AQA across all of its qualifications to ensure they better reflect the diverse range of communities, teachers and students they serve.

Last year AQA added the study of the campaigning work on social and race issues by footballer Marcus Rashford to its Media Studies GCSE.

AQA has also established an equality, diversity and inclusion expert group to consider representation in the curriculum and assessment – and to ensure that decisions are informed by people who represent the full diversity of society.

Sandra Allan, AQA’s Head of curriculum for Creative Arts, said:

“We’ve chosen these plays because of the rich opportunities they’ll offer our teachers and students to explore a diverse range of themes including race and social issues.

“However, we know that just adding new plays won’t bring about greater diversity in the curriculum by itself, so we can’t stop there – we need to make it as easy as possible for schools to start teaching these plays.

“That’s why we’re providing lots of new support and resources and we really hope teachers and students will enjoy these new additions to our drama qualifications.”

These resources will be ready for first teaching in September 2022. You can find more details on AQA’s website: https://www.aqa.org.uk/subjects/drama.

All the plays that currently feature in AQA’s drama qualifications will still be available to teach.

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