An academic inquiry into the importance placed on dance within education.


This inquiry is based around understanding better the impact of my work delivering hands and feet dance workshops in schools, and the importance placed on the arts, (specifically dance) within education. I have been delivering dance workshops to schools for over ten years now and I have visited over 5000 schools. This work seems to have considerable value for both staff and children and this inquiry has given me the opportunity to gain some insight into why.
It is my opinion that dance is undervalued within education. Not necessarily for any vocational or academic value, but more for its expressive element which I believe is an important factor in a child’s development. The most common remark from staff is surprise at the change of behaviour of some children, or the change in the social dynamic of the class for example, less confident children leading groups to choreograph pieces of dance.
It has been argued by some academics that dance has the potential to be as disruptive and uncomfortable experience for children. I would argue in response that it is important to teach the correct technique, with confidence to fully engage a class. And that it is quite possible to effectively deliver dance without creating a gender divide or uncomfortable situation. It is perhaps this formula that is contained within my workshops. (M. GARD 2010) (D.Risner 2008)
As dance comes under P.E. curriculum the application of, and social benefits of dance in education are discussed by academics within in this context. Of the articles that I researched I concur with the idea that the importance of P.E. is on a child’s process of building physical self-confidence and competence rather than the sport/art form itself. (Department of Education and Science, 1991)
As primary school teachers are expected to teach all subjects regardless of their background and training, it stands to reason that dance would be neglected due to a lack of confidence or understanding as it is particularly specialised. Clearly gender has a part to play, as male teachers might be less comfortable teaching dance. (Hastle and Curtner Smith 2006 )( Williams & Bedward 2010)
Organising and analysis of the data collected.
Having gathered 50 feedback forms {1} from schools across the UK and over the last 4 years, my first job is to organise the feedback into themes. This requires looking through them all and colour coding them according to the written responses. Having used these forms for professional development and testimonials for or over a decade, I have a good sense of the kind of comments made. The questions on the feedback forms {1} aim to give me a better understand the impact of the workshops and value for the school, staff and children and some questions on the forms are derived from comments from staff that I felt were important enough to explore further.
My initial job was to read through and find themes that run throughout the forms. These themes were to then form the basis of my inquiry. Possible themes as discussed with Adesola were:
• Value for money – I did ask this for a short time on my evaluation forms but only the Bursars (who are not involved in the workshop) and the teacher who booked were aware of the cost. So I got a lot of “I don’t know” answers. I think that the best way to judge this is from the amount of schools who re-book each year.

• The fact that I am a black teacher – It was suggested that for a lot of schools (mainly rural), the fact that I am a black man holds a lot of value to children who might never see/meet from outside of their community.

My own insights into why the is workshop beneficial from reading countless feedback forms in the past are:
• The technique works as an accessible form of dance.
• My own teaching method and manner with the children.
• The impact of a visiting teacher who is both male and black? Many schools have entirely white, female staff groups.
• The chance to express themselves physically.
• It engages boys in dance. This I am told is a challenge for most teachers.
• The way that the workshop promotes independent groupwork.
• The workshop helps to bolster the schools own dance programme.
After reading through the feedback forms {1}, the themes that were most consistent were:
• My approach and energy with the children. (It is unclear however whether this could also be a result of the impact of a visiting teacher who is both male and black as the staff that are involved I suspect would not comment on this unless asked directly).
• The impact on specific children who would ordinarily struggle to engage. Also, included in this was the repeated observation that boys specifically were more engaged.
• The groupwork choreography section of the group which promotes independent working.
When asked the question does the workshop involve elements of you dance curriculum, the answers were vague or the section was left blank. This is interesting to me because in March 2016, I had interviewed head teacher of Southfields Primary school Paul Tuffin and his response to this question was that the workshop did not only tick a few boxes, but in fact One session covered and entire dance curriculum needs for a term.
Clearly Paul (who has rebooked each year for ten years) uses my work for his staff to tick their dance ‘box’. The lack of answers on the feedback forms suggests to me that the staff are either unaware of their obligations regarding teaching dance, or that they could not see how my workshop was in line with the government guidelines, or that there were no government guidelines.
To understand how these themes are relevant in the practical terms, I have been researching government literature and other sources of guidance for arts in education. Unsurprisingly the government recommendation for Key stage two dance {2} is:
• perform dances using a range of movement patterns.
I also found the arts in education charter {3} which fails to mention dance at all. The following extract was the summery:
1.3 Primary Education Primary schools are required to make provision for the Visual Arts, Drama and Music as key components of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and to plan at a whole school level accordingly.
At this point I decided to research just how much time is dedicated to dance within schools. To get an idea of this I found and downloaded the curriculum maps {4} from five random primary schools. It was clear from reviewing these that primary schools dedicate a term per year group of dance every year, which would translate into one P.E. lesson per week during that term being dedicated to dance.
With that information, I had to consider what and how schools organise their dance for that period. For this I interviewed two members of staff who oversaw dance for their school curriculum. One from Carole burns from Bromet Primary school Watford and then in contrast and to compare the differences, the second From Claire Aimes who Lychette Minster from a high l school in Dorset. I asked each teacher to forward to me the summery of these conversations in an email.
Whilst my consent form {5} was offered to staff before our discussions, they assured me that verbal permission to use the information and to have the discussion was all that was required..
The following text has been cut and pasted from the two emails received.
Email from Carole Burns 12/2/16:
When looking at the planning we would look at the topic or geography (country) being taught. We would then research the music associated with these areas.
Once a piece of music is chosen the idea would be to look at the styles of movement, balance and travel, that could be used to create a dance.
Over several weeks when all the possible movements have been explored the children would be grouped and encouraged to create a performance to the piece of music incorporating movements the previous sessions. This would normally cover 8 to 10 lessons.

Hope this is of help.

Email from Claire Aimes Lychette Minster school {5}.
We to Stomp as a 6-week scheme of work in year 8.

We usually start with your workshop as an introduction and then the students undertake 3 other workshops (1 hour each) focusing on different clips of Stomp

1. Clap your hands
2. Chairs
3. Newspapers

We analyse the clips. Exploring the action/space/dynamic and relationship content. They also choose an idea or movement that they will use in their own work.

They create 3 pieces of performance work on the works

They then create an assessment piece using material they have already created and their own material. They set it in a location (airport, coffee shop, photo shoot etc. which helps them consider props)
This runs over the course of a term.

Hope this helps
Teachers are clearly expected to deliver a significant amount of dance however, at this point in my inquiry, there seemed to be little guidance from the education department and little to go on in as far as learning outcomes are concerned. This falls in line with my own discussions with staff from schools that I have visited. Regarding the amount of support that staff have in both their training and delivery of dance, leaving the process very much up to the creativity of the teachers.
A similar conclusion was reached by Dance UK who track the changes to schools curriculum the following is an extract from their website {6}:
“Dance is expected to remain in PE. The Programme Board: Children and Young People’s Dance has recommended that dance is a named activity – but it is expected that there will be general learning outcomes stated so dance might be referred to in a general statement about how it contributes to PE but there is expected to be little guidance on or expectation of its delivery”.

The next logical step in my inquiry seemed to be to research the resources available for teachers to use as a guide to accomplish a successful dance programme. There are plenty of resources online (most of which cost), however the T.E.S. website (according to my search) held the largest collection of resources for teaching dance. So, my next question is, does dance the benefits to child development that come from regular dance input? (M. GARD 2010)
To answer this, I looked back over the feedback forms and found that in 22 out of 50, it was mentioned that some children stood out who ordinarily would not participate or engage in dance classes. This perhaps can be credited to the workshop being delivered by a professional, or the technique being accessible? I have also visited several schools who use a ‘wake up, shake up’ class every morning to energise their children.
How this inquiry will benefit my professional practice.
This research was very helpful in understanding the data that I collected on my feedback forms and the themes that came out of them. The primary teaching of dance is implemented by staff it would seem in conjunction with another topic or subject to add a cross-curricular element to it. However, many of the schools that I have delivered my own hands and feet workshops to have enquired about resource packs to use the technique for their own dance programme.
The results show a dedication to dance in education which is far greater than I had initially anticipated, but perhaps leaves a challenge at KS2. There are specific guidelines for KS3 and 4 but a gap where primary education is concerned. One result of this inquiry is that I will be developing a dance programme for schools to follow my workshop, which will give each school a terms dance programme.