Understanding The Arts National Curriculum – A Cheat Sheet

In May this year, Arts teachers across Australia, through their various educational authority will receive the new National Curriculum: The Arts. I haven’t had many discussions with Arts Teachers and in particular Drama Teacher’s about this. I’m keen to hear people’s thoughts.

As part of my school’s professional development program last year, we all had the opportunity to work with the materials that we had on hand from ACARA to help us start reflecting on our programs and to consider how we are going to adapt them so that they align with the new curriculum.

The Arts now has a Draft Curriculum: Foundation to Year 10 available. The Consultation period has now closed and there are no specifics (i.e an actual syllabus) as yet with which to program but I did feel that I could use this post to clarify what I understand the changes to be and hopefully to trigger you to start considering what you know about the impending National Curriculum, what preparation you, your Faculty and your school have made (or need to make) and where you can obtain assistance if necessary.

I’d strongly like to emphasise that I am not from ACARA. The information provided here is my understanding of the documents provided by them and I am by no means a fountain of National Curriculum knowledge. Please feel free to make corrections and add anything else in the comments.

How did we get to the Stage we’re at now?

You can check out the full details here but basically, the process was split into two phases: Shaping and Writing. We are currently in the Writing phase. Each phase consisted of a separate team of people from various universities, schools and arts bodies around Australia. The Shape paper was written after much discussion and consultation with teachers, academics, professional associations, educational authorities, industry and community members. It was designed to provide the scaffold and broad direction for the writing of the curriculum.

So the Curriculum has been written?

Yes. However, there was a consultation period at the end of 2012 which allowed for feedback from teachers, academics, professional associations, education authorities, industry and community members. That has now closed. ACARA is now in the process of working through the submissions, refining and editing the Curriculum for publishing in May 2013.

It says on the ACARA website that we have to implement the new curriculum in Feb 2014. Is this true?

It is my understanding that what is being released in May, is not a syllabus. It is my understanding that the states and territories still need to adapt the National Curriculum into the relevant syllabus document for their state. As such, I’m not really sure if the implementation date outlined on the site is for syllabus documents to be distributed or whether they will need to be released prior to this date and schools will already need to have programmed accordingly.

So, what changes do I need to know about?

I’ll try to condense this down into no more than ten points. Otherwise I think it will be information overload.

  • The Arts now consists of five subjects: Dance, Drama, Media Arts, Music and Visual Arts. Many would recognise Dance as currently being run in some schools through PDHPE. Also, Media Arts is clearly a new addition and I know at my school there is some anxiety over this. There may be some angst for PE/Dance Teacher’s also.
  • At this point in time there is no senior curriculum (Stage 6). However it is referred to in the learning continuum. Kindergarten is now referred to as Foundation and both the Shape Paper and the Curriculum provide a scope and sequence of learning in each artform across these years.
  • Individual schools are to determine how the Arts curriculum will be delivered with a certain number of hours being allocated to each stage. Read into that what you will. The Shape Paper looked promising for Drama and it still does in some ways but again, this will be a school based decision.
  • The curriculum across all the artforms has condensed the learning down to two key areas: making and responding. It is unclear how this will be reflected in syllabus documents.
  • The elements of drama will continue to be the core business around which we teach our students however some interesting bits I pulled from the Shape Paper include “more complex use of dramatic tension and sub texts” in Year 7 and 8 with very specific mention of looking at both comedy and tragedy. A focus on expressing “social identities” in Year 9 and 10 as well as using “hybrid forms.” Some interesting terminology in Year 11 & 12 is that of “scenography” which is not used in the current NSW syllabus.
  • In the Making strand there is a strong focus on process and linking work to other Arts subjects and learning areas.
  • There is no outline of Life Skills capabilities as yet and there are resources available for students who are EAL/D (English as an Additional Language or Dialect) separate to The Arts Curriculum documents.
  • The General Capabilities which in NSW used to be the Cross-Curriculum Content is varied and will be emphasised differently across all the Art forms.
  • The Cross-curriculum priorities have also changed particularly due to the addition of Asia and Australia’s Engagement with Asia (AAEA). An Asian aspect is mentioned throughout much of the document and will need to be included in programs.
  • In looking at the descriptors for Years 7 and 8 and Years 9 and 10, there is an emphasis on developing skills to convey relationships and intention, exploring the elements particularly tension and focus in scripted and devised drama and increasing the sophistication of performances in terms of their use of the elements, the incorporation of other art forms and learning areas and the various social, historical and political contexts.

What documents can I look at to get help with my planning?

Go here for all information to do with The Arts Curriculum. I would make sure you have a look over:

There are some really good professional readings listed in ACARA’s Bibliography as well.

I found spending a little bit of time reading all these documents useful just so I am in the loop as to what is coming in the next few months in terms of the National Curriculum.

I would be keen to hear what preparation you have done or just people’s personal thoughts on these happenings. Please leave a comment below.



  1. It is in their somewhere Rebecca! I do remember readin it. Ultimately though they are suggested hours and it is at the Principal’s discretion as to how many will be allocated to Drama. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the blog.

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