New Performing Arts Technical Award: inspiring, multi-discipline qualification

Published: Friday 10 Jun 2016

We’ve developed a new Technical Award in Performing Arts offering learners a multi-discipline qualification with the opportunity to perform, learn production skills and discover more about careers in the performing arts sector.

The new qualification will be available for first teaching in September 2017. It replaces our existing GCSE Performing Arts and offers a broader, more contemporary range of performance and production options.

Technical Awards are practical, vocational qualifications available to 14-16 year olds to take alongside GCSEs. If approved by the Department for Education, a single award will be equivalent to a GCSE qualification and will count towards performance tables. They could then be included in Progress 8 as part of the non-Ebacc open group of subjects.

Course content

Our new qualification allows learners to:

  • unlock creative ideas for a production
  • put on a production
  • perform effectively on-stage or in a technical role off-stage
  • analyse and evaluate their skills independently and within a team
  • develop an awareness of industrial practices and employment opportunities
  • gain a broad knowledge of creative business practices.

All learners will be taught and assessed in the same way, and there is no need to split your class into Level 1 and Level 2.

Assessment structure

There are two internally-assessed units, and a third that is externally assessed:

Unit 1: Unlocking creativity (30%)

Learners will be asked to come up with a production idea based on briefs from real practitioners such as Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and Dame Judi Dench, or representatives from EMI Music Sound Foundation, the Zandra Rhodes Foundation, Motionhouse or Future DJs. They will research their idea in order to produce a portfolio documenting their planning and ideas. Learners will pitch their ideas as a group to the camera and a short showcase of their work can be presented as an illustration of their ideas and planning.

Unit 2: The production/performance (30%)

Learners will produce a performance to an audience. They can choose from a selection of suggested starting points, use the idea generated in unit 1 or alternatively the group can choose their own idea. They can choose one of the disciplines from the following selection of performance or production skills.

Performance skills:

  • acting
  • dancing
  • singing
  • instrumental music
  • musical theatre
  • variety performance
  • pantomime
  • physical theatre
  • circus skills

Production skills:

  • costume
  • set design
  • properties
  • make-up
  • lighting
  • sound
  • stage
  • original writing
  • directing
  • choreography
  • public relations
  • film production

Unit 3: The performing arts industry (written exam – 40%)

Learners will draw on knowledge and understanding from units 1 and 2 and also from the following areas of study:

  • Roles and responsibilities within the performing arts industry
  • The role of performing arts in society
  • Approaches to rehearsal
  • Working as a deviser/performer/director
  • Marketing and public relations
  • Health and safety
  • Design and technical elements
  • Reviewing performances

Questions will be a combination of multiple choice, short questions, and longer questions that draw on learnings from units 1 and 2.

Why choose AQA

Sarah Bell, Head of Creative Arts Faculty, Woodhey High School:

I was genuinely impressed and surprised. I felt as though my feedback at the initial focus group had been taken on board. I really like the wide range of knowledge in this specification. It supports the breadth of learning that takes place in a Performing Arts room. It feels as if it puts some weight behind what we have been teaching learners for years. I would always stay with AQA, as the specifications are concise, clear and user friendly.

Deborah Jackson, Head of Performing Arts and Drama, West Lakes Academy:

I like the performance briefs – they are clear and effective.

Where this award leads

This Technical Award is designed to equip learners with the practical performing arts skills and core knowledge they need to progress to further study, employment or apprenticeships.

Through practical, project-based learning, learners will develop a variety of transferable skills including self-appraisal, teamwork and problem solving.

We’ve worked with post-16 education providers to ensure that Technical Awards count equally alongside GCSEs when applying to do further study in either general or vocational qualifications.

Support and resources

We’ll be submitting our draft qualification to the Department for Education in September 2016, when we’ll share the draft specification with you. We’re also planning a series of free support events throughout the autumn term, alongside a full set of resources.

Contact us

Our subject team is here to help. Sign up for updates on our new Technical Awards, or contact Peta Thompson and the customer support team on 01483 437 750 or by email at

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