Trinity College London’s Drama & Performance department has spent the last year working on a development project with Beaumont School and Trestle Arts Base, both based in St Albans, Hertfordshire. As both Trinity and Trestle work internationally, this ‘Trestle Trinity Mask project’ was developed to create mask training methodology and footage.

The aim is to provide support for drama teachers and students to do more practical mask work that can lead to assessment. Trestle’s full masks offer the potential of effective drama work without language, whilst their half masks can be used to improve basic language skills.

Beaumont School, a state-maintained, mixed secondary school which prides itself on community and local partnership work collaborated with Trestle, a mask and physical theatre company, to forge a professional local partnership for this project. Both the school and Trestle were then keen to work with Trinity to use its Performance Arts syllabus as a structure for their work leading to an assessment opportunity for the students involved.

Collaborations and partnerships between schools, exam boards and arts organisations are crucial. Emily Gray, artistic director at Trestle said: ‘As with all collaborations, it’s about an enthusiastic meeting of minds. Trinity, Trestle and Beaumont’s dedication and skills are what made this project such a success. Staff from all three organisations were prepared to enter the unknown… the result was an entertaining showcase evening, in an exam context, with students sharing new skills and receiving supportive examiner feedback.’

There are several drama departments out there who have dusty Trestle masks within their resources and some do teach one-off mask lessons; others have specific mask schemes of work and occasionally even use mask as a component for GCSE, A level or BTEC qualifications. But what if assessment could be taken within Key stage 1, 2 or 3 studies or maybe as summative assessment for the end of a scheme of work at any point in the curriculum?

As this successful project shows, Trinity College London’s graded Performance Arts syllabus can provide a structure with great scope for mask and physical theatre work to form the content for the entire exam. The students from Beaumont School, with guidance and direction from Trestle’s artistic team, achieved some excellent work which not only allowed for it to be assessed but also benefited their taught curriculum drama. The Key stage 3 students devised their own mask performances and Trinity examiners attended their showcase evening to observe and give feedback on their work. The performances were all recorded and have now been edited as a training resource for any teacher to work from worldwide.

Trestle were keen to work on this project for a number of reasons. Emily again: ‘It helps arts organisations to validate their work. Trestle strives to support teachers in mask work and this project was a way of helping them to improve the mask skills of their students and encourage confidence within the boundaries given by an exam structure.’

Trestle has its own youth theatre called Marvellous Masks and engages with schools locally and nationally for community drama work. Email takingpart@trestle.org.uk to find out more.

Trinity’s Drama academic team are also on hand to support any teacher who is interested in exploring the options of assessment and they can be contacted at dramateachers@trinitycollege.com.

Holly Barradell is a qualified secondary drama teacher, moderator, examiner and a drama subject expert for Ofqual.