School Plays Could Lose Love Scenes

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), February 17, 2006 | Go to article overview

School Plays Could Lose Love Scenes


Byline: By MADELEINE BRINDLEY Western Mail

Kissing scenes in Romeo and Juliet could be cut from school plays under planned new rules to protect children from sexual abuse. Under the proposed guidelines, being considered in Wales by the National Assembly, kissing on the lips in some popular plays could be replaced by a quick peck on the cheek.

Drama teachers could also be ordered to self-censor scripts and plays containing sexually suggestive scenes or violence, and bad language could be banned. The move comes almost two years after the Clywch inquiry into allegations of serious sexual abuse by drama teacher John Owen at Rhydfelen School, near Pontypridd.

Owen, who committed suicide before he was due to appear in court in 2001 charged with sex offences against four boys at the school, used drama as a 'vehicle for improper activity with children'.

A raft of draft guidelines governing all aspects of drama has now been drawn up by the Assembly, after Children's Commissioner Peter Clarke called for a review of drama teaching as part of the 2004 inquiry.

Sara Reid, assistant children's commissioner, said, 'The risk of someone being able to behave in an abusive or sexually abusive way towards young people is greater in drama.

'The vast majority of drama teachers would be aware of what the boundaries are. But it's important that these boundaries are very clearly stated so that the risk of young people being exploited is reduced significantly.'

The draft guidelines, which have been put out for consultation by the Assembly, state that teachers and managers should never allow nudity or 'deliberate intimate physical contact' between children.

On kissing, the guidelines state, 'Many learners are uncomfortable with kissing in performance because of the physical intimacy that it entails, whatever the motivation of the characters or genre of the performance.

'In most cases, a peck on the cheek or an embrace can communicate the required emotion.

'These gestures show affection in an acceptable and obvious way.'

And they also propose that drama teachers cut or adapt certain texts if they have to, in order to protect children - the guideline states that safety must always take priority over the artistic work.

This relates to Owen's use of Peter Shaffer's play Equus, which deals with issues linked to violence and sex. The play contains explicitly sexual scenes and language and the stage directions indicate a role for nudity in the play.

Owen used the play to encourage pupils to engage in inappropriate sexual activities.

If the guidelines are approved - the consultation period ends in April - drama teachers will also be forbidden from photographing or filming any part of a performance, rehearsal or lesson without written permission from pupils' parents. …

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