The Malta Independent 24 September 2021, Friday

Development through drama - The Helen O’Grady Academy way

Friday, 15 November 2019, 09:30 Last update: about 3 years ago

Education is very much in the spotlight. The many benefits of Non-Formal Education (NFE) are well documented and when it comes to developmental drama as a tool to impart 21st century Life Skills, the benefits are off the chart.

Alan Montanaro is the director of Helen O’Grady Academy in Malta
Alan Montanaro is the director of Helen O’Grady Academy in Malta

At a recent conference on the subject hosted by The Duke of Edinburgh's International award, the very real problem of lack of social skills in the work place was discussed. It is clear that we are churning out qualified personnel who lack communication and interpersonal skills.

The situation we were informed is pretty dire with employers now looking beyond just university degrees and recognising the benefits of NFE. Has this applicant done drama? Therefore he or she will likely be a good communicator and work well within a team. Have they attended developmental dance? Then, he or she will have discipline and focus.


A developmental drama programme such as that created by the international Helen O'Grady Academy addresses these issues across the different ages. The dynamic curriculum has been built over the years by teachers, psychologists and experts in the field of child development to ensure that the lessons are structured in a way to boost confidence and self-esteem and eradicate the often-crippling fear of making a mistake, which is often the monkey on a student's back, holding him back from being a full participant in the classroom and outside it.

We are not a talent school and we are not in the business of turning children into performing artistes - though we do give them the tools to pursue a career in performance.  We do focus on nurturing our students' inherent creativity before it is chipped away by technology and academic pressures. We delve deep into developing excellent communication and social skills that last a lifetime.

We allow our students a safe environment to be themselves and to develop into best possible version of themselves because we believe that "creative thinkers will be the next generation of leaders".

The benefits of drama as a learning tool are clear. Studies carried out by Matt Buchanan of Harvard University show that drama reinforces the rest of the school curriculum.

Since communication and empathy are central to Drama, a student will be better able to understand and discuss problems. The link between Dramatic Arts and subjects such as English, History, Social Studies and related areas is obvious. The study of literature would be impossible without Drama.

One marked area of improvement, noted by parents of children attending the Helen O'Grady Academy, was in written and spoken English. After all, a lesson learned through fun is never forgotten. And, because drama is so practical, we can apply the Aristotle's wisdom: "Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. Involve me ... and I will understand."

The international Helen O'Grady Academy development programme is attended by over 100,000 students around the world. The programme is included as part of the regular time-table in select schools in India, South Africa and in the US.

The programme in Malta has been pegged at EGF Level 3 (similar to an O Level) and recognised across the EU by the Directorate of Quality and Standards in Education (DQSE) and was recently awarded Best Practice.

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