ADDING THE ARTS ONTO SCHOOL DAYS DOES NOT MAKE THEM ACCESSIBLE

A recent headline in The Stage stated: “Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright has announced Arts organisations and schools across England will be brought together through a new £5m scheme aimed at increasing young people’s access to the performing arts”.

Well, it’s by all accounts welcome news, and considerably better news than the government publicised on 10th April this year: “New funding to support talented music, drama and dance pupils to realise their potential and kick-start a career in the arts has been announced by the School Standards Minister Nick Gibb today (Tuesday 10 April). This is a further boost to the arts, which has already seen substantial investment in music hubs for the next two years”  (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/funding-boost-for-the-arts-to-support-talented-pupils).

Why the negative tone on hearing the above news? Accessibility. Plain and simple. I was one of those children who were dyslexic in school. Shy, reserved and often bullied (hard to believe now but certainly true in my school years). Would I have benefitted from the inclusion of arts subjects in my curriculum? Who knows, I certainly don’t. But the fact that it could have been one of the available options is the point here.

Funding for “talented” pupils only. What about those who are not yet endowed with artistic skills? What about those who don’t have parents who can provide arts tuition outside school hours? Arts provision should be for all. How often have we heard that?

The Stage goes on to say: “The investment will fund five Youth Performance Partnerships, which will focus on teaching performance skills on- and off-stage, including dance, drama, art, lighting, sound. Primary and secondary schools will also be linked up with playwrights to give pupils the opportunity to perform new works by up and coming writers. It is hoped that the partnerships, which are to be delivered by Arts Council England, will reach 10,000 young people over three academic years”.

“A DCMS spokesperson said that partnerships would be selected for the North, the Midlands, South East, South West and London. DCMS added that the chosen areas would be places “where not enough young people have the chance to take part in performance”.

Speaking about the new award, an Arts Council England spokesperson said that the Youth Performance Partnerships will provide a brilliant opportunity for children from areas lacking opportunities to get involved in the arts to immerse themselves in the world of performance – giving them a creative outlet, developing skills on and off stage, and boosting their confidence”.

Mylo-Rhianna-performing-arts-Press-Release

Again, this is looking at a macro problem. Every child has a different story, a different family, a different set of circumstances. What about a poor family in a rich area? The DCMS goes on to say: “All children deserve to receive the benefits of a creative cultural education, and this programme is a fantastic step towards achieving that aim.” A step, yes. But the provision of arts should never have disappeared in the first place. And if the arts are deemed a necessity for some, why not all? And who will teach this provision? A relationship with an arts organisation is commendable but will these organisations have qualified teachers to oversee learning? If the arts are required in an all-round curriculum then why isn’t it available for all? As someone famous said recently, if it’s good enough for Prince George it’s good enough for everyone….

[Images supplied by South Devon College]

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