Unicorn Theatre reports fall in visits from school groups

The Unicorn Theatre, one of the UK’s leading theatres dedicated to producing work for young people, has reported a six per cent drop in school group visits during the period from August 2014 to June 2015 compared to the previous year. The theatre has also experienced an increase in cancellations from school groups.

Unicorn’s learning associate Catherine Greenwood said in response to the figures: ‘We are hearing from some teachers and head teachers that they are finding it increasingly difficult to justify the time out of the classroom. With schools facing cuts to budgets in the next financial year, and with the government recently announcing plans to make the Ebacc compulsory in all schools, this situation will only get worse.’

Unicorn Theatre's production of The Velveteen Rabbit (Credit: Manuel Harlan)

Unicorn Theatre’s production of The Velveteen Rabbit (Credit: Manuel Harlan)

The Warwick Report, published in February this year, found that young people from low-income families are least likely to engage with and appreciate the arts as part of the school curriculum or their home life. Greenwood thinks there is a ‘serious danger’ that the current climate will create a ‘two-tier system:  those schools who choose to make the arts available to their students and those who don’t.’ Greenwood believes that letting such a system take hold would be ‘failing many young people’.

‘We need schools, head teachers and governing bodies to actively redress this imbalance if we are to ensure students from all backgrounds have access to theatre. A visit to the theatre can provide schools with a rich context for learning across the curriculum – which many teachers take advantage of, and we have first-hand experience showing that it improves literacy and learning among less-able students in particular.’

Miliband promises arts at the heart of Labour government

Ed Miliband has said that Labour will ‘put policy for arts and culture and creativity at the heart of the Labour government’s mission’ if the party gains power in this year’s general election. The Labour leader was speaking at the Creative Industries Federation at Battersea Arts Centre.

‘Britain will be a prouder, richer, stronger country when we give everybody the opportunity to develop their creativity, expand their horizons, enhance their talents and make a life for themselves in the arts and culture: old and young, rich and poor, north and south.’

Despite his backing of arts and culture, Miliband would not confirm that there would be no further cuts to the arts, saying: ‘I can’t make promises about what funding’s going to look like in the future.’

Ed Miliband speaking at the Creative Industries Federation at Battersea Arts Centre (Credit: Ian Watts)

Ed Miliband speaking at the Creative Industries Federation at Battersea Arts Centre (Credit: Ian Watts)

In his speech, Miliband also quoted from the Warwick Commission’s report, and said: ‘If we care about the opportunities for the young, the findings of the Warwick Commission should worry us all.

‘The next Labour government’s mission is to guarantee every young person, from whatever background, access to the arts and culture: a universal entitlement to a creative education for every child.’

In Miliband’s speech, Labour backed the Warwick Commission’s recommendation that schools will only be able to receive an ‘outstanding’ rating from Ofsted if they offer creative subjects and cultural opportunities within a broad and balanced curriculum.

Other policies announced during the speech included: strengthening creative education in schools by encouraging afterschool clubs to offer music, drama, dance, art, sport or other creative activities; building better career pathways into the arts and creative industries by increasing the number of apprenticeships; and widening free access to museums and galleries.