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.’

IdeasTap to close due to lack of funding

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Peter De Haan has announced the charity’s closure

Arts charity IdeasTap has announced it is to close in June after failing to secure future funding. IdeasTap’s chairman Peter De Haan said of the news: ‘We’ve worked tirelessly over the last 12 months to confirm future funding for our operations. It is with great sadness and reluctance that we have reached this decision.’

IdeasTap was founded during the financial crisis in 2008, aiming to assist unemployed young people by creating industry opportunities at leading arts organisations as well as providing access to funding, competitions, jobs, training and advice. The charity has accrued over 190,000 members and has awarded more than £2.3m worth of direct funding and accompanying expert mentoring to emerging artists.

Following IdeasTap’s closure on 2 June, the charity will honour ongoing commitments, such as showcasing four companies at the Edinburgh Fringe, until the end of the year; the IdeasTap website will also continue to operate as an archive, featuring a selection of members’ and partners’ projects as well as career guides and advice.

www.ideastap.com

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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.

Number of drama and arts teachers falling in state schools

A report into the value of culture to contemporary British society has revealed that since 2010, there has been an 8% decline in the number of state school drama teachers, and a 4% decline in hours taught for the subject.

The year-long project, led by the University of Warwick, has resulted in the publication of Enriching Britain: Culture, Creativity and Growth. Other key findings in the report include:

  • Alongside the decline of specialist drama teachers in England’s state schools, other creative subjects have also been affected: the number of design and technology teachers, as well as the number of hours taught, has fallen by 11%; and art and design teachers have reduced by 4% with a decline of 6% in teaching hours.
  • 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; and least likely to be employed in the cultural and creative industries.
  • The costs related to engaging in extracurricular activities mean low-income families are often excluded from creative and cultural opportunities: 22% of parents in the higher social groups pay £500+ a year on extracurricular activities compared to 10% of parents in middle and lower groups.
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The report led by Warwick University is the result of a year-long project

The report makes a number of recommendations, several of which are aimed at Ofsted: the organisation should not award schools with an ‘outstanding’ status without evidence of a strong cultural and creative education, and should ensure – alongside the Department for Education – that young people up to the age of 16 receive a cultural education in order to encourage life-long engagement with the arts. They also recommend that Ofsted encourage Arts Council England’s aim to have 50% of schools achieving an ArtsMark award.

Other recommendations made include ensuring there is adequate careers advice available to those interested in pursuing a career in the cultural and creative industries, and the creation, by the government, of an arts and culture pupil premium fund and a national creative apprenticeship ascheme.

Commission member and Warwick education researcher Professor Jonothan Neelands said: ‘We are concerned that the educational system as a whole is not focusing on the future needs of the cultural and creative industries and the broader needs of a creative and successful UK. This needs to be addressed across our schools. However, we are particularly concerned that children born into low-income families with low levels of educational qualifications are the least likely to experience culture as part of their home education.

‘Without educational intervention we are in danger of allowing a two-tier creative and cultural ecosystem in which the most advantaged in social and economic terms are also the most advantaged in benefitting economically, socially and personally from the full range of experiences and value in that prevailing system.’

Vikki Heywood, chair of the Warwick commission report, said: ‘The key message from this report is that the government and the cultural and creative industries need to take a united and coherent approach that guarantees equal access for everyone to a rich cultural education and the opportunity to live a creative life. There are barriers and inequalities in Britain today that prevent this from being a universal human right. This is bad for business and bad for society.’

Read the full report at www2.warwick.ac.uk/research/warwickcommission/futureculture/finalreport

Opera and ballet performances added to Digital Theatre Plus

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The Royal Opera House’s La Traviata (Credit: Catherine Ashmore)

Digital Theatre Plus, the online arts education resource featuring full-length films of captured live productions as well as behind the scenes interviews and study guides, has released a new series of opera and ballet performances.

Six-full length Royal Opera House productions are now available to view: Le nozze di Figaro, La bohème, Eugene Onegin, La traviata, Hänsel und Gretel and Dido and Aeneas.

Fiona Lindsay, creative producer of Digital Theatre Plus said: ‘This is a very exciting time as we expand the variety of educational performing arts content available within the resource. Geographical location and economic status should not be a barrier to experiencing excellent arts education, and it’s fantastic that productions from the Royal Opera House will be seen in classrooms around the world’.

There are also productions of The Sleeping Beauty, Sylvia and Swan Lake available to watch from The Royal Ballet, as well as Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along from director Maria Friedman and Into the Woods at Regent’s Open Air Theatre.

Alastair Roberts, managing director of Royal Opera House Enterprises, said: ‘Providing acclaimed productions alongside an education platform is not only a great way to learn but also showcases the breadth of opportunity within the arts world with behind the scenes access.’

www.digitaltheatreplus.com

New report claims London bias in public funding of the arts

A newly published report has claimed that public spending in the arts is too London centric. The report, Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital, states that government spending in 2012/13 involved £69 per resident being spent in the capital, in comparison to the £4.60 per resident spent elsewhere in England.    

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A new report reveals a majority of arts public spending is spent on a minority of residents in the captial

In 2012/13 £163m of arts public funding was circulated to organisations in London, while only £159m was granted to the rest of England.

The report, written by Peter Stark, Christopher Gordon and David Powell, does not take into account the £440m of local council funding toward the arts.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, chair of the Arts Council Sir Peter Bazalgette responded to the report, saying: ‘We need to do more … I would say judge us in two years’ time. The trend is towards more spending in the regions and that’s what we’ll be doing.’

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