NYT chief executive Paul Roseby claims that GCSE drama has ‘no relevance’

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Paul Roseby is the chief executive of the National Youth Theatre

Speaking at the Artsmark conference in late October, the chief executive of the National Youth Theatre was reported by The Stage as saying that drama at GCSE has ‘no relevance’ and that ‘we don’t need drama on the curriculum in such a formalised way.’

Roseby suggested that drama could be integrated into other subjects rather than continue to exist as what is perceived as a ‘very soft and easy’ stand-alone subject. He said: ‘You and I know it’s not, but the perception of it is, and that’s the battle.’

He said: ‘I would love to see schools become more like creative hubs and revolutionise the way we learn. They would create formulas and ideas that would stimulate subjects by actioning stories – Alan Turing, for instance, or Marie Curie, or re-enacting the cabinet war rooms. It’s taking the practical side of what theatre is and applying it to all subjects.

Roseby’s comments have attracted criticism from drama education figures such as Patrice Baldwin, chair of National Drama; Ian Kellgren, chief executive of Drama UK; and drama practitioner and professor Jonothan Neelands.

Neelands said Roseby’s comments were ‘not a helpful suggestion’, continuing, ‘It would be the end 
of drama in schools, frankly. If you don’t have it at GCSE, you’re pretty much saying that it doesn’t have any importance’.

Following the publication of Roseby’s comments in The Stage, the chief executive has taken to Twitter to clarify what he meant, saying: ‘In my speech I called for more drama in schools not less [and] enhanced role for drama teachers – question over GCSE format [and] it’s perception.’

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University acceptance numbers fall

Ucas figures for the 2012 university cycle have revealed the impact of the rise in tuition fees. There were almost 54,000 fewer students beginning courses this year than there were in 2011. Students accepting places at universities in England dropped by 6.6%

Ucas chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said: ‘The headline numbers in this report signal the challenging environment for recruitment in 2012 for some parts of UK higher education.  However, the underlying findings are more subtle – for example, although demand for higher education has fallen in England, the actual entry rates for young people are close to trend.’

She also spoke of her concern that ‘women remain more likely to enter higher education than men’, with 257,000 women starting university this year, compared to 208,000 men. The chief executive described the trend as a ‘striking and worrying finding.’

Not all figures were in decline: acceptance rates in Wales went up by 5.3% and rates of entry for disadvantaged 18 year olds increased in the UK.

Arts Council England to axe over 20% of workforce

Arts Council England (ACE) has announced structural changes to the organisation, which will see 118 jobs cut, 21% of the current workforce.

Other changes to the organisation will include a reduction in the number of executive directors from 8 to 4, and downsizing office space by up to 50%. All current ACE regional branches will be reduced to just five, covering London, the South East, South West, the Midlands and the North.

A 2010 government review led to the ACE being told to reduce administrative costs by 50%. The review also cut the ACE’s budget by £100 million, set to be enforced by 2015. The structural changes will begin being implemented from 5 November, with the boundary changes set for completion by July 2013.

ACE chief executive, Alan Davey said: ‘These savings have been challenging to achieve, given our already pared down structure. There is an absolute need for the Arts Council to remain an intelligent investor, leading growth and ambition in an arts and cultural sector which contributes so much to the wealth, quality of life and reputation of our nation. We’ll do less and we’ll do it differently – but we’ll do it well.’

A-level results for 2012 released

Over 350,000 students have been accepted into college and university placements as the 2012 A-level exam results were released.

This year’s results marked the first time in 20 years that the number of students receiving top marks declined; 26.6% of students were awarded an A grade – down on the 27% achieved in 2011. However, the overall pass rate for exams has risen to 98%, a statistic which has increased year on year for the past three decades.

Top marks for drama exams rose, with 3.7% of students receiving an A*, compared to last year’s 3.6%. But the number of A grades awarded for drama A-level exams dropped by 1.5%.

This year’s successful university applicants will be the first to pay the uncapped tuition fees, with some courses charging £9,000 per year. This has resulted in a 7% fall in the number of students applying for university places.

Universities minister David Willetts dismissed the long-term relevance of the dip in applicant numbers: ‘There is a long-term trend for more and more people to aspire to go to university and for more and more employers to look to employ people with higher education qualifications and I personally don’t think, taking the long view, that trend has suddenly stopped.’

UCAS chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said: ‘Despite the fall in applications this year, entry to higher education remains competitive and we expect to see an active Clearing period. Over 25,000 courses are showing vacancies for UK applicants. More than 50,000 people found a course in Clearing last year.’

Students interested in Clearing are advised by UCAS to speak ‘directly with the universities as soon as possible’. There are details of the courses available on the UCAS and The Telegraph websites.

Cook offered advice to students still searching for places: ‘It is important that all students research course requirements thoroughly and think carefully before making a decision that is likely to affect their future career. Anyone considering applying again next year can research 2013 courses on our website now.’

Arts Council chair to step down

Dame Liz Forgan will not be returning as chair of the Arts Council, after being asked to step down from her role by ministers. Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt decided not to reappoint Forgan when her term ends at the beginning of next year.

Forgan, 67, became the first woman to fill the post, when she was appointed by Labour in February 2009. The news of her departure came as a shock to many theatre industry insiders. Director of Tate Modern, Sir Nicholas Serota said he was, ‘deeply disappointed’ by the news. He said: ‘She has led the council with real verve and conviction through a period in which cuts to arts spending could have resulted in the loss of major parts of our cultural landscape.’

Artistic director of the Young Vic, David Lan said: ‘I’m really shocked. She has done really well, and is popular with people it’s not particularly easy to be popular with. She was doing really well but had only just got going. It’ll be a big pair of shoes to fill.’

Former chairs of the Arts Council have seen their terms extended, many had expected Forgan’s term to be extended until 2015. The search for her replacement is expected to start after Easter. Potential candidates are rumoured to be former Tory cabinet minister, Michael Portillo and former Endemol chairman, Sir Peter Bazalgette.

Arts Council chief executive, Alan Davey said: ‘Liz has been an outstanding chair and will be much missed. I have valued her passion, insight and strong leadership as we worked together through challenging times to deliver a sustainable future for the arts in England and to maintain their world standing.’

Forgan responded to Jeremy Hunt’s announcement in a letter, in which she said that it had been: ‘a privilege to be the first woman to the lead the arts council, and to do so in challenging times.’

She said that she was, ‘extremely sorry to leave before the job is completed but the essence of the arms-length principle, which I wholeheartedly support, is that ministers must be able to make their appointments as they see fit.’

Dame Liz Forgan will officially step down from her position as chair in January 2013.