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.

Credit: Manuel Harlan

Credit: Manuel Harlan

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.’
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.’

EBacc to return to secondary education

The EBacc, or English Baccalaureate, is due to make a return this September after it was scrapped in 2013 to make way for ‘a more balanced and meaningful accountability system,’ as previously proposed by Michael Gove, former Secretary of State for Education.

The EBacc is set to affect students nationwide

The EBacc is set to affect students nationwide

Intended to further control compulsory GCSE subjects in state secondary schools, the plan features an alarming lack of acknowledgement of the arts. Previously a method for ranking schools on a league table depending on pupil merit in ‘core academic subjects’ (maths, English, sciences, languages, and history or geography), the EBacc excludes arts subjects altogether, signifying that the Department for Education does not consider them reliable indicators of a good education.

Despite an increase in students taking arts subjects since the plan was overturned two years ago, the Department for Education has returned to introducing a compulsory list of GCSE subjects, with current Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan confirming that ‘every child starting in year 7 in September will be expected to study core academic subjects that make up the EBacc right up to GCSE.’ This is in spite of Christine Blower of the National Union of Teachers describing the EBacc as a ‘narrow vision for education which constricts the curriculum and fails to meet the needs and aspirations of many young people.’

Following the announcement, cross-sector campaign Bacc for the Future is fighting to make the Department for Education rethink its motives and ensure that creative subjects are equally accountable in school rankings. They argue that there will be less encouragement and support around the arts, ultimately having a knock-on effect on the creative industries, which contribute £76.9bn to the UK economy every year.

The EBacc is forseen to cause a drop in students taking arts subjects

The EBacc is forseen to cause a drop in students taking arts subjects

Bacc for the Future is supported by a range of arts figureheads, including Cog Design founder Michael Smith, who said that the ‘marginalisation of arts subjects indicates a lack of understanding of their vital role in our education ecology.’ Similarly, Neil Constable, Chief Executive of Shakespeare’s Globe said: ‘The Government proudly cites the UK creative industries as world leaders, one of the fastest growing sectors, providing £8.8m an hour to our economy. Yet it proposes to impose the EBacc on schools which will starve the industry of fresh talent, stunt the growth of our young people and make us all the poorer.’

The campaign aims to raise awareness surrounding the importance of arts-based subjects, including music, drama and art. Indeed, as pointed out by Rachel Tackley, Director of the English Touring Theatre: ‘Sophocles said: “Whoever neglects the arts when he is young has lost the past and is dead to the future.”’

CULTURAL EDUCATION REPORT LEADS TO £15 MILLION INVESTMENT FROM GOVERNMENT

Recommendations have been made in order to improve the state of England’s cultural learning after a report, undertaken by Classic FM’s managing director Darren Henley, found that ‘patchiness in provision of cultural education [remains] across England’.

The report suggested that, to improve cultural learning, students should study arts subjects up until the age of 16. Henley has said that cultural education in England could become ‘the envy of the world’ if the government are to take his recommendations on board. The Department for Education have now confirmed that they will invest over £15 million over the next three years in order to develop Henley’s ideas.

The coalition government’s backing of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), which includes no studying of arts subjects, has been cited as one of reasons behind the problems in cultural education. Henley has suggested that there should be a ‘creation of a sixth grouping of subjects included in the EBacc, which would include cultural education subjects such as art and design, dance, drama, design technology, film studies and music’.

It was revealed today that many of the report’s recommendations have already been set in motion. There are plans for an academy for student film-makers, headed by the British Film Institute, and the creation of a national youth dance company which will be funded by the DofE and the Arts Council.

Education secretary Michael Gove said: ‘Britain has forged a well-deserved reputation in popular culture – in film, dance, music and art. But I want to introduce more children to high culture. Cultural education must not be a closed shop for poorer students. I want to end any suggestion that high culture is only for the privileged few.’

For more information and to view the report in full, visit http://www.education.gov.uk