Arts Council chairman concerned with arts education gap

Art Council England's chairman Peter Bazalgette

Art Council England’s chairman Peter Bazalgette

This week has seen Arts Council England’s chairman Sir Peter Bazalgette address the gap in arts education between students educated in private schools and state schools.

Bazalgette, speaking to The Stage, raised his concerns about the marginalisation of the arts for state school students: ‘I can’t see why 7% to 9% of the population who go to private school should have a fantastic and privileged education in the performing arts, and why it’s being marginalised in state schools. When you see BAFTA [awards] coming around and three of the actors nominated are from Eton you think, great for them, they are wonderful actors, but something odd is going on here. Why is that happening?’

Eton College has produced actors such as Damian Lewis, Dominic West, Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Redmayne and Harry Lloyd. Other privately educated actors include Benedict Cumberbatch, Hugh Bonneville, and Rory Kinnear.

Bazalgette suggested that one of the possible routes to remedy the issue would be through Ofsted: ‘When it is inspecting schools, [Ofsted] should not be allowed to give any school an “excellent” rating unless it has a very good offering in performing and visual arts for its pupils.’

Speaking at Sheffield’s international documentary festival Doc/Fest, Bazalgette added to his comments: ‘Seven per cent of the population go to private schools, and in those private schools they get an absolutely, crackingly good education in the performing and visual arts. Ninety-three per cent don’t go to those private schools and, in some state schools, people get a wonderful education in visual and performing arts as well. But in quite a lot of them they don’t.

‘Visual performing arts have been marginalised in some areas in the curriculum as the curriculum becomes more instrumentalist and focused on what’s known as the Stem agenda – science, technology, engineering and maths. If there is one message, we say Steam, not Stem – put the “a” for arts in.’

Teaching Drama magazine to host Teachers’ Area at PERFORM

PerformPERFORM, an event for those studying or working in the performing arts industry, is returning to London Olympia for 2013. Brand new for this year, PERFORM will have its own separate venue from its sister event, MOVE IT.

Along with over 60 seminars and workshops, as well as 50 exhibitors in attendance, there is the new addition of a Teachers’ Area – which will be hosted by Teaching Drama magazine.

The Teachers’ Area will enable visitors to come together and network: sharing ideas and tips about teaching drama. The area is intended for drama teachers and practitioners or those who are just starting out in the profession. There will also be a number of free talks to attend from leading professionals in drama teaching.

PERFORM will take place at London Olympia from 8–10 March. To find out more information about the events taking place and to book a ticket to attend, visit www.performshow.co.uk.

Ministers slash value of 3000 vocational courses

Over 3000 vocational qualifications have had their value cut by ministers, losing the exams recognition in the league tables. Currently some courses, such as nail technology and fish husbandry, can be equivalent to up to 4 GCSEs.

The government has accused some schools of using these kinds of vocational qualifications as a way to boost their ranking in the league tables. Education secretary, Michael Gove said: ‘For too long the system has been devalued by attempts to pretend that all qualifications are intrinsically the same. Young people have taken courses that have led nowhere’.

After the cuts, schools will still be able to offer these qualifications but there will only be 120 courses that will be applicable to appear in the league tables. Vocational subjects that will still be included in the league tables are health and social care, sport, media, music and performing arts.

The past seven years has seen the number of students participating on vocational courses rise by a staggering half a million, according to statistics from the department for education.

General secretary of National Union of Teachers, Christine Blower, said in response to the news: ‘It should not be up to the government to decide which exams are of more merit than others. This is something which should be assessed by major stakeholders such as the teaching profession and awarding bodies. Vocational education has often suffered from being viewed unfavourably. These reforms are likely to exacerbate the vocational/academic divide.’