Eleanor Philpot

Crisis in arts education, warn regional theatre leaders

4:51, 8th August 2019

13 directors and executives of theatres across the country have expressed concern for the current treatment of the arts in schools

Several significant theatre leaders have expressed that their work with schools is being negatively impacted by the ever narrowing curriculum as well as the significant cuts made art subjects, following the introduction of the English Baccalaureate.

Taking part in a survey about their work with schools over the past five years,  Leeds Playhouse, the Royal Exchange and Chichester Festival Theatre expressed deep worry. Other theatres contributing to the survey included: Birmingham Rep, Sheffield Theatres, Nottingham Playhouse, the Royal and Derngate, Curve in Leicester, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, Northern Stage, Nuffield Southampton Theatres and Theatre Royal Plymouth.

In a joint statement, Chichester’s executive director, Kathy Bourne and artistic director Daniel Evans say, ‘While arts organisations are being encouraged to prioritise offering opportunities for diverse communities to express or experience creativity, it’s galling to see the barriers to those opportunities becoming evermore present in our education system’

Of those included in the survey, 92% said they had witnessed significant cuts in arts education as well as a significant shift in the emphasis placed on arts subjects as a whole. Meanwhile, 77% of leaders expressed concern about the widening gap between state and private education, and 62% saying that in the past five years they have seen a fundamental shift in the amount of time their theatres were given to develop relationships with schools.

Tom Morris, artistic director of Bristol Old Vic, says that cultural engagement has been ‘ruthlessly stripped out’ of state schools, ‘depriving pupils of the advantages offered to their wealthier peers and increasing social division at a time when we should be doing all we can to reduce it’

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