Securing Access to Performing Arts for All: Building a Stronger Future
On 7 September 2023, the Council for Dance, Drama and Musical Theatre (CDMT)
launched its timely and hard-hitting report
The afternoon release took place in the River Room,
House of Lords, at an event hosted by CDMT and sponsored by
Baroness Wilcox of Newport
The life-enhancing benefits of engagement with the performing arts are widely known and supported by the numerous arguments detailed throughout CDMT’s insightful report Securing Access to Performing Arts Education for All: Building a Stronger Future which is now supported by an accompanying video. However, at all levels, from grass roots level to professional vocational training that engagement is sadly, for multiple reasons, under threat.
This report advocates that all children and young people, regardless of socioeconomic background, disability, race or ethnicity, should be able to experience the power and joy of the performing arts, starting with the schools and early years settings where they find their first opportunities, progressing through specialist provision as they develop their skills and—for those for whom it is a viable and valuable career option—on to the very highest professional levels of vocational training and a future in the creative industries which are such a success story for the UK.
In summary, it urges the authorities to:
- Nurture creativity in every school and cultivate opportunities for learners of all backgrounds, for example, by building on the hub model established for music to create more cohesive dance, drama and musical theatre provision [See note 1]
- improve engagement in mainstream performing arts qualifications by making GCSE and A Level offers more relevant to the aspirations of all learners and supporting school leaders in providing creative careers guidance [See note 2]
- Align decisions made for the wider creative industries with those in support of the pipeline of future performing arts professionals in vocational training, thereby assuring the future of the UK’s high quality cultural offer on the global stage [See note 3]
- Maintain the UK’s reputation for world-class artistic training in professional performance, including specific ongoing support for performing arts students, and the institutions that train them. [See note 4]
- Many performing arts activities take place out of school, meaning that those from backgrounds such as low-income families, looked after children, and learners with other challenges, face considerable barriers accessing them. The report calls for a robust and imaginative response, for example, integrating the local networks of performing arts teachers associated with the graded examinations sector with in-school provision itself to broaden and deepen young people’s creative experiences.
- At the same time, the place of the performing arts in the mainstream curriculum is far from secure, and participation in performing arts qualifications available during school hours is dwindling. The report therefore calls for a review to make GCSEs and A Levels in the performing arts more relevant to young people’s aspirations. Additionally, it suggests concrete ways in which barriers to progression for those for whom a career in the performing arts represents a viable and valuable career option can be removed. For example, simple lack of information can disadvantage students already at risk of not pursuing a career in the creative industries, further leaving unspoken value systems unchallenged, and leading to a lack of diversity at higher level training with regards to class, financial status, ethnicity, gender etc.
- Institutions offering professional training in the performing arts transform lives, enrich communities, drive regional and national economic growth, and improve social interactions throughout society. The remit and functions of these institutions are strongly influenced by educational, cultural and sector-focused decisions which must complementarily support the pipeline of future professionals on whom the sector relies, alongside those of already established cultural institutions such as theatre companies. This to ensure their talented and diverse graduates who underpin the success of the UK cultural industries continue to aspire, and be inspired, to enter the industry in the years ahead.
- World class vocational providers operate in an uncertain funding environment despite the consistently high graduate outcomes they deliver to the industry through the excellence of their training. This reflects the insufficient value that government places on the arts, particularly as weighed against the contribution the creative and cultural sector makes to the UK economy, and to the wellbeing of society more widely.
A copy of the report is available here: Securing Access to Performing Arts Education for All: Building a Stronger Future