Over the last few years the teaching of drama in schools has been dramatically reduced due to lack of funding and the eventual down grading of the subject through EBacc (English Baccalaureate) with the effect to the future of the Arts in England and Wales being damaged.
For those of you who are not familiar with EBacc it is basically a UK school performance measure which was introduced in 2010. It allows people to see how many pupils get a grade C or above in the core academic subjects at key stage 4 (11-16 year olds) in any government-funded school. Drama is no longer considered a core subject by this system. I am sure you can imagine the affect this has had on youngsters who find other academics difficult at the best of times.
There are specific attributes that can only be enhanced through drama which can contribute to a person’s adulthood in a way that no other subject can. The subject gives confidence, it acts as a way to ‘simulate’ different situations individuals may encounter in life, it can provide support for people to deal with emotions and help enhance social skills.
The subject of English will teach a person reading and writing and sure the manuscripts can be read out to help gain the feel of the context, but it won’t give a person confidence or social skills for the everyday real experience the way drama and theatre can. As far as writing goes, Theatre needs more than writers, and the writers need more tools than knowledge of grammar and spelling. They need the social skills, which will enhance the skill of developing their characters as they navigate through different situations in the plot. They need to learn to deal with confidence to show their writing to publishers or producers or the whole process of writing is hard enough without these obstacles
But whilst the subject itself is no longer a core subject it is still being taught in schools however there is a growing lack of specialised teachers for the subject due to retirement and lack funding for the training of new drama teachers. For training most teachers will receive somewhere between £20,000 to £30,000 of government funding, however those training to be drama teachers often receive nothing. This leads to so many drama teachers dropping out of their training simply because they are not able to afford it.
Over the last few years there has been a lot of media attention about the lack of diversity in the arts, which comes with lack of emerging talent as there are not enough opportunities for young people in at key ages to engage with the subject in the normal academic life. It continually feels as though the arts are being picked on by the government as they look for ways to save money as it is often not consider a ‘real’ job.
I think some forget that theatre is one of the key educational tools which help individuals into any line of work and career whether an entrepreneur or a cleaner it is about giving youngester the opportunity to learn the appreciation of the arts not just an other career choice, and not everyone can engage in learning through sitting in rows looking at a board or listening to someone speak or reading text books. Sometime they have to get involved and try it out themselves in a controlled, simulated environment to really understand what’s going on.
Growing up in the 80s I spent most of my childhood outside make up games, building castles and fighting ‘baddies’. There were no smart phones, few computer games, daytime tv was pretty boring and I was no good being confined to the indoors anyway, in fact the latter is still very much true. But as kids we used have a bedtime story that would set the imagination off, then as we slept our brains would burst with ideas, that we would then go live out the next day as we played outside. And it is this part of my growing up which has lead me not only to continue my love for theatre but has brought out a real love for writing but this enjoyment of writing for writing didn’t come from my English classes at school and my exam results will tell you that, it was because of the story’s we told, and being encouraged to exercise our imagination through role play, along with being blessed to have amazing drama teachers in school and out that have over the years be able to direct that imagination into something useful.
Anyone can teach drama from a curriculum, but it takes a certain kind of person who knows it’s real power to teach it in a way that penetrates the soul and really ignites the imagination flame. That statement is not intended as disrespect to any teacher, I am fully aware that UK schools are understaffed and underfunded and so the teaching teams are doing the best they possibly can. But teachers know that if you are not fully passionate about the subject or craft you teach then it is very much perceived as ‘textbook’ teaching, creating a ‘tick box’ subject just for the students to pass another exam but has no real impact on their future.
There has been a dip in the number in students taking up the subject which naturally this would be a perfectly good justification to reduce funding, but when you understand that this has been caused by a lack of quality in the teaching of the subject it becomes a whole different ball game. The only people who lose out are the student as it has long term effect for them. The arts industry itself continues to suffer as there are less people entering the arts, which gives the government more reason to cut even more funding from the arts, it just a vicious circle.