Nought's had, all's spent? Theatre in schools next to feel the knife

6th August 2010 at 01:00
Arts Council and Royal Shakespeare Company warn that cultural outreach projects are at risk amid funding cuts

The future of hundreds of arts and cultural projects in schools is hanging in the balance as major theatre companies, orchestras and museums look to make huge savings in the face of Government cuts, experts have warned.

The Arts Council England has warned it will have to stop funding to 200 out of the 800 arts organisations it regularly funds if it has to make the 25 to 35 per cent cuts it has been instructed to plan for. It has already been forced to make 4 per cent cuts this year, wiping a total of #163;23 million from its #163;468 million budget.

The council says many well-known educational outreach programmes, which include workshops and teacher training, risk being axed as arts groups focus on core activities in a bid to boost revenue.

Other arts groups, including the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), have said they will have to reassess their outreach work with schools when future public sector funding levels become clearer in coming months. Some of the RSC's funding comes through the Arts Council.

The warnings follow an outcry last week over Government plans to axe the UK Film Council, which helped launch the popular Filmclub initiative, set up to enable children to watch films during after- school clubs.

The Department for Education's #163;11.4 million funding for the project, which now has more than 56,000 school children in its membership, runs out in March 2011. It is not known if ministers will renew its funding.

Creative Partnerships, the learning programme, which works with 940,000 young people and 90,000 teachers across England, is also warning that further cuts to its budget could spell disaster on the ground.

Paul Collard, chief executive of Creativity, Culture and Education (CCE), the charity which runs Creative Partnerships, said the initial cuts of #163;1.6 million this year had been "very painful", but had been made without impacting on children and schools.

But he added: "These cuts mean... that future cuts will not be able to be made without a dramatic impact on the children and young people in schools who currently benefit."

The RSC, which runs a major education programme working with more than 1,300 schools every year, is also anxious about cuts.

Jacqui O'Hanlon, director of education at the RSC, told The TES: "Along with the rest of the sector, we are waiting to gauge what impact existing and future cutbacks are going to have on schools and on our own education programme."

Ms O'Hanlon also highlighted the threat to arts provision from free schools and academies, which will not be required to follow the national curriculum.

She said: "Those cultural entitlements, that until now have been fiercely championed as the right of every young person, risk being lost."

She said that cultural organisations were now starting to put together "hard evidence" on how their work improves pupils' learning.

"We also need to keep faith with the intrinsic value of participation in the arts on the lives and experiences of young people," she said.

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