We will make fewer dramas after this crisis

23rd August 1996 at 01:00
I was on holiday in the North-east when I heard on the BBC news that all schools were to be required to have a whole-school arts policy. I couldn't believe my ears.

Now that I've managed to obtain a copy of the report, I can't believe my eyes. So this is the Government's commitment to the arts! It plagiarises many recent excellent reports; it is repetitious; it focuses on training, rather than the arts as a means to enjoy and understand ourselves and the world around us. It is also driven by the financial philosophy of a bookmaker, sorry, the National Lottery.

As a head of drama in a comprehensive, it would seem churlish to question attempts to raise the status of the arts, but there are real problems for drama in this report.

First, in the chapter "Taking part in the arts", there is a regurgitation of the national curriculum entitlement for drama and literature . Why not drama and theatre? Because the Government wants to educate us in great writers pre-1900.

Second, if your child is interested in the theatre, the report says that "an actor's career will be 'sporadic and uneven', according to the Institute of Manpower Studies. At any given time, the majority of Equity members will be out of work (a higher proportion of women than men), and around 10 per cent will not work all year".

If the Government is so committed to the arts, why is there so much unemployment in the profession?

Yet by studying English language and literature a range of careers is available: "from novelist to journalist, from poet to broadcaster, from scriptwriter to film-maker".

Third, and by far the most damaging, says the chapter, there will be no review of the curriculum before 2000. Only then will there be an opportunity to look at the position of dance and drama and the statutory requirements at key stage 4.

If this Government really is committed to the arts, it should read the National Association of Youth Theatre's Strategies for Success published in July; and put a youth theatre in every town. Now that sounds vaguely familiar.


7 Ripon Road

London N17

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