Alex Hinton looks at the state of Performing Arts education in the UK and it's role in a child's future.
As a former drama teacher I watch my old profession with some dismay.
Any passionate Theatre Arts teacher will tell you that it is their specialty that nurtures the key skills of critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving, imagination, communication, conflict resolution, agility, and empathy.
Sadly, the future of Theatre Studies in schools in England looks disturbingly bleak as our formal education system pushes creativity out of the curriculum. Previously core subjects like Creative Writing, Art, Drama and Music, are losing their status because of narrow-minded thinking that gives more obviously “commercial” subjects increased status.
There is a real danger of Theatre Studies being cut altogether. Despite all the educational research showing its transferable skill benefits, currently there is no sign of any statutory drama curriculum in the offing. As a result, there will be no entitlement for children to learn about or take part in regular lessons, and no guarantee for those schools that try to keep these subjects onboard that they will be allowed to employ specialist teachers for what will be an “off timetable” activity. When our politicians talk about equipping youngsters to succeed in the 21st century economy, they use words like “creativity”, “collaboration” and “imagination”, while at the same time allowing our formal education system to push creativity out of the curriculum.
So why does this matter to parents?
A recent Oxford University study concluded that, as technology races ahead, workers are becoming more susceptible to being automated right out of their jobs, with a whopping 47% of current jobs at risk. The report concluded that, for workers of the future to win the employment race, they must have good creative and social skills – whatever type of work they are interested in. Many studies over many years have concluded that the common path to nurturing these skills is to actively foster fun, play and creativity.
As an example, look at the benefits of studying Acting:
This activity allows children to explore new worlds; they may bend time and space, discover, interact and represent new thoughts and ideas, and step into the shoes of others. They may choose to re-enact stories they have heard or shared to make sense of their own world. Dramatic play is not about acting as someone else; it’s about suspending your own situation momentarily and being someone else. Experiencing the world from different perspectives helps develop a child’s capacity for empathy and compassion; qualities which last far beyond the classroom.
There’s no question that access to the arts and the opportunity to explore creative expression can broaden young people’s outlook, boost their confidence, and encourage empathy and curiosity about the wider world in a safe, collaborative and inspirational environment, allowing them to learn and grow, to add new skills to their social toolkit and be rewarded for their progress.