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Society of London Theatre (SOLT)

Society of London Theatre

An open letter to Michael Gove

Published 13 December 2012

Dear Secretary of State

This is a response to the Reforming Key Stage 4 Qualifications consultation on behalf of the Theatrical Management Association (TMA) and the Society of London Theatre (SOLT).  SOLT and TMA are trade associations representing the interests of those engaged in the production and presentation of medium to large-scale dramatic and lyric theatre in the UK.  Their members, drawn from subsidised and commercial theatre, together number c.520 and include repertory and producing theatres, arts centres and touring venues, major national companies and independent producers, opera and dance companies and associated individuals and businesses.

We have not followed the format of the prescribed template for this consultation as it did not allow us to adequately reflect the opinions of our Members.

We surveyed Members and Member Representatives of TMA and SOLT, who represent the leaders of the vast majority of commercial and subsidised theatres in the UK.

88% of these industry leaders strongly agreed with the Confederation of British Industry (CBI)’s  recommendation to include ‘…a creative or technical subject within the specification of the English Baccalaureate such as design and technology, computer studies, music, art and design or drama.’

The reasons given for this strength of response were largely around the need to ensure that theatre and related industries have the skilled workforce they need to play their role for the nation:

“These subject areas are some of the UK’s key strengths, providing extensive employment opportunities, generating a considerable economic impact and supporting our reputation internationally.  These are also subject areas that provide young people with opportunities to develop skills and therefore career options that are not covered in any way by the current proposal of five core areas.”

“Arts industries employ over 80,000 people and contribute millions to the economy.  We need to ensure that young people have the right skills to enter this major industry.”

“The UK has a proven long standing record of success in the arts. To not recognise this in our education system is a massive mistake that could threaten this valuable element of our economy. The arts help to generate a lot of money for this country as well as enriching lives. It’s important that we educate and inspire the next generation of artists or risk an entire industry.’

“Most parents cannot afford private tuition in arts or music, so once school based provision has gone we will be faced with a skills shortage in these industries.  We will then have to import talent and product to satisfy demand.”

Others cited the importance of creative education to the broader economy:

“Encouragement of creative thinking through arts disciplines is proven and effective training for creative thinking in other industries, professions and businesses.  Management in all industries are encouraged to “think out of the box”, which is something those across the whole spectrum of the arts do all the time.”

“The creative industries are an area of growth for this country.  Our reputation rests upon our creativity and our discoveries.  We should be supporting future generations to build on this.  The failure to include creative and cultural subjects is a regression.”

“Imagination and creative and flexible thinking has never been more necessary in the world and in the workplace.”

“Creative learning is not simply a life-enriching luxury, it is an essential part of producing a well-rounded, highly skilled, innovative and passionate workforce for the future. Britain has been at the forefront of creative industries and artistic endeavours for many, many years, and the creative subjects covered by this recommendation are at least as important, if not more so, than the five core pillars already proposed. Creative people are often the driving force of the economy in this country, and should not be marginalised during their formative years.”

Some respondents cited the importance of the arts in social mobility:

“Research has demonstrated the impact of arts education across the curriculum with an impact on motivation to learn, cognitive development and higher exam success. Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who have engaged in the arts at school are more likely to progress to higher education and those that study the arts are more likely to vote or volunteer.”

“There is a wealth of evidence that demonstrates how creative learning leads to a wider ability to question, to make connections and to take an innovative and imaginative approach to problem solving. It improves achievements and skills, raises aspirations and brings about lasting improvements in the quality of lives.”

We are aware and understand that schools will not be confined to teaching EBacc subjects, but there is already robust evidence of a year-on year decline in the number of children and young people taking arts and cultural subjects in schools as an increased focus is placed on ‘core’ subjects.  This decline will increase if creative subjects are not a ‘pillar’ of the EBacc and Drama does not have a place in the new National Curriculum, threatening one of the few industries where the UK is currently internationally regarded as a world leader.

On behalf of the leaders of British Theatre, to ensure our industry continues to play a leading role in the success of the nation, we would urge you to place creativity at the heart of your plans for Key Stage 4 Qualifications.

Yours sincerely

Julian Bird
Chief Executive SOLT and TMA

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