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Hytner: Labour’s creative education pledge could ‘reverse one of biggest policy disasters’

Nicholas Hytner. Photo: Johan Persson Nicholas Hytner. Photo: Johan Persson
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Former National Theatre director Nicholas Hytner has claimed Labour’s pledge to put creativity back at the heart of the curriculum would “reverse one of the biggest disasters of the past seven years”.

Hytner said there had been an accelerated move away from arts subjects in state schools, making it harder for young people to consume the arts and starving the creative industries of talent.

Labour’s election manifesto promises to reverse the damage wrought by Conservative cuts and place the arts back at the heart of education. Measures include a £1 billion cultural capital fund, a £160 million “arts pupil premium” for schools and a review of the English Baccalaureate.

Writing in the Guardian, Hytner claimed Labour’s manifesto promises for the arts were “altogether more concrete” the Conservatives’ in this election.

“[Labour] refers to the creative  industries as “a source of national pride”, and promises to “put creativity back at the heart of the curriculum”. This stops short of a pledge to add an arts element to the EBacc – as the subset of GCSEs given special status by the government is now known – but is still welcome.

“It would also reverse one of the biggest disasters of the past seven years,” Hytner said, referring also to former education secretary Nicky Morgan’s comments that arts subjects hold young people back, and to the drop in drama teachers.

Hytner continued: “Meanwhile, the prospectuses of private schools compete for fee-paying parents with ever more lavish music and drama facilities. If you pay for your children’s education, you’re assumed to want them to be introduced to worlds that are being slowly withdrawn from those in the state sector.”

Hytner left the NT in 2015 and later this year opens his new venture in London, the Bridge Theatre, which will run on a commercial model without subsidy.

In his Guardian column, Hytner conceded that the cultural economy needs to rebalanced away from London and the South East, with proper funding for theatres across the country.

“It’s irrational to cut back public investment in a sector that Britain can be genuinely proud of, and which promises not just economic benefit but a vision of a future in which humans are liberated by technology. If there’s an issue with London’s hegemony, the answer isn’t to punish London but to invest confidently in arts and arts education throughout the country.”

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