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Labour MP Tracy Brabin: ‘Schools can’t afford theatre’

The status of arts teaching at schools is at risk of being downgraded, say campaigners Photo: Shutterstock
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Improving theatre in education and forging more robust links between secondary schools and higher education will be key to diversifying drama school applicants, arts leaders have claimed.

Actor and Labour MP Tracy Brabin criticised the “leaky pipeline”, referring to the issue of the lack of representation of young people from diverse backgrounds at drama schools and their struggle to maintain careers.

She added that the decline of TiE due to funding cuts was a “real sadness”.

“Schools can’t afford it now, and often with TiE you need many actors to do workshops, so many companies don’t feel it is cost effective.

“Companies can go into schools and see young people who have not been pre-programmed yet, so if TiE comes back and if you can get it to be completely diverse, as [those children] grow up it doesn’t become so shocking that there are people from all backgrounds doing a play.”

Meanwhile, Graeae Theatre Company artistic director Jenny Sealey and RADA director Edward Kemp were among other figures calling for better routes for children and young people, at the launch of a new drama school diversity initiative.

Kemp said drama schools are trying to reach as diverse a pool of young people as possible, but are “reliant on trying to get into places – the network is not there”.

“Youth theatre, TiE, drama advisers – all of that stuff which really worked, [that] is what we need back to do this really well,” he said.

Kemp added: “Schools often send you their gifted and talented, but that is often a euphemism for middle-class and white. You want to say, ‘Give me your ungifted and your untalented’, because they are the ones we want to work with.”

Theatre figures have recently warned of a decline in engagement with theatre from schools, citing curriculum and cost pressures as a reason.

Sealey went on to say that she cut her teeth in TiE and called for it to be championed more today.

“There used to be a national association of youth theatres and the Arts Council cut it and it’s a shame. TiE – bring it back, it wasn’t broken. We have got to do that,” she said.

They were speaking at the launch of the Diversity School Initiative, set up by a group of drama school students to hold institutions to account on diversity.

The organisation will conduct workshops to encourage students from minority backgrounds to apply for drama school, as well as offering mentoring to generate relationships with young people that have an interest in careers in theatre.

It was launched at an event at RADA in London on June 14.

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