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Central School principal: ‘Quotas would reduce the quality of our student intake’

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama principal Gavin Henderson. Photo: Eliza Power Principal Gavin Henderson said Central School had ‘intentions and wishes’ but is against quotas. Photo: Eliza Power
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Royal Central School of Speech and Drama principal Gavin Henderson has claimed that introducing quotas aimed at boosting diversity risked damaging the organisation’s reputation and “standards”.

Henderson first made the remarks at an event held at the drama school called Dear White Central, where he was asked whether quotas should be introduced at the school to boost the number of students from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

At the event, held earlier this week, he said the school had “intentions and wishes” but spoke out against quotas.

“I don’t think we could at this stage lay down an absolute rubric and say that this is what it’s going to be [in terms of quotas]. We have a school to maintain and a reputation to maintain in terms of the standards of who we are engaging,” he said.

Speaking to The Stage, Henderson qualified his statement. When asked if he felt introducing quotas risked reducing the quality of students at the school, he said: “There is that possibility.”

He added: “We want to make this as accessible a school as possible but there are absolute standards we have to achieve.”

He also said there were targets that the school wanted to achieve, but he added: “I don’t want to be held to account for that.”

Henderson said he would rather focus on ensuring that the number of applications from diverse students increases, through outreach work.

At the Dear White Central event, Henderson also appeared to criticise the Royal Court in London for its attempts to tackle harassment in the sector.

He claimed that the code of conduct the Royal Court had devised to address issues was restricting creativity, because of the guidelines it puts forward about where people should be expected to work.

“In many ways, the Royal Court has gone off in the direction that is too far down that route. The theatre has locked on to that issue and moved in a direction that is really quite inhibiting,” he said, adding that the code was “restricting quite a lot of movement and the creative process”.

Henderson told The Stage that his school has a “very robust code of conduct”. He said the Royal Court’s guidelines were right for specific theatres but not necessarily for drama schools.

“The notion the Royal Court was speaking for everybody was not necessarily appropriate. The notion they have gone further than we would have liked is simply not true. It’s just that some of the issues are somewhat different in terms of the context in which we work,” he said.

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