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Drama schools commit to ethical guidelines to tackle sexual harassment

Clockwise from top left: Federation of Drama Schools members RADA, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, which have all signed up to the ethical guidelines
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Leading drama schools have agreed to adopt a set of ethical guidelines in a bid to safeguard students from sexual harassment.

Following a meeting of the 20 members of the Federation of Drama Schools, the organisations have vowed to ensure their policies and procedures fall within an agreed framework intended to create a safe environment for all students.

Member schools include the London-based RADA, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, LAMDA and Guildhall School of Music and Drama, as well as the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, Manchester School of Theatre, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and Oxford School of Drama.

A statement sent to The Stage from the federation’s chair and East 15 principal Leon Rubin acknowledged that while there is “still much work to be done”, the schools were unanimous on the importance of action around harassment.

He said that while each school already has its own regulations and procedures, they will be reviewed and, where necessary, adapted in light of the agreed ethical code.

The guidelines identify two “central issues” that need examining: the concept of consent and the processes that are available if a complaint arises that requires a fast response.

The schools have committed to undertake training sessions “in order to understand the right of consent and the complexities of consent, permission, ethical caring, physical contact, appropriate and ethical touch and personal integrity in and out of classes and the rehearsal room”, particularly in circumstances where there is a power imbalance.

The document says all schools have processes in place to deal with sexual and other forms of harassment. However, they have all agreed to make these clear and easy to follow, with named contacts made ready available to all staff and students.

The schools have also committed to “clarifying and refining” their regulations around rehearsal and learning situations, and to ensure that training takes place for teachers, actors, directors and stage managers to convey “explicit expectations and the importance of active consent and clear procedures” to deal with any incidents.

These guidelines were announced as Equity, the Musicians’ Union and the Incorporated Society of Musicians launched a survey into harassment within performing arts training and the “culture” in drama schools.

This has been set up following concerns raised about harassment in specialist institutions, suggesting that complaints by students have been ignored or mishandled in the past.

The Stage recently carried out a survey into harassment and bullying in theatre.

Of the student respondents who said they had experienced inappropriate behaviour during their training, 36% said they had been bullied, while one in five (20%) said they had experienced sexual harassment.

They were more likely to report an incident than theatre professionals working in the industry, with fewer people saying they felt like there was no avenue for them to complain.

Exclusive: Study reveals extent of harassment in theatre

The statement in full:

The Federation of Drama Schools (FDS) have discussed at length the recent issues concerning
creating safe environments for students within drama schools.

Following the FDS symposium we all have agreed ethical guidelines within which FDS member
schools will operate. Each school has its own detailed regulations, procedures and guidelines
that will be reviewed and where necessary adapted in the light of this agreed framework. We all recognise there is still much work to be done but are of the unanimous view that is important and necessary to move forward and take on comments and views about the best way to support our practice and safeguard students.

The guidelines:
Dealing with intimate situations between human beings is often at the core of our work and it is important to recognise this and ensure that the work around it is always undertaken in a safe and secure environment. We believe there are two central issues to examine: the concept of consent and the processes that are available if a situation arises that needs fast response.

For consent it is clear that active consent is required for any intimate process. Consent can neither be presumed or expected or given under pressure, by peers or teachers/directors. We commit to undertake training sessions in order to understand the right of consent and the complexities of consent, permission, ethical caring, physical contact, appropriate and ethical touch and personal integrity in and out of classes and the rehearsal room. We will particularly focus on contexts where there might seem to be or there is an unequal power balance.

All schools already have processes in place to deal with sexual or other forms of harassment. We commit to making clear and easy to follow information and named people and contact information readily available to all staff and students. All the schools in the Federation have their own rules and regulations concerning rehearsal and learning situations. However, we commit to clarifying and refining these rules.
We agree to ensure that training takes place for teachers, actors, directors and stage managers to make explicit expectations and the importance of active consent and clear procedures to deal with any instances that arise.

Signed:
Leon Rubin (Chair, Federation of Drama Schools and E15 Principal),

On behalf of the Federation of Drama Schools:
Academy of Live and Recorded Arts (ALRA)
Arts Educational Schools (ArtsEd)
Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
Drama Centre, London
Drama Studio London
East 15
Guildford School of Acting
Guildhall School of Music and Drama
Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts
LAMDA
LIPA
Manchester School of Theatre
Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts
Oxford School of Drama
Rose Bruford College
RADA
The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
The Royal Conservatoire Scotland
The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

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