Editor’s View: Schools must face up to their diversity failings

The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Photo: Patrick Baldwin Unlike some other institutions, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama was willing to provide information on teaching staff. Photo: Patrick Baldwin
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The figures revealed in our front page story this week are, to put it mildly, disappointing.

It is disappointing that despite years of awareness-raising by groups such as Act for Change, the percentage of black, Asian and minority ethnic teaching staff is still so low at our leading drama schools. It is disappointing that schools don’t appear to be doing more to address this under-representation.

But the most disappointing aspect while conducting the research was how un-forthcoming schools were with their data.

At first, many schools responded to our requests for information by saying they did not hold information on the proportion of their teaching staff from BAME backgrounds, or could not provide it to us. These schools only relented when we were informed by Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (who were extremely helpful and forthcoming) that the Higher Education Statistics Authority held the precise data we were asking for, because the schools are obliged to collect and submit it. HESA was only too happy to provide us with the information straight away.

A number of institutions not covered by the HESA figures have still not responded to our requests. It is perfectly possible that they don’t hold this data, as they are not required to collect it for HESA. But, really, they should have it and it should be public.

Often, too much focus is placed on drama schools in the debate on the lack of diversity in the theatre, film and TV industries, but with behaviour like this, they are not helping themselves. To address the problem effectively, they first need to admit that there is one.

Peter Hall

Peter Hall was a titan of the theatre industry and one of our greatest ever directors. I was fortunate enough to speak at length with him in 2011 in what must have been one of his final interviews before he succumbed to the onset of dementia.

He was charming, gracious and utterly fascinating, but my overriding memory of the interview was of his frustrated efforts to get his pet spaniel, Smudgie, to sit down and be quiet. Finally admitting defeat, he turned to me, smiled and shrugged: “One word from me and he does exactly as he likes.”

It was not a problem that the director often had in his professional life.

Email your views to alistair@thestage.co.uk