One objective of the DTEA is that every child and young person should experience live theatre once a year. It was found that schools are the main provider for cultural engagement for young people. In a study by Arts Connect with over 1200 young people, 40% of young people said their school had organised their most memorable trip relating to culture or arts. So if schools play such an in important role in influencing young people’s cultural engagement, why is there a barrier to provide young people with these opportunities?
Angela Lowry, a headteacher from Raddlebarn Primary School, emailed me with an overwhelmingly positive response to seeing our Christmas Show. However she mentioned the school went into deficit within their budget to make this trip possible and not many parents could afford this trip. Angela wrote to parents saying 'if you are willing and able, in the season of good will, would you like to pay it forward and either contribute to or pay for a family who cannot afford a ticket’. Within 15 minutes the school had raised £680 to cover the remaining tickets. That's how much the theatre trip was valued by their school community!
Drama is a source for culture, identity and heritage; it inspires us to take risks, think critically and builds social cohesion through collaboration. It can change and shape our lives through developing creativity, cognition, empathy and resilience. And I mean this for all our young people. I’ve personally worked with children at Braidwood School for the Deaf, and have had wellbeing teachers, tell me about the impact of drama sessions and how its allowed young people to access their emotions linked to past events and find ways to communicate them which otherwise may not have been possible. Some of those young people have struggled to communicates with their own parents as not all parents would know BSL. Children and young people thrive in schools where drama is accessible to all through the curriculum. 65% of the general population are visual learners and people retain 80% of what they see. With 67 Million people in the UK, that’s 13.4 million visual learners across the country. Yet why are young people not entitled to see theatre? A cultural resource that heavily impacts and benefits their learning?
The Rep theatre works with schools across the Birmingham, engaging with around 1400 young people every week. We go into schools and bring curriculums to life giving young people a new way to access learning with our practitioners, we invite them into our spaces, allowing them to take ownership and perform on our stages. For many young people we are their first experience of theatre. But these schools shouldn’t have to rely on us, they should be entitled to this experience as part of their curriculum. We invited a group of students to meet Baroness Floella Benjamin, hear her inspiring story and share the stage with her. An experience these young people won’t forget. Those young people then watched Coming To England, a story about racism and migration. A play that should be on a school’s syllabus because it resonates with stories of diversity on a level that young people can understand. This production took place in Birmingham where 29.4% of the population were people of the global majority. Theatres are doing their bit to bring relevant stories from the world onto our stages, so young people have positive role models and have stories they can relate to. If we as a sector, can clearly see the impact theatre makes in young people’s lives, why are we not letting them see a resource that can ONLY POSITIVELY impact their future.
Head of Education