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DTEA response to the consultation on future of vocational and technical qualifications at Level 3

The Drama and Theatre Education Alliance (DTEA) is an alliance of the leading drama and theatre education associations in the UK. Member associations include the Cultural Learning Alliance (CLA) as well as National Drama, the National Association for the Teaching of Drama (NATD), the Standing Conference of University Drama Departments (SCUDD) and London Drama (LD) who are all concerned with drama in schools, colleges, theatres and universities. The Alliance aims to ensure that ‘high quality drama teaching and theatre experiences should be a cultural and curriculum entitlement for every young person’ (Drama and Theatre Manifesto, 2019).

We support the review’s aims to provide clearer qualifications choices for young people and adults and to ensure that every qualification approved for public funding has a distinct purpose, is high quality and supports progression to positive outcomes for students. However it is evident from our member associations’ formal responses to the consultation, that the proposals will have an adverse effect on opportunities for post 16 students to study the performing arts.

‘We all want England to have a world class practical and theoretical education system with low value qualifications removed. We believe these proposed reforms risk creating an unhelpful binary pathway between academic and technical routes that does not work for the creative industries, arts and cultural sector, in which many roles require both practical and theoretical knowledge’ (CLA).

The document’s interpretation of skill development is concerning. In the performing arts sector, skills need to be acquired within a practical and relevant context of developing knowledge, concepts and understanding. Training needs to include opportunities for students to acquire expertise in adaptation, negotiation and creativity. The BTEC qualification provides such opportunities. The proposals in the Consultation Document are explicitly reductionist, seeking ‘withdraw funding’ from effective routes and pathways into the performing arts sector. They will, in our collective view, create an unhelpful divide.

We suggest that the government would be well-advised to continue to fund BTECs and A Levels and to consult on the introduction of a Performing Arts T Level. We also recommend that further research should be carried out on any further arts qualifications and that the Drama, Theatre and Young People Manifesto (2019) offers a more rigorous educational model than the content of paragraph 74 in the current document.

We share the CLA’s concerns that these reforms risk decreasing the number of young people progressing to study creative subjects at degree level, and will have a detrimental impact on the ethnic and economic diversity of the cohorts progressing to university. The Impact Assessment of the reforms has found students with SEND, people of Asian, African and Caribbean heritage, and students who previously received free school meals (FSM) are more likely to be affected by the proposals. This narrowing of the talent pipeline will limit the ability of our world class creative industries to evolve, continue to grow and to meet the challenges of post-Brexit Britain.

Dr Steve Ball, Chair

Drama and Theatre Education Alliance (DTEA)

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