Steve Ball, co-chair of the Drama and Theatre Education Alliance (DTEA), talks about Seize The Day, a national campaign to engage politicians and school governors with drama and theatre for children and young people in schools, colleges, universities and theatres.
For too long we have been in danger of preaching to the converted about the value of drama and theatre for children and young people at the expense of engaging policy makers and politicians who have the power to bring the changes needed for our work to thrive.
Many of us are only too aware of the ongoing decline in the take-up of drama in schools Between 2010 and 2020:
the number of drama teachers reduced by 18%
the number of hours taught reduced by 12% .
take-up of GCSE drama declined by 40%
take up of performing/expressive arts declined by 69%. (1)
Meanwhile the Government has imposed a 50% funding cut to arts subjects at Higher Education institutions in England and the proportion of children who have participated in theatre and drama activities has reduced from 69% in 2008/09 to around 53.5% in 2019/20. (2)
With this in mind the DTEA is co-ordinating a national campaign to raise awareness of the value of Drama and Theatre Education in young people's lives, coinciding with World Theatre Day and World Theatre Day for Children & Young People.
We are asking schools, colleges, universities, theatres, arts centres and youth theatres to stage a drama or theatre event in the week of 20th – 27th March 2024 and to invite their local MP, councillors, school governors and local media.
The events can take any form; a workshop, rehearsal, event or performance for, with or by children and young people and can be something you are already planning to do that week. This will build on last year's Seize The Day campaign when the DTEA co-ordinated 88 events by schools, theatre companies and practitioners, who invited their local MP and press to visit them and witness their experience.
The DTEA website www.dtealliance.co.uk contains information about how you can register your interest in hosting an event, find your local MP and view a template invitation letter We encourage you to invite your local newspaper or radio station and post your event on social media and highlight it in your newsletters.
Once in your school, college, university or theatre you may want to hand them the Drama, Theatre and Young People Manifesto www.dtealliance.co.uk/manifesto.
It can be an opportunity to share the challenges you face but also to present your local MP, councillor or school governor with the reasons why drama and theatre make a difference to young people’s lives in terms of improved educational attainment, mental health and wellbeing. You may want to talk about the contribution you make to the Creative Industries, worth £116 billion a year to the UK economy and employing one in 11 working people and the ways in which drama and theatre encourages civic and political engagement.
Given that there will be a general election this year this campaign will be more important than ever. Now is the time to Seize the Day!
Dr Steve Ball is co-chair of the Drama and Theatre Education Alliance (DTEA) and Director of Birmingham Arts School www.bep.education/bas
(1) House of Lords report “Requires improvement: urgent change for 11–16 education”
Education for 11–16 Year Olds Committee. Report of Session 2023–24
(2) Statista Research Department, Oct 11, 2023