Theatre News

House of Lords report says focus on sciences detrimental to arts in schools

The report set out to investigate the barriers young people face when trying to get into the industry

© Davide Simonetti (flickr)

The government's focus on science and technology education may be having a detrimental effect on the status of arts subjects in state schools, according to a House of Lords report published today.

The Communications Committee set out to investigate barriers young people may face when considering a career in the theatre industry, and heard from witnesses including director Indhu Rubasingham and the CEO of the Society of London Theatre Julian Bird.

While the committee did not have time to fully compile its report (due to the general election), it did highlight key issues which it thought merit further consideration.

These included the focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects having a detrimental effect on arts subjects in schools, lack of career advice to make children aware of opportunities in theatre, and little understanding in the full range of jobs in the sector (such as lighting, wardrobe and carpentry).

Witnesses also highlighted the number of performers, directors and writers from more affluent backgrounds, and the under-representation of those from BAME communities, despite outreach work. Chair of the committee, Lord Best said those who benefit from private education and financial support from parents are "disproportionately represented in this industry".

There was also a general concern for the future funding for the theatre. It noted that between 2010-11 and 2014-15, local authority investment in theatre fell by 18 per cent (£31m).

Lord Best went on to say that UK theatre is "a hugely positive part of our social and cultural life" and that the committee hopes "the government will give careful consideration to the issues raised".