One Dance UK and CDMT urge government to reconsider vocational training courses in the performing arts

9 Feb 2021

One Dance UK and CDMT are calling on the government to allow students on vocational training courses in the performing arts a safe return to face-to-face teaching, through the next review due to be completed by 22 February 2021.

 UPDATE [22 February]: Further to our joint statement of 9 February we are delighted that the government announcement of 22nd February allows HE providers to resume in-person teaching and learning from 8th March for students of the practical creative arts. The Council for Dance, Drama and Musical Theatre (CDMT) and One Dance UK will continue to liaise to ensure that the sector’s views are strongly represented and addressed in the period ahead.

We firmly believe that the unique combination of practical, technical, creative and academic skills required to succeed in a performing arts career, including the need to collaborate with others, cannot be achieved through remote learning alone – especially over a sustained period of time.

We particularly urge Ministers to allow students in their final year of training, and on one-year MA courses, to return to in-person rehearsal and teaching at the earliest possible opportunity. Specialist institutions offering vocational training in dance, drama and musical theatre conduct lessons in small groups, usually fewer than 15 per class, which allows for appropriate adherence to Covid-19 preventative measures. These proved effective during the first term of this academic year.

Further, final year students at these respected institutions are at the start of launching their professional careers, and would benefit immeasurably from access to face-to-face teaching, vital to their performance aspirations. They should be given equal working status as professional performers and be permitted to create live performances for streaming in theatre settings, strictly observing the current guidance for working safely in the performing arts.

Despite the heroic efforts and creative responses of providers to sustain delivery of the world-class training available in the UK, there is no doubt that dance, drama and musical theatre trainees are being unfairly disadvantaged due to the nature of their subjects.

We note that the performing arts make a significant contribution to the UK economy. They are part of an arts and culture industry that contributes £10.8 billion to the UK economy annually and £2.8 billion to the Treasury via taxation, further generating £23 billion a year (Arts Council England, 2019). It is therefore a matter of national interest to ensure that the next generation of performing arts workers are suitably trained and equipped to join a sector that can help drive the growth, job-creation and innovation that the UK now needs to recover and thrive.

While the safety of students and staff must remain a priority, as we look towards a gradual easing of the current restrictions, strong consideration must be given to the fact that not all higher education provision is the same. A one-size-fits-all approach is not an appropriate or proportionate response. We therefore ask for the ‘prioritisation’ of performing arts vocational training, including dance, drama and musical theatre, particularly to ensure that final-year and postgraduate students are successfully supported to graduate for the profession.