Last month Kevin Spacey, Nick Hornby and Tate Director Sir Nicholas Serota launched a campaign against the government’s plans to concentrate the British curriculum on “traditional” subjects, for fear that this will take funding away from arts subjects. We asked a number of arts teachers to talk about their views on budget cuts…
Giselle Wild, Art teacher
Education is a rollercoaster. You get used to taking the rough with the smooth, improvising along the way!
Although the majority of our teaching is rooted in contemporary art, allowing students to develop concepts and express informed opinions, sometimes they just want to sit and make. For this you need materials and therefore money. We adapt, finding different ways of doing things. However, we do compromise and order a less expensive brand of acrylic, fewer pairs of scissors or slightly thinner sketchbooks. The budget cuts have a definite tangible effect on our daily lives within the department.
The real concern is the bigger picture. A huge number of our students are incredibly aware and anxious about their future, more so than I ever was at their age, which has an effect on their option choices. They are sometimes advised against making non-academic subjects a priority because there are currently less jobs within the arts, and those that do exist are often less highly paid.
Some people are born artists and it worries me that if art is eventually phased out of the compulsory curriculum, there will be a whole demographic of people unable to forge a career in the area in which their passion and interest lies.
Anonymous, Drama teacher at a private school
I work in the private sector, so I’m not affected by government spending cuts. But one of the reasons I’m in the private sector is because there were no jobs in the state sector. I had two years’ experience and a PGCE, so my CV was pretty good but I wasn’t even getting interviews.
I would never tell my students that drama was a viable career option. A lot of students look at drama in terms of transferable skills, and as budgets get tighter that is increasingly how we pitch it. It teaches about group work, communication, cooperation and that sort of thing.
I worry that drama starts to become just that, and stops being a study of the art and craft of drama. In the past it had been quite allied with PSE, which I find a bit depressing because I think it’s as artistically as viable as English.
I’m only on a one-year contract and I think that’s more and more common. All the teaching I’ve ever done has been maternity cover; it’s very hard to secure a permanent contract.
Emily-Rose Cluderay, Part-time dance teacher
The school I was working in from 2010-2011 was a community sports college, so they’d been given specific funding for sports. Dance fell under PE, which meant that I was technically a member of the PE staff.
In year nine, students have to make their choices for GCSE. Dance was being offered between GCSE and B-tech PE. Because this was a sports college, taking a sport subject was compulsory, which meant I had students who weren’t really interested in dance but just wanted to do PE less.
For the next batch of students about to make their choices for year ten, there will be no dance and no drama. There just weren’t enough students choosing them for year ten because neither was offered as a choice in years seven to nine. So the school decided to cut it off as an option.
There isn’t any additional money for after school or lunchtime clubs; it’s literally just a case of getting those last students through that exam.
Laura Catherine Kressly, teaching assistant and cover teacher
I have only been in my current position since September, but there is little focus on the arts at the rough London academy where I work. It has specialist sports school status, so there isn't much attention on the arts and the budget for the department is minimal. The Acting Head of Drama and I are trying to increase the attention paid to drama by introducing whole school productions – there hasn't been one for the last 10 years.
Very few students at this school choose arts subjects for their GCSEs. All are required to take Drama, Music and Art in years seven to nine but higher-level classes are very small.
Of the few students I work with who want careers in performing arts, I've noticed they all – bar one or two – want to be "famous" rather than to make serious art.
The school certainly doesn’t have much available money; our budget for the panto was £100 and I have a whole £0 for my spring production. There are other facilities, like a darkroom, a few point-and-shoot cameras and a recording studio, but the school can’t afford to run them.
I'm working with the few resources I have and a small core group of interested students to get drama out there into the school community and to give them experiences they would not have had otherwise. I'm a producer for a fringe theatre company I started with my partner a couple of years ago; we have no funding and it's a constant struggle to find support for our productions, so I'm used to the battle.
Are you an arts teacher? Or studying arts at the moment? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Art Class by Lower Columbia College via Flickr under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.