On the evening of the 23rd March I found myself at The Speakers House in Westminster as a guest of the National Youth Theatre. The Speaker’s House is the official residence of the Speaker of the House of Commons and is part of the Houses of Parliament complex. It is a very grand building and an interesting location for a reception and a short performance from members of the NYT.
The guests were largely made up of theatre people and it was a privilege to be included due to work we have done with the NYT on careers for girls. It was also a great opportunity to discuss with people in the ‘industry’ the relationship between schools and the theatre world. Such people as the Artistic Director of the NYT, the Manager of the Ambassadors Theatre, the Producer of the Globe Theatre Hamlet Globe to Globe programme and to my utter surprise Sir Ian McKellen!
My concern was that whereas STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Arts) subjects have been receiving high profile engagement and interest, quite rightly, the arts have not had the same co-ordinated investment in schools. Since Townley is a Performing Arts School as well as Maths and Computing, this is of particular interest to me. It is true that it is a challenging career and the financial rewards rarely match those of other sectors. No wonder then that politicians complain of too many independent-school graduates occupying key positions and profiles in the arts. Without the financial support of affluent parents can young people take the risk?
I believe they can and should. Britain has an enviable heritage in the arts and it is as important to us as our impact on science and engineering. However, in this complex and often confusing world the arts industry must do more to engage with young people and their parents in order to better map out the various and diverse career paths available. Politicians must also recognise the contribution of the arts and ensure it is adequately funded and supported. So too must schools, who under increasing pressures are tempted to sideline or reduce arts provision.
This is my goal at Townley. I wish the Performing and Visual Arts to enjoy the same high profile as STEM subjects, to have a co-ordinated and planned careers programme guiding students to long term careers in the arts with links to the industry and a clear qualifications route. It is one reason I have been asked to be a Music Champion for schools in London and will continue to work with the NYT.
It has been a long gap between Blogs and so on my end of term report it reads “Could do better”. As a result I can’t possibly include everything that has been happening but I will mention three things. The first is the new building progress. We are now nearing completion and will be ready for September. I have included some pictures as a teaser and will update before the end of the summer term.