This evening I'm going to attempt to hold an online Q&A with teachers concentrating on what to look for in their HE options for their more talented students.
Having been a member of a teacher's FB group for a while, I've been struck by a) How passionate the majority of the teaching staff are around the performing arts subjects. Without a doubt putting in more hours than the other humanities/sciences etc. All those after school rehearsals start to add up you know. b) How much they are relying on outside information to inform their recommendations to their students specifically looking to go into performing. However c) that outside information isn't actually available.
What we have instead is hearsay and history. eg Teachers are still talking about accredited courses..but there are no Drama UK accredited courses anymore. This is just one of a number of examples...but how on earth do teachers find out these basic facts, when they are already snowed under with additional work?
Anyway you get the idea - I felt really sorry for those teachers desperately trying to do the right thing by their students, but a lack of basic information was not easily available.
Then I was walking my son to school the other day, and as always I'm struck by the diversity of ethnicity in his playground...and as ever, how lovely it is, that at primary school level anyway, the innocence of childhood means that everyone is equal. Society hasn't yet taught them how to be racist. Parents of different nationalities mix. . . and the children see for themselves that 'we are all equal'...we don't automatically become ghettoised. They are all taught to have the same dreams and aspirations.
So this thought popped into my head that I'd like to share with you. I'm assuming that most schools these days have a great cultural mix (unless you're a small village school out in the country somewhere). The ethnic diversity is acknowledged and celebrated. So why aren't we seeing this diversity come through to drama school level?
I would hazard a guess that the largest percentage of ethnic minorities that end up in vocational HE come through youth group links, be that at National or Local level. Drama has long been the saviour of disenfranchised teens, whatever their cultural background.
My suspicion is that bad career advice might be coming into play, and therefore has an impact on the diversity in vocational training.
We need to educate parents and teachers that a course that offers 16hrs contact time/week should not be considered if that student is truly talented. We need to start shouting from the rooftops that you don't need a degree to become an actor. Students who might be struggling academically to get the 'grades' for a degree course might be the most talented students...and there are courses dead right for them.
As an industry we need to be shouting about the courses that are not getting students ready for the industry. Courses taking 30+ students a year under the pretense of getting them industry ready, are no doubt teaching their students valuable lessons...but they ain't getting them ready for a career in performing.
I did some work with a group of 3rd year students not so long ago at one of these courses. They could not even warm up their voices properly!! It wasn't their fault....they had barely received any teacher contact time. Their final performance was not at the level of a year one, term one piece at a vocational college. This was of no fault of the students or the lecturers actually...it was the fault of a money making course, selling false promises, and parents and secondary school teachers falling for these promises under the pretense of 'it was a degree course therefore it must be good'.
So let's 'inform' parents and secondary school teachers of what's really important. The universities need to rename these Mickey Mouse, Money-Making courses, as a life skill degree (for which it would be good value for money actually, as drama truly does provide you with those skills), and let's start looking at the courses that truly deliver and offer true value for money.
Let's not forget, that all of this nonsense of 'let them get a qualification behind them' is actually costing parents £27k. So let's scrap those courses, get the student finance being ploughed into them redirected over to the vocational sector, and maybe we'd start seeing a true representative of the modern day Britain in our auditions?