Chalk Talk: 'Trying not to make a drama out of an arts funding crisis'


Click to follow
The Independent Online

To the Royal Opera House, for its launch of its education programme for the year ahead. A dominant theme was what its director of education, Paul Reeve, describes as the "unintended consequences" of government policies, which are likely to put the squeeze on things like ballet and opera. For instance, a survey of schools has shown that 57 out of the 95 who replied were planning a cut in music provision during the next 12 months.

Also, cuts to local authority spending because of the general squeeze and the drive to persuade schools to become independently run academies is leaving them with fewer advisers – one of the largest authorities, for instance, has just four left – promoting the arts and music.

It means that organisations such as the Royal Opera House have to be more sophisticated in getting their message across to pupils, liaising online with individual schools rather than relying on helpful advisers to contact all the schools in their area.

Then, of course, there's the English Baccalaureate, which does not recognise arts, drama or music for inclusion for the certificate. Arts organisations are still hopeful that they can change the Government's mind on this, but I fear there is no evidence of that yet.

Thirteen teachers from Sierra Leone have just returned home from London after receiving a week's high-quality training in the UK. They're the latest to benefit from a foundation set up in honour of the former National Union of Teachers' general secretary, Steve Sinnott, who died suddenly three years ago. He was noted for his passionate interest in international affairs and for his campaigning on behalf of teachers, running the gauntlet of some of the world's most oppressive regimes.

The foundation believed that, instead of just a "missionary" visit to Sierra Leone, bringing the teachers to the UK would be a far more worthwhile experience.

It is kept alive by donations from, amongst others, fellow teachers' unions. If you want to find out more about its work, go to