DfE spending £100m on sending pupils to independent schools and arts centres

CREDIT: This story was first seen in Tes
Tes has reported that the DfE has extended two schemes funding specialist arts education for talented pupils.

The government is providing nearly £100m over two years to help talented pupils attend top music, dance and drama schools.

The money will extend two existing schemes that support pupils to attend institutions such as the Royal Ballet School in London and Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester.

But a headteachers union has called for the government to ensure that all pupils – not only the most talented – have access to arts education.

The DfE has committed to spending £96m between 2018-20 on the Music and Dance Scheme – which provides grants and fees assistance at eight independent schools and 21 specialist centres – and the Dance and Drama Awards, which helps with living costs and fees at 17 private dance and drama schools.

Two years ago, the DfE announced it was putting £85m towards the schemes between 2016-18.

Previous recipients of the funds have included the star of The Crown, Claire Foy. She said: “Without a Dance and Drama Award, I would not have been able to train at The Oxford School of Drama. This scheme is vital in providing scholarships for a wide diversity of students to train at outstanding independent vocational schools.”

In 2017, 40% of new students supported by the Dance and Drama Award had household incomes below £21,000, and a further 16% of students had household incomes of less than £33,000, according to government statistics.

A further £8m of DfE money will support cultural education programmes up to 2020, including at the British Film Institute and the National Youth Dance Company. It will also be spent on helping pupils to learn about the country’s most famous historical sites, with Historic England.

School standards minister Nick Gibb said: “The UK has a strong cultural heritage. We have always nurtured creative talent in this country and have a rich history of world famous musicians, actors and dancers. For many, this journey starts at school, which is why it is important we support them from the beginning.

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“This funding will give more young people the opportunity to develop their talents and help world-famous institutions discover the next generation’s Billy Elliot.

“Arts subjects are an important part of our broad and balanced curriculum.”

But the announcement comes as arts provision in schools is under increasing pressure, according to headteachers, unions and universities.

The British winner of the $1 million Global Teacher Prize, Andria Zafirakou, has also emphasised the importance of the arts in schools and said that they need to be prized more highly.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “It is good to see the government recognising the importance of arts education. The majority of this money will help the most talented access the specialised schools that can make all the difference to entering careers in music, dance and drama.

“However, it’s vitally important that all pupils get to take part in music and the arts throughout their time in school, otherwise many will never discover their talents. All pupils deserve to benefit from the advantages studying creative arts subjects can give, not just the most talented few.

“Inadequate funding, combined with a high-stakes accountability regime, is actively narrowing the curriculum available to pupils in our schools.”

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