Drama hits House over artistic future

June 28, 1996

A Tory MP tackled the Government this week over its failure to address a "growing crisis" in funding dance and drama courses and students.

Peter Luff, Conservative member for Worcester, told the Commons that the Central Ballet School, the Laban School of Speech and Drama, and many other performing arts colleges faced severe financial problems.

They should be funded in the same way as other further and higher education colleges and their students entitled to mandatory awards, he said in an adjournment debate on Wednesday.

And he called on the Government to force local education authorities to do more for students pending a longer term solution.

Mr Luff's plea follows a series of reports on the difficulties dance and drama students face in getting discretionary awards.

The latest, published three weeks ago by the Gulbenkian Foundation, revealed that 28 per cent of local authorities have a policy of no support for dance and drama students. The Arts Council has set up a working group to investigate further.

Mr Luff said: "All that matters to me is that we do not lose the next generation of dancers, actors and actresses as a result of underfunding."

But according to Jenny Miccoli, head of drama and performing arts at Barnsley College, students no longer bother to apply for courses in higher education which do not attract mandatory grants.

"The declining grants for drama courses have hit us dramatically," she said.

"As a result of the shortfall we don't even consider courses at drama schools now for our A-level or BTEC students. There is simply no point in looking at them even for those students who would probably do very well. They simply can't afford to go there.

"Our students must either get places on degree courses in higher education or look for employment. Vocational study really is out of the question," she added.

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