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Review of Cultural Education - Response of the Foundation for Community Dance
The Foundation for Community Dance's response to the Review of Cultural Education commissioned by Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Communications. May 2011.

Kirsty Leith

Head of Cultural Education

Department for Culture, Media and Sport

2-4 Cockspur Street

London

SW1Y 5DH

 

19th May 2011

 

Dear Kirsty

 

Review of Cultural Education -  Response of the Foundation for Community Dance

 

The Foundation for Community Dance is delighted to submit the following in response to the Review of Cultural Education commissioned by Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Communications.

 

The Foundation for Community Dance is the national development agency for community and participatory dance, and represents some 5,000 dance artists across the UK, many of whom work wholly, or part time, as part of a wider portfolio of employment in and out of schools, developing opportunities for children and young people to access, learn and develop in the field of dance.

 

One of the key functions and strategic priorities of the Foundation is workforce development and we have established a National College structure that is focused currently on developing and promoting relevant work-focused professional development opportunities in association with partners across the UK to help our members get better at what they do.

 

The Foundation is a founding member of the Dance Training and Accreditation Partnership (DTAP) and has worked closely with Youth Dance England and Creative and Cultural Skills to develop a qualification for dance teachers in the informal sector and has led on the development of National Occupational Standards in Dance Leadership, which are currently being promoted to support dance specialists to be more articulate about their skills as well as offering employers a clear picture of what they can expect from a dance artist working in a specific environment – in relation to this review - education and youth work.

 

Whilst our own work is largely concerned with promoting high quality dance experiences outside the formal education sector, we recognise that many of our members are employed by schools and other parts of the education sector to provide the best dance experiences to children and young people in those contexts and we seek to support them to do that.

 

In response to the Minister’s questions set out in his commissioning letter, we submit the following:

 

What cultural experiences should be included?

 

We would expect that dance should be included in the range of cultural experiences on offer to children and young people in a balanced cultural education: it is an increasingly popular choice of activity for young people with considerable growth in those wishing to take it at GCSE and A level, an exponential growth in those taking graded examinations and through the work of Youth Dance England and its regional partners and significant growth in participation and performance outside schools. Evidence from research undertaken by the Dance Science team at Trinity Laban demonstrates the physical and psychological benefits together with wider health benefits participating in dance can have for children and young people.

 

It is clear from evaluation reports from the field that dance also contributes to developing creative problem solving skills, self confidence, team work and enhanced social skills. The work undertaken by organisations such as Dance Action Zone Leeds, Dance United’s Academy in Bradford and Birmingham Royal Ballet’s ‘Ballet Hoo’ initiative, all with young people at risk has demonstrated the power of dance to promote positive engagement in all aspects of young people’s lives, including taking the initiative to re-enter the education sector in which they themselves thought they had failed.

 

How can cultural organisations create an offer which fulfills the needs of schools on providing a broad and truly rounded education for their students?

 

Most of the dance artists with whom we work are sole traders and as such have the flexibility to operate responsively to the needs of schools and their students. They bring a high level of skill and knowledge that allows them both to provide a quality experience in dance and to apply that to wider curriculum areas. They have the ability and commitment to work closely and often over long periods in partnership with schools to ensure that work is relevant, and offers progression for the students. It seems to us that partnership is the key to some of the most successful interventions by dance artists with schools, rather than offering a ‘take it or leave it’ and pre-prepared menu for schools to choose from. That being said, we would argue that it is important for young people to experience performance of all kinds of dance in theatres and arts centres as well as in school that develops not only the experience of dancing at their own level but also critical relationship that broadens their understanding of the history of dance, its wider social context and develops their own ambitions in their own dance creations.

 

How can we ensure that all opportunities are as good as the best?

 

The Dance sector, through the mechanism of DTAP, which has brought together the key national organisations for dance (Dance UK, Council for Dance Education and Training, the National Dance Network, the Standing Conference for Dance in Higher Education, the National Dance Teachers Association, Association of Dance and the African Diaspora, the South Asian Dance Alliance, Youth Dance England and the Foundation for Community Dance) originally all with a real concern for the quality of opportunities in dance on offer to children and young people, has demonstrated its commitment to improving the quality of the dance offer across the board; by developing a new Level 6 qualification in dance teaching offered by Trinity College London; developing National Occupational Standards in Dance Leadership; and preparing the ground for the development of a national register that will enable schools and other employers, hopefully a straightforward way of reviewing the skills, qualifications and experience of dance artists, teachers and leaders they might wish to employ. Linked to this will be the recognition of the needs of dance specialists to commit to codes of professional conduct and continuing professional development to ensure that their skills and knowledge are relevant and up to date.

 

We believe that this initiative has promoted greater trust and commitment to common notions of quality across the dance that can offer a positive model for other sectors in the arts and demonstrates how much can be achieved by thinking more broadly and collectively.

 

We welcome the assumptions that the Minister has set out in his commissioning letter, in particular the commitment to access and appreciation and that every child should have a solid cultural education.

 

In delivering a cultural education in and through dance, we would argue that it should include:

 

·         The opportunity to dance that should recognise the range of dances that children are exposed to in their families and communities as well as those that are the remit of the larger cultural institutions. These dances should include those from wider cultural traditions as well as contemporary manifestations (e.g. English Folk traditions, African People’s Dances and Urban dance forms)

·         That all children and young people should be encouraged to create, choreograph and perform dances that reflect their concerns and interests, appropriate to their age and stages of development both in and out of school

·         All children and young people should have the opportunity to see performances of diverse traditions that are available to them locally, regionally and nationally

·         All children and young people should be encouraged to develop critical and appreciation skills through discussion and reflection of all the above experiences in order that they can widen their knowledge and deepen their understanding of the diversity of dance and make informed choices about their future engagement with it

·         There are many opportunities for children and young people to perform - within their classroom experience to their peers, to parents and the wider community as part of school performances, to join in with the range of local, regional and national festivals that are being promoted by Youth Dance England, local authorities, collections of schools and dance organisations as well as engaging in wider opportunities to perform in local and regional theatres as part of wider community engagement

·         It is important in our view that children and young people see that the dance they engage with in and out of schools is part of an engagement that can seem them throughout their lives, not just something that is visited on them for the brief spell of their formal education, so that schools should become more familiar with opportunities outside the educational environment that can allow their students to deepen their experiences and enthusiasm unlimited by the constraints of the school timetable and support them to continue their engagement into adulthood, whether that is as future professionals, amateur/community participants or audiences

·         That dance opportunities are truly inclusive and effective for disabled children and young people celebrating what they can achieve, and working with their non disabled peers as part of the wider community.

·         Given than dance is within the PE curriculum in schools in England and Wales boys often don’t have the skilled teachers and opportunities to participate in Dance on offer to girls by working with skilled dance artists and ensuring that boys do have the opportunity to dance would contribute to all children and young people having a more balanced cultural offer

 

 

Initial training in the arts via PGCE routes often don’t allow aspiring teachers much time to develop the range or depth of skills and knowledge in dance to provide the level of quality to provide the best in cultural education, which is why it is important for schools to develop partnerships with individual artists and cultural organisations who are able to inject the highest level of quality  art form experiences and promote long term enthusiasm for the arts in young people. We believe that the work of DTAP has begun to address this by the dance sector as a whole by setting out nationally agreed standards, developing appropriate qualifications and working towards a national register that people can trust.

 

 The Foundation for Community Dance is now working with national organisations across the arts, with funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation (National Association for Writers in Education, Sound Sense – music, AN – visual arts, Engage and others) to see if the learning we have taken from being a part of DTAP can be applied across the arts to give users such as schools and parents the confidence in the arts sector to deliver safe, effective and high quality cultural experiences.