What Can We Do To Better Support Diverse Drama School Students Whilst In Training?

What do we specifically mean when we say “Diverse”? Who do we mean?

The group felt it was important to specify the meaning of the word Diverse. Who do this include and what do we actually mean to achieve when we talk about Diversity? The group concluded that when defining Diversity, it includes everything, from a single person’s characteristics, to socioeconomic backgrounds, audition and literary accessibility, geography, skills and abilities, etc. The aim is to be as inclusive as possible, including things that are not visible or immediately apparent (mental health, disabilities etc.)

In terms of its current usage in the media and the perception of Diversity in the industry, there was a discussion about a dangerous conflation that abilities are linked to protected characteristics as well as the feeling that Diversity is “not profitable.” The group asked questions around changing this such as “Who’s responsibility is it to break the circle? Employers or Drama Schools? How do we win the argument that Diversity is the goal not a pressure (that some employers may be feeling)? There was also an acceptance that we must broaden the horizons of the schools and institutions, of the teachers and of the industry.

With a range wide of starting points, do we set targets?

This discussion focused around how students are able to attain development in their schools that truly reflects their individual skill sets abilities, rather than just adhering to a set, prescribed curriculum. Targets should be individually set to accommodate for their potential and any disabilities and then revised accordingly from time to time depending on the progress of the student. The group discussed whether they should take the form of Personal Development Planning sessions (as these are currently not the format used in Drama schools but are common practice in Universities). Also, does the focus of a showcases need to change or evolve to better exhibit skills and abilities rather than an “character” or anything else potentially superfluous?

What role can arts organisations and trade unions play to support students in training/going into training?

This group fully agreed that training within Drama schools and educational institutions needs to be more integrated and better direct associations set up between them and the unions. There was also a call for more funding for accessible and available courses to be created (an example is the BSL Scottish Conservatoire degree for creatives) as well as a radical rethink into how Drama training is approached and consulted upon. There was even a suggestion of a Open University format of Drama Training?

With regards to union operations, the questions that kept coming up were can we/do we need to influence policy to get the funding for better access/options for training? Do we lobby government or would this be us supporting a campaign to aid Drama schools in their efforts? Is it just financial support is or there something else we can do? Would it be an idea to support the return of rep companies/graduate training for emerging performers?

There were two solid recommendations that came from this:
To investigate how union membership can be obtained for those in free professional training courses outside of Equity/Spotlight criteria (this is predominately for creatives from a lower socioeconomic background).
Make more widely available the online resources, that are non financial based (such as insurance coverage and discounts), to non members so that they can be informed while pursuing work to then obtain the £500 threshold for full membership.