What could/should the education of tomorrow’s theatre makers (and audiences, if time - there wasn’t) look like?

Stephen Hodge, 1 September 2012

Session-caller and record-taker: Stephen Hodge

Callum Elliott-Archer, Kelly Smith, Oriana Ascanio, Ged Stephenson, Jeremy Holloway, Cathy Turner, Alice Hodge, Emily Williams, Gail Parfitt, Michael Woodman, Seth Honnor, Tom Sherman, Bee Watson, Annemarie MacDonald, Monique Luckman + others who passed through without signing the list

Some fragments - questions and points of observation - that bubbled to the surface (forgive any unintentional, or perhaps they are intentional, misinterpretations):

A few reasons why Stephen called the session:
- I am an (theatre) artist, educator and someone who hasn’t yet finished with education - Gove, Willis et al. are mounting a multi-pronged attack on theatre, plus the arts and creativity in general, within the formal education system (in terms of curricula and perceived value) - one knock-on, for example, is a significant drop in admissions rates to Drama/Theatre/Performance courses in the first year of the new £9K HE world
- Sir Christopher Anthony Woodhead (controversial HM Chief Inspector of Schools 1994-2000) was on ‘The Today Show’ this morning advocating an end to modularity and a return to a purely exams-based assessment model

Observation: employability levels for theatre graduates is actually much higher than most would expect - better than most sciences (although salary rates might not match this)

Observation: there was a recent report of plans to remove creativity from primary education

Counter-observation?: some schools have been following ‘the creative curriculum’ for some time now

Related observation: on the whole, the National Curriculum is not as fixed as it was - this relates to the rise of the academies

Observation: the Gove mentality is not really interested in the process of creativity

Question: do we need an education agit-prop to counter the hang up about measurement (plus to encourage other ways of understanding)

Questions: what drives measurement? is it economy? (New Labour brought in measurement in big way and it’s been maintained)

Statement: there has been a marketization of the curriculum

Possible dilemma: education or skills?

Questions: isn’t the issue to do with assessment criteria? can’t we write criteria in

creative and accessible ways?

Related observation: perhaps education might be about an ability to find, generate and appreciate ambiguities - these might be embedded like Trojan horses into the curriculum

Controversial statement: ultimately students are customers, aren’t they? and we should pay more attention to their feedback?

Shift in direction: how about, rather than focusing on the current problems, we wonder a bit more and try to look more positively at the session title - for instance, we might pick up on the notion of ‘creating ambiguities’

Possibility: as an extension of peer-assessment, what would happen if students construct their own assessment criteria, and present rationales for them?

Another possibility: there might be two ways of moving on from the current position - of course (1) do it differently - but what about (2) providing ‘translators’ for those who aren’t normally in the role of educator/academic to operate within an educational context

Another possibility: de-emphasise assessment

Another possibility: bring down student-staff ratio - facilitate a more meaningful relationship between ‘teacher’ and ‘student’ - it should be about quality of experience

Another possibility: encourage naivety - and provide opportunities to learn about

failure at an early stage in the education process - obviously there are risk-management issues to consider here

Observation: there is one person in the group who did a theatre degree but wishes they’d not, and one person in the reverse situation

Some regrets (paraphrased): ‘I wish I’d been presented with more artists when I was a student, or that my lecturers had been able to talk more (or I’d been to appreciate them) as artists (rather than simply teachers)’

Related observation: young educators (fresh from the system themselves) aren’t necessarily confident in being able/allowed to communicate as artists (there’s a perceived ‘pressure’ to act as an ‘academic’)

Related question: is it desirable for ‘educators’ to be ‘artists’, or not?

Question: is there a lack of understanding of the contemporary theatre industry amongst educators?

Question: could there be more porosity between periods of ‘education’ and the rest of our lives?

Observation: there’s a cultural assumption that eighteen year-olds know what they want to do when they go to university (or embark on some other path)

Another possibility: is there a lack of/need for naivety?

Another possibility (back to language): there are ways of speaking to ‘students’ - does it help/(when) is it possible to say ‘I don’t quite have the words - can someone help me out’

Another possibility: educational institutions are often good at wheeling in examples of success to talk to students - what about bringing in young, fresh, not-very-experienced practitioners to give a different perspective?

Related possibility: and/or people from other disciplines?

Observation: it’s ok to say ‘I don’t know’

At this point the record-taker employed ‘the law of two feet’ (which he keeps mis-saying as ‘the law of two left feet’) - others should feel free to add further commentary


creativity, Creativity, national curriculum, college, education, life-long learning, school, university, theatre makers, pre-school