Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by English National Ballet School

Is public investment in dance at a sufficient level? Considering the importance placed recently on "active" lifestyles by the Government, does the funding level need revision?

  We believe that there is insufficient investment both in designated time allotted in state schools' timetables for children to learn to enjoy dance and develop technical skills and in the training of dance teachers. Practical dance is usually taught by a sports teacher with, possibly, little interest or expertise in the subject. GCSE, AS and A Level Dance is usually taught by an academic teacher with a keen interest in dance but little practical experience.

  Earlier, better skilled exponents in the artistic as well as the purely physical side of the children's education would have multiple benefits not least to the children's health and to their general artistic education, particularly in music. Better provision of dance in the schools could lead to improved opportunities for entering the professional vocational schools for further training, possibly leading to careers in dance.

  It has long been proven that children who exercise regularly have better lung capacity, fewer allergies, better control of asthma, longer attention spans and better motivation in other subjects.

Young people and dance: What opportunities and support currently exist in order to promote the inclusion and progression of young people in dance?

  In our experience, this varies from one LEA to another—depending on where priorities lie. We would guess that most children's dancing classes at any sensible or productive level are funded privately by parents and take place in extra-mural hours in church halls and small private dancing schools. This can isolate the children who dance from their classmates who do not attend dancing classes, causing social problems with integration leading to bullying, particularly for boys.

What is the role of dance within education at present? Should this change in the future?

  We do not believe that the role of dance, particularly practical dance, within the education of young people is given sufficient weight and importance in terms of funding and time allocated on timetables. Most schools have dance as a hobby or extra-curricular activity rather than an integral part of the curriculum.

  In an ideal world, a change for the better would be welcome but the teaching profession has had many pressures placed on the teachers to achieve academic excellence and statistics in recent years and we are concerned as to whether dance will ever become a priority.


  We ensure that as a vocational classical ballet school, closely affiliated to our parent company, we do not appear to fall into the mind set of thinking that there should only be classical dance, contemporary, tap and jazz dance taught in schools.

  There are also another styles of dance that we believe should not be discounted. In our multi-cultural society, what is meant by "dance"? Indian, Afro-Caribbean, Chinese, Middle Eastern Dance etc. We believe it important to respect and integrate other cultures into the schools' curricula.

  Finally, we are very supportive that greater emphasis should be placed on "social dancing" as an activity for all ages. In the 16th Century, we were known as "the dancing English"! We also have our own National Dance Disciplines of Scottish, Irish and Morris to consider. Any adult who enjoys dancing has usually been given the confidence to dance at an early age.

April 2004

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