Performing arts has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember: school plays, trips to watch theatre shows, and eventually my university degree. Without it, I don’t know where I’d be today.
The possibility of scrapping the BTEC Performing Arts qualification in England has emerged, which means that students won’t have the opportunity to explore the subject in a practice-based setting ever again. Perhaps more crucially, especially to the livelihood of the arts and culture industry, students also won’t get the chance to gain the hands-on experience needed for a career in the performing arts.
This news has, quite rightly, left professionals and both current and future students in distress. Teachers who have paid with time and money to train for their roles could soon be out of work, and to make matters worse, once the BTEC Performing Arts qualification is gone, it’s only a matter of time until the government look to dissolve all arts-based subjects in schools, which are already incredibly underfunded as it is.
For me, it wasn’t an option to pay for extra-curricular drama groups; my family just couldn’t afford it, as I suspect many others can’t today. School was the only place where I got the chance to explore the subject that I loved so much, and getting the choice to delve further into it at Level 3 was vital to getting me to where I am today. Getting rid of the qualification is not only going to put students at a disadvantage, but it is a decision coming from a place of privilege. In an industry that is already struggling with accessibility, I cannot fathom why anyone would think that punishing those from lower socio-economic backgrounds is going to allow for the more diverse, and ultimately more equal, sector that so many talk about trying to implement.
For some students, BTEC Performing Arts is not just a qualification, it is a healthy and creative outlet that isn’t provided elsewhere. Yes, some students may not go on to undertake a full-time job in the arts, but the advantages that come with studying a creative subject (which traditional, academic subjects do not provide) by far outweigh any possible negative. Performing arts helps young people with confidence issues, develops public speaking skills, and allows an opportunity to see alternative routes of employment that it is impossible to explore elsewhere. Studies have proven that studying the arts help with children’s ability to read and write, think critically, and develop a sense of empathy. For me, I know that without studying BTEC Performing Arts, I wouldn’t have explored different ways of expressing myself, or realised how passionate I am about social and political issues.
Performing arts isn’t just singing, acting and dancing, as most people are led to believe. How many of us have turned to our televisions, the radio, or Spotify for comfort over the last year? Our lives were always inundated with an endless supply of TV series and films on platforms like Netflix and Amazon, we have always listened to music on walks and watched funny videos on YouTube, but most of 2020 (and indeed much of 2021) has involved us actually relying on these creative outlets just to stay sane. All of these things wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the arts.
There is a lack of understanding and a total ignorance about those who study and work in the cultural and creative industries, and there always has been, but scrapping BTEC Performing Arts only adds to this pre-existing divide. For many students, including myself, performing arts was the start of a journey that they thought was reaching its end. It isn’t fair that future generations are having their decisions made for them; the choice to study a BTEC in Performing Arts should be with them, and them alone.
Words by Maia Flora.
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