With the swinging cuts to the national education budget in recent years, children's arts education has been suffering. Often, schools have less and less funding available to provide a fully comprehensive programme of performing and fine arts lessons, which has led to the decline of arts subjects taught in state schools. Our Youth Theatre programme aims to remedy this, and provide free of charge performing arts sessions to children living in the Winchester area.

The lack of arts funding

As of September 2019, the Guardian found that 80% of schools would be financially worse off in 2020 than in 2015. This has put pressure on state schools to make difficult decisions concerning which subjects are more worthy of funding than others. Headteachers have had to make difficult decisions as to which subjects have the most need for a share of their shrinking state allowance, and often, arts subjects are seen as less of a priority.

This has meant that arts subjects in state schools have become vulnerable under these recent education austerity measures, and are likely to be cut or reduced in some way. In 2018, the BBC found that 9 out of 10 schools had cut back on the amount of time, staff, or facilities for at least one creative arts subject.

Snapped this pic while shooting a production at the Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham, NC.
Recent austerity measures have put pressure on state schools, which has resulted in a lack of funding for arts subjects.

Arts subjects have certainly suffered more dramatic funding cuts in comparison to their more academic counterparts. It has been considered that subjects such as English, mathematics and science, as well as the humanities and modern foreign languages have more chance of benefiting students' future employment prospects. However, the overall effect of this is that less young people have access to creative arts lessons, and the next generation of performers and artists is thus likely to be smaller.

The power of the arts is definitely underestimated when it comes to education. While growing up I have seen the art sector increasingly become less of a priority and looked down upon within mainstream education. - Carmen Dolores, Youth Theatre Coordinator

The favouring of academic subjects in state schools is unfortunate, as it ignores the value of the arts within our culture. For many years, the UK has been a central point of excellence in the arts, producing many accomplished actors, dancers and musicians, many of whom have cultivated their respective passions through formal instruction in these areas. By restricting young people's access to arts lessons, it threatens the continued livelihood of artists and performers, as there is a stronger chance that would-be artists will apply themselves to more academic careers. Our young people deserve the opportunity to develop a passion for the creative arts as much as they deserve to explore careers in the academic subjects offered by the school curriculum.

What we're doing about it

Our Youth Theatre programme aims to lessen the effects of a decline in performing arts lessons in schools by providing weekly, free of charge sessions. These fun workshops are aimed at children aged 7-11 years, and are organised and delivered by student volunteers, with the support of our staff.

We encourage students to get involved in both the planning and the delivery of the sessions, meaning that our volunteers can choose whether they want to plan sessions, run them, or both! Volunteers typically dedicate just a few hours of their time each week to help run the programme.

Our Youth Theatre programme is organised, planned and delivered by our wonderful student volunteers.

Sessions take place on Monday afternoons, 4.30-5.30pm in the Weeke Community Centre. These sessions include acting, singing and dance sessions, so if you've a passion or skill in any of these areas, we'd love to hear from you!

The benefits of volunteering with Youth Theatre

1) Keep the next generation of performers alive. With the recent cuts to the national education budget, it's more important than ever to support young people's involvement in the creative arts! By volunteering just an hour a week, you could inspire the next generation of creative performers, by igniting their passion for the performing arts!

2) It's a lot of fun! It goes without saying that running our sessions are incredibly rewarding, because they are an opportunity to be creative and enjoy yourself through drama! Youth Theatre is a really fun way to volunteer, whilst also making a positive contribution to your local community.

3) Gain experience working with children. If you're looking to work in education or with children in some capacity, completing a voluntary placement with Youth Theatre may be just what you need to make your future job application stand out.

4) Develop your leadership skills. The volunteers who run regular Youth Theatre sessions are can develop their confidence in a safe and supportive environment. Volunteering to run Youth Theatre sessions is a wonderful way to demonstrate your ability to lead and support others - a skill highly valued by employers.

5) Develop your creative thinking skills. A lot of thought goes into planning out Youth Theatre sessions, so if you'd like to be more on the organisational side of the project, this is a fantastic way to show your capacity for creative thinking, and project planning.

Upcoming projects

The children are currently preparing for an upcoming production of Peter Pan, which is set to premiere in Week 10 of Semester 2.

I am extremely proud to be a Youth Theatre Coordinator working with many passionate student volunteers to create a safe and fun learning environment for children to thrive in! It is the greatest feeling to watch the children grow and learn so many essential skills for the future, more importantly while enjoying themselves! If you too believe in the importance of the arts in developing life long skills, please volunteer with us! All are welcome! - Carmen Dolores, Youth Theatre Coordinator

If you'd like to apply to plan or run our Youth Theatre sessions, please get in touch via our website. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, which means you can apply at any point throughout the semester.