The Royal and Derngate, a theatre in Northampton is set to open a free school, the BBC reported.
Announcing the plans at an event celebrating the theatre’s tenth anniversary since re-opening in 2006, the plans are in response to concerns that arts disciplines are being marginalised in schools, under current government policy.
The theatre’s chief executive, Martin Sutherland said the proposed free school would help young people to find jobs.
Free schools are government-funded but established by community groups, universities, academy trusts or business organisations. Commenting on the need for education to meet the needs of the burgeoning creative sector in the UK, Sutherland said:
“The creative industries are growing in this country at a huge rate but we are not placing as much importance on the art subjects that help people gain employment in these areas,”
But Mr Sutherland said the school will be open to pupils with a variety of interests, and not just to aspiring performers, saying:
“Of course there will be a strong emphasis on the performing and other creative arts, but let’s just say you’re not going to see people dancing on big yellow taxis [reminiscent of a scene from the 1980s TV series Fame] around Northampton anytime soon.
The school is going to be a non-selective secondary comprehensive and students will follow all core subjects but we will also help young people develop skills for the emerging digital economy.”
Free schools have proved highly controversial, with recent reports of misconduct at some of the largest education trusts and inefficiencies in the way the government has implemented the free school policy.
However, Mr Sutherland is confident the proposed school will provide a viable alternative, commenting:
“We understand what good quality arts education looks like.
Our role is to make sure our values of encouraging creative, ambition, collaboration and inclusion, are shared throughout the school and the curriculum.
Of course we have access to professionals within the industry, but they will enhance the teaching rather than leading it and we will be recruiting a professional team of teachers to lead the school.”