Over on Deadline Jake Kanter has been writing articles on the poor practice still taking place in UK drama colleges. His latest article features yet more stories coming out of Arts Ed, this time focused on the Principal who was brought in to tidy up the mess created by the last Principal. Of course that would always be a difficult job given that she was part of the senior management when the last scandal broke.
Other reports in this long investigation have featured a host of other FDS colleges and have covered everything including rape, bullying and racism. Now regular readers will recall all of this stuff first coming out many years ago – remember when all the colleges started to issue statements saying that they were changing. Lots of them changed their management at the time in a bid to look like they were on top of it all. Of course, in reality, whilst policy changes no doubt happened, changing inherent cultures and systemic problems takes a lot more than a policy.
The fact of the matter is our vocational training industry in the UK needs an independent regulatory body. The colleges all make out that they’re regulated by OfS or Trinity or some other overseeing organisation. Still, in reality, the industry is so unique it’s very easy to continue poor practice whilst appeasing those overarching organisations.
The colleges themselves won’t implement the changes as they all protect each other. As we’ve seen countless times over the past few years, they’ll ride out the social media storm, they’ll even ride out investigations into their poor practice, but at the end of the day, nothing changes because they know that young industry professionals will always choose them. I’d be amazed if Arts Ed saw any dent in their applications after the QC report came out – because people privilege “the dream” over their health and wellbeing. They believe that “the dream” will gift them wellbeing, whereas in reality our industry is tough and those positive strokes are very few and far between. It’s a classic Faustian pact. That college will get away with murder as long as they’re still getting people into the West End or onto our screens.
What doesn’t help is seeing the issues as subject-specific – the entire vocational training industry needs to be regulated, including dance, drama and music colleges. How many more documentaries will it take before people care enough to do something about the situation? Is it just that in real terms the numbers negatively impacted are just too small to matter? The performing arts industry is still seen as a white middle-class profession, a folly for the well-to-do.
Students don’t speak out for fear of repercussions, and staff don’t speak out because they too understand that they’ll be penalised and perceived to be “trouble”, so how does the situation improve? Equity says that the colleges have nothing to do with them so students are protected by the SU (swing around once again to this is a unique industry with training demands that require a unique oversight)
I’ve been shouting about regulations for nearly a decade. I’ve written countless articles and blogs shouting for it. My genuine fear is that nothing will change and the vocational training industry will continue to damage future generations all in the name of protecting a college’s reputation. Those gatekeepers wield a lot of power yet do nothing to support the overall training experience of young professionals. It’s very hard sometimes to keep fighting for something that you know is vital for good practice. . . but we carry on eh?