Belfast Telegraph

Zoe Wanamaker urges action on arts education in schools

Teachers should be ‘given the time and space to be able to teach’, she said.

Veteran actress Zoe Wanamaker has criticised the state of arts provision in schools as a “mess” – with teachers bogged down by exam culture.

The My Family star, 69, who is one of Britain’s best-known stage actresses, spoke while at an event organised by the Prince of Wales’s charity Children & the Arts.

Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Amanda Holden and Sir Lenny Henry were among the attendees.

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Charles chatting with the stars (Eddie Mulholland/The Daily Telegraph)

Wanamaker told the Press Association: “Science and the arts go together.

“[Children studying the arts] don’t have to become actors, they don’t have to become singers, they don’t have to become dancers.

“But a rounded education is needed for the next generation to “think outside the box”.

Asked whether arts are being sidelined in schools, she said: “It’s a mess. It’s all about points.

“Teachers don’t have time… and that’s the problem. They’re just doing exams, exams, exams.

Teachers should be “given the time and space to be able to teach rather than give points”, the Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone star said.

“You have got to run, you’ve got to play, you’ve got to have fun and then the brain will engage,” Wanamaker, the daughter of actor, director and Shakespeare’s Globe founder Sam Wanamaker, said.

Her comments come following a fall in the number of GCSE arts entries from 2013 to 2018, in subjects such as music (15%), drama (18%) and design and technology (42%).

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The Prince of Wales with Meera Syal and Zoe Wanamaker (Eddie Mulholland/The Daily Telegraph)

Britain’s Got Talent judge Holden told the Press Association that the issue was not about knocking the Government in “difficult” economic times, but ensuring the arts were not seen as a “softer area of education”.

“It’s like not drilling for oil,” she said, as the arts are “financially very viable and worthwhile”.

And Choreographer and former Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips said: “Creativity has to be heralded by the Government as one of the most important things that a young person can study and forge a career in.

“As schools get stripped down to sometimes eight academic subjects only, I think there’s a huge problem here.”

Stars signed a joint statement saying that “every child should have access during their time in school to the benefits that arts and culture bring”.

There has been controversy in recent years over the number of privately-educated British actors – including Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Redmayne and Dominic West – to make it in Hollywood.

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