Every child has the right to experience and enjoy our country’s culture and world-leading theatre, so we will be asking political parties to commit to providing funding and support for our aim in their general election manifestos – that every child goes to the theatre by the time they leave school.
Society of London Theatre & UK Theatre believe that every child has the right to go to the theatre, to experience the joy and opportunity that it can bring.
This Autumn marks the launch of a new national advocacy campaign, Theatre for Every Child. In order to sustain our world-class reputation for theatre, we need to invest in our future audiences and workforce by ensuring every child has the chance to go to the theatre by the time they leave secondary school.
Once we achieve political support for this campaign, we will work in partnership with schools and theatres to ensure that our aim is delivered, especially in schools and communities where theatre trips are currently not possible.
How to Get Involved
If you work in the sector (but are not a SOLT or UK Theatre member)
Demonstrate your support for the Theatre for Every Child Campaign on social media using #TheatreForEveryChild; posts using the hashtag will appear on the social wall below.
This Launch Toolkit includes assets and copy that can be used on social media (if you’re a SOLT or UK Theatre member, please scroll down and log in to download the Member Toolkit, which includes different information for members only).
The Launch Toolkit also includes an email template to help you share the campaign with your local parliamentarians and candidates, encouraging them to pledge their support.
If you’re a school teacher or parent
Our campaign can only succeed with the support of as many schools as possible. Please sign up for campaign news using the form on this page, and encourage your local schools to do so, too.
More information on how your schools can get involved in the campaign will be coming soon. In the meantime, if you are planning a trip to the theatre, our Schools Theatre Guide will help you get the most from your trip.
In order to sustain our world-class reputation for theatre, we need to invest in our future workforce, as well as our audiences. To help your young people find out more about career paths available in theatre, check out these resources and events:
If you’re a SOLT or UK Theatre member
What is the campaign?
The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) & UK Theatre want every child to attend the theatre by the time they leave school.
We want children and young people to experience as much theatre and live performance as possible at every age, as we believe every child has the right to experience and enjoy our country’s world-class theatre sector.
As a minimum benchmark, our Theatre for Every Child (TFEC) Campaign asks for all political parties to ensure that all children have the chance to see a professional theatre production before they leave school.
Ahead of the next general election, we are asking all political parties to make this commitment in their manifestos.
How will it work?
Ahead of the next general election, we will ask all political parties to commit to this pledge by ring fencing funding.
SOLT & UK Theatre’s initial costing work indicates that this would cost the government a maximum of £42.33 per child, or a total cost of £34m per year.
This figure assumes that theatres charge £25 per ticket. However, costs could be reduced further through voluntary contributions from theatres, private sector sponsorship and parents. With these voluntary contributions, we believe that the maximum cost would fall to around £14-18m per year.
What are the aims of the campaign?
The primary aim is to secure a funded commitment from political parties that every child goes to the theatre by the time they leave school.
The secondary aim is to shine a light on the work our members are already doing to engage with school pupils and inspire more schools to engage with their local theatre.
What are the key messages for the campaign?
- Every child has the right to experience and enjoy our country’s world-leading theatre.
- SOLT & UK Theatre want every child to attend the theatre by the time they leave school.
- Ahead of the next general election, we ask all political parties to commit to this pledge by ring fencing funding.
- There is strong evidence that going to the theatre provides cultural enrichment, has educational benefits, helps to build empathy, promotes well-being, and supports the growth of our economy.
- For the theatre sector, ensuring that all young people have the experience of going to the theatre will inspire future audiences and our future workforce, helping to address skills shortages.
Calling for a fund to ensure that children visit the theatre just once before they leave school doesn’t seem very ambitious. Why are we not asking for more?
SOLT & UK Theatre want children and young people to have as many opportunities to visit the theatre as possible. Given that many children have never visited a theatre and state schools’ ability to offer theatre visits has been severely curtailed due to the cost-of-living crisis, it is important to establish a minimum benchmark, which will enable us to measure progress over time. Securing a pledge from political parties to ensure that every child visits the theatre at least once before they leave school represents this minimum benchmark. This initial ask will be part of an ongoing campaign working with partners and policy makers to improve access to theatre for all children.
How long will the campaign run?
The initial phase of the Theatre for Every Child Campaign asks political parties for a manifesto commitment to pledge that all children have the chance to visit a theatre before they leave school. The campaign is currently focused on the next general election but will continue until we achieve our goal.
Why does the proposed fund only cover one visit to the theatre per child?
As the trade associate for theatre in the UK, we want children and young people to experience as much theatre and live performance as possible at every age. This campaign acknowledges the fact that access to the theatre varies greatly, with many children missing out entirely on the joyful and enriching potential of live performance. That is why we are calling for a fund to ensure that as a minimum, all children have the chance to visit a theatre before they leave school. We consider this to be a baseline from which we will plot progress over the years to come.
What is happening now?
In 2019/20 only 25% of 11-15 year olds engaged in theatre and drama ‘outside of school’.
The National Curriculum requires every state-funded school to promote children’s cultural development, preparing them for the experiences of later life. Whilst the private school sector is able to invest in cultural education, the state sector has suffered a significant reduction in provision, due in part to the marginalisation of arts subjects in schools over the last twenty years.
Children from low-income families are missing out the most because they are less likely to have access to cultural experiences outside of school. Furthermore, the ongoing cost-of-living crisis has led to a reduction in school trips including theatre visits.
Recent research from the Sutton Trust shows that school leaders are reporting significant cuts to school trip and outings since last year.
This campaign looks ahead to the publication of the government’s first Cultural Education Plan which is expected by the end of 2023.
Why does this matter and what can be gained?
Provide cultural enrichment
Theatre broadens children’s horizons, shaping their sense of the world and their place within it.
Offer educational benefits
The immersive experience of theatre helps children to learn, whilst structured arts activities can increase cognitive skills across all subject areas.
Children from low-income families who participate in arts at school are three times more likely to get a degree.
Help build empathy
Watching theatrical performances helps children to develop emotional intelligence.
Children and young people report that engaging in cultural and creative activities, such as drama, helps them to “relax and de-stress”.
Spark a lucrative career and address skills shortages
This campaign will raise awareness of the highly skilled off-stage STEM orientated theatre jobs open to young people at a time when the industry is facing significant skills shortages.
Boost audience figures
This initiative would help to raise audience figures over the long-term, boosting economic activity, resulting in more jobs across the UK.
Support the growth of our economy
Theatre is a key component of the broader creative industries which, prior to Covid, contributed £116bn in Gross Value Added (GVA).
Our research indicates that the theatre industry alone generates £2.39bn GVA and supports 205,000 workers.
For every £1 spent on a theatre ticket, an additional spend of £1.40 is generated in local economies.