Fylde coast stars fear curriculum changes could affect teaching of the arts in Blackpool’s schools

AVR Dance and Performing Arts school which is based at the Layton Institute
AVR Dance and Performing Arts school which is based at the Layton Institute

Don’t stop Blackpool’s stars of the future from shining.

That’s the calls from a host of famous Fylde faces amid fears changes to the school curriculum could stifle creativity and hold back emerging talents.

First night of Schools Alive at the Grand Theatre in Blackpool. Unity Academy on stage.

First night of Schools Alive at the Grand Theatre in Blackpool. Unity Academy on stage.

Now calls have been made for the resort to adopt a raft of measures aimed at protecting the teaching of arts and music in the town’s schools.

Blackpool has a long history of developing stars of the stage and screen – such as Coronation Street actress Lucy Fallon, Chris Lowe of the Pet Shop Boys and singer Jodie Prenger –and now it is feared homegrown talent will not be uncovered in future.

READ MORE: Fylde coast celebrities speak out over proposed cuts to the arts

Coun Luke Taylor, lead member for arts on Blackpool Council, said since the announcement of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), secondary schools are having to prioritise subjects within the qualification.

The15th annual School's Alive festival organised by Blackpool Music Service

The15th annual School's Alive festival organised by Blackpool Music Service

These include English language and literature, maths, the sciences, geography or history and a language.

But there are fears that could come at the expense of other subjects, like the arts.

The Government has said schools’ performance will be measured on the success rate of pupils studying these qualifications, and it expects 90 per cent of all secondary school pupils to be choosing this combination by 2025.

Coun Taylor fears the change will see creative subjects such as art, dance, drama and music squeezed out of the curriculum as schools concentrate their budgets on these core subjects.

He said: “It may come as no surprise that Blackpool schools are focusing school funding on EBacc subjects while cutting back on resources for creative subjects.

“This is of great concern for a town known for producing and influencing such creative talents as Lucy Fallon of Coronation Street who recently won a soap award, Adrian Pritchard who recently exhibited at the Grundy Art Gallery and Jodie Prenger who has starred in many West End musicals.”

Conservative Coun Don Clapham also said it was important for schools to provide as wide an education as possible.

He said: “The all-round child is what we want at the end of the day, whatever talents need to be nourished and the arts are crucially important.

“Blackpool is brilliant at producing these children.”

READ MORE: Former Blackpool deputy headteacher's view over proposed cuts to the arts

These comments have been echoed by several Fylde celebrities, who said their education played a key role in helping them pursue their chosen careers.

Among them was Jodie Prenger, who said: “How can the arts be thought of as such a throw away thing? These are the qualities which make people.”

“Seeing kids grow in the arts is extraordinary.”

Councillors have now agreed to back measures including:

- supporting teachers and parents who want young people to study arts in Blackpool secondary schools.

- looking at ways to ensure Blackpool’s creative talent is not lost at secondary school, such as funding ways to support creative subjects at GCSE level

- assessing the feasibility of an arts-based secondary school in Blackpool.

- writing to the Education Secretary to ask if Blackpool secondary school students can choose a creative arts subject as part of their EBacc.