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Dance Teachers (Qualifications and Regulation)

Volume 457: debated on Wednesday 28 February 2007

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision for the regulation of the teaching of dance; and for connected purposes.

It gives me great pleasure to introduce this Bill, which aims to improve the teaching offered by teachers of dance throughout the country. Dance is one of the most popular forms of activity for spectators and dancers in Britain, and the second most popular activity in schools. Its popularity is rising faster than that of any other art form. Some 4.8 million people participate in community dance, and hundreds of thousands more dance in private dance schools, leisure centres and school clubs. Crucially, for girls it is one of the main focuses of physical activity, and a report, which is due to be published shortly, by Hampshire Dance and Laban provides the first ever statistical evidence showing that dance has a positive effect on both the physical fitness and the psychological health of children aged 11 to 14 years.

I want to highlight the benefits of dance to young people in particular before moving on to some of the reasons why this House should consider the need to require that dance teachers have a minimum standard of qualification. Dance reaches parts of the British public that other physical activities do not reach. Some 40 per cent of all girls have dropped out of all sports activity by the time that they are 18, but surveys in 2003 and 2004 of 50,000 year 9 pupils in more than 700 schools in the north-west of England showed that dance was the top recreational activity for girls outside school. Dance is classed as physical education in schools, so it is more difficult to measure its take-up in class time, but the number of pupils taking a GCSE in dance rose 125 per cent. between 2001 and 2005. So there is no question but that dance is popular, and this popularity and increase in participation can only be good news for the nation’s health.

However, the rise in popularity is not matched by an increase in the number of dance teachers; currently, demand outstrips supply. We need to make sure that we do not lose the chance to get people involved, that high-quality teachers are available who can safely inspire and engage young people, and that this growth in popularity continues. This Bill seeks to address the lack of a requirement for a single recognised teaching qualification for dance teachers. The absence of such a requirement raises important issues associated with the protection of children, in particular.

The Bill is not pressing for a requirement that all genres of dance should have a formal accreditation system, although I acknowledge the work done by the Imperial Society of Teachers Of Dancing, for example, which is based in my constituency, and by the other major dance accreditation bodies in supporting teachers in their efforts to enthuse young dancers as they progress through a properly evaluated dance awards system.

I recognise that much dance is taught less formally. In constituencies such as mine, we see a wide range of national and regional dance from around the world. Of the millions of people who participate in dance in the UK each year, many do so because it is part of their cultural heritage. At events in my constituency, including the many cultural festivals that take place most weekends, I see the range of dance styles being taught. Dance in Britain truly reflects the diversity of our society. One of the biggest growth areas in the UK is street dance, which is taught by peers. Interestingly, this dance form has increased the participation of young men, and must be welcomed. We should not try to stem the creativity of this more informal type of dance teaching.

However, there are serious issues associated with the capability of dance teachers. Whatever the genre, there are issues that all teachers need to be aware of: protection against the abuse and injury of children; the need for dance teachers to be insured; and, of course, a minimum standard of teaching skill. Many schools and youth agencies struggle to find teachers with the necessary skills and qualifications. Employers can be confused by the array of dance qualifications, which do not clearly highlight which teachers have the skills and qualifications necessary to teach safely, in line with current child protection standards.

It is fair to say that the dance sector recognises this issue and has taken significant steps in the past decade to self-regulate the quality of teaching. In the short time that I have today I cannot mention all the initiatives, but schemes such as the recognised school status introduced by the Council for Dance Education and Training at the end of last year, together with dance qualifications offered by the Imperial Society of Teachers Of Dancing, the Royal Academy of Dance, the British Ballet Organisation and the British Theatre Dance Association, all of which are accredited by recognised bodies, contribute to the safety of the growing number of young people taking up dance.

However, there is no national standard of qualification for dance teachers. Achieving a single qualification would be difficult, but a minimum required standard for teachers is essential. Despite the various accreditation schemes for different dance genres, there is no easy way for parents who take their children to a dance class to be sure that their child is in safe hands. As many dance teachers are self-employed, there is no one regulatory body that ensures that these individuals have a Criminal Records Bureau check or public liability insurance. I suspect that most parents are not aware of that. We need to make it easier for people to know what they are buying into, as well as ensuring that professional development is improved. I hope that teachers would welcome that, too.

Recently, work has been begun by the dance sector on generic standards. Laban has introduced a training and accreditation project, with the aim of developing a flexible qualification and the Foundation for Community Dance has launched a strategy for the development of a professional framework, including a code of conduct. That is the best hope to date of achieving a recognised common standard.

Dance UK is one of the umbrella groups for professional dancers and choreographers in the UK and it is very positive about the support that the Government have provided to boost dance as an art form. The Government have improved facilities through investment in projects such as the new Sadler’s Wells, which is close to my constituency, and through funding for organisations such as Youth Dance England and individual companies to expand their education work. Now is the time to ensure that the continuing growth in the popularity of dance is matched by, at the very least, consistency of quality at the grass roots.

Youth Dance England receives £100,000 a year compared to Youth Music’s £10 million a year. I applaud the money given, but if we are to see good quality teaching of dance, the inequity between the two arts needs to be tackled. The issue of basic standards for dance teachers is not difficult to resolve, and I urge the Government and the British dance movement to work together to ensure that there is wider understanding and recognition of the benefits of dance.

Consumers who take up dance, be they parents, children or adult learners, need to know what they are getting. The Government have made friends in the world of dance, but they now need to press for industry-wide core standards by highlighting best practice and demanding more. If the current self regulation still leaves some dance professionals without a basic set of core standards, stronger steps may be necessary. I ask that the Government recognise the steps that the dance movement is taking and work with it to bolster that progress, so that consumers are protected; dancers, particularly children, are safe; and we have a minimum standard of qualification for teachers of dance.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Meg Hillier, Mr. Frank Doran, Sir Gerald Kaufman, Lynne Jones, Sarah McCarthy-Fry, Harry Cohen, Mr. Andrew Slaughter, Joan Ruddock and Bob Russell.

Dance Teachers (Qualifications and Regulation)

Meg Hillier accordingly presented a Bill to make provision for the regulation of the teaching of dance; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 19 October, and to be printed [Bill 67].


Motion made, and Question proposed,

That the Order of 11th December 2006 (Offender Management Bill (Programme))

be varied as follows—

1. Paragraphs 4 and 5 of the Order shall be omitted.

2. Proceedings on consideration shall be taken in the order shown in the first column of the following Table.

3. The proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the second column of the Table.



Time for conclusion of proceedings

New Clauses and amendments relating to polygraph conditions in licences; New Clauses relating to preparation of plans by probation trusts; amendments relating to consultation about the provision of probation services; amendments relating to the composition of probation trusts

1½ hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order

New Clauses and amendments relating to restrictions on arrangements for provision of probation services

3½ hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.

Remaining proceedings on consideration

6.00 p.m.

4. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 7.00 p.m.—[Mr. Sutcliffe.]

I note that the Government have sought to bring forward a further programme motion in relation to debate on this important issue. We know that the Government have been in difficulties with their own side, therefore it is hardly surprising that certain key aspects of the Bill and the debate thereon will be curtailed by the programme motion. That is a pity, as we need a full debate on those matters. However, in the interests of ensuring that that debate is prolonged, I will curtail my comments, save to note the Government’s attempt to limit debate by hon. Members of certain key aspects of this important Bill.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for keeping his remarks brief. The programme motion is designed to ensure that we give adequate time to all the issues. This is an important Bill, as recognised on both sides of the House, and I look forward to an interesting and exciting debate.

Question put and agreed to.