Drake Music response to Arts Council England Diversity Report 2016-17


This week Arts Council England (ACE) released their 2016/17 Diversity Report as part of the annual Creative Case conference.

This data formed part of our research last year into the under-representation of disabled people in the music education workforce.

In short, our research found that demographic information about the music ed workforce is hard to come by, and when it does exist, it points to incredibly low representation for disabled people.

One problem we discovered in our research is that the ACE Diversity Report covers National Portfolio Organisations (NPO’s) and Major Partner Museums (MPM’s), but not Music Education Hubs.

This gap means that we have very little information about the diversity of the strategic bodies delivering music education across the country.

Little information means it is difficult to understand and tackle the problem and to measure progress and improvement.

2016/17 Diversity Report – Key figures for disability

The Executive Summary points straight away to the low representation of disabled people working in NPOs, MPMs and the Arts Council itself:

“We also face a major challenge with representation of disabled people; 20% of the working age population identify as disabled, compared to only 4% of staff at NPOs and MPMs and 6% of staff at the Arts Council.”

It is worth mentioning that there is no disability data recorded for half the workforce. This echoes our findings from last year and leads us to consider whether perhaps conclusions can be drawn that disability is not yet seen as a priority?

Arts Council England say: “This high level of unknown data makes it extremely difficult to draw any accurate conclusions, as we have no way of knowing if the individuals for whom we have data are representative of the whole workforce. Levels of reporting have improved slightly since last year, but this change must be much more rapid if we are to understand and address the issues with urgency.”

Looking at the specifics of the data around leadership we can see that disabled people are also under-represented in leadership positions:

“The representation of disabled people is roughly in line with the overall workforce – they make up 4% of the workforce and 6% of Chief Executives, Artistic Directors and Chairs.”

It should be noted that these are the lowest levels of representation (as a proportion of working age population) across all the characteristics measured.

It should also be considered that where disabled identities intersect with other minority identities, there are more barriers and bias to contend with.

The proportion of the Arts Council England workforce identifying as disabled is 6%, but at the higher levels of leadership (Director & Manager) it is only 3%.

Conclusions & next steps?

We see in this report, and the Creative Case programme, that there is a recognition of the urgent need for change, for our arts workforce to be representative of our population, at all levels.

This is a human rights issue. It’s about equality.

Sir Nicholas Serota at the Creative Case conference said that when Arts Council England leads and influences, change happens.

In that case, we believe that this needs to happen not only in the Arts Council, NPO’s and MPM’s, but also in the Music Education Hubs who shape the start of most young people’s journey into music-making.

The same rigour of data collection seen in the Diversity Report must be applied to the music education sector.

Without available opportunities at all levels of the arts – artistic staff, leaders, teachers, office staff, front of house, trustees – what pathways are available to young disabled people?

Without representation and role models, what aspiration is available to young disabled people?

Without action, what change will we see?

We welcome the focus of Arts Council England on the Creative Case for Diversity, and understand that bigger structural issues affect all of these discussions, but we need more action and more concrete steps across all organisations to bring diversity into their workforce as well as their programming.

For example:

  • Rigorous Disability Equality Training for all NPO’s & MPM’s, including awareness and understanding of the Social Model of Disability
  • A programme of accessible apprenticeships
  • Tailored leadership training by and for disabled arts workers
  • Financial support to ensure organisations can meet access needs for their teams
  • A focus on data relating to Music Education Hub workforces

… the list could go on.

As the report says: “This work reminds us how diversity has social, moral and economic dimensions for us all. We need to make use of all talent that is available to society; failure to remove barriers will weaken us all socially and economically.”

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