Dear Graduates and Students
Last week The Oxford School of Drama released a message attempting to show genuine solidarity and support for people opposing injustice with reference to the Black Lives Matter movement.
We now recognise that this was insensitive to the experiences of some of our graduates and current students. We are deeply saddened to hear about these racist experiences and apologise to those affected. It's not ok that students had these experiences and that people felt that they didn’t belong or were unable to voice things at the time. This is not the culture we want. It is our responsibility to change it and apologise that it has been allowed to happen. Bias and racism must not be tolerated in our institution and we are responsible for ensuring that we create change through a comprehensive plan of action.
The first essential step towards change is listening. Thanks to the bravery and honesty of students coming forward to express their accounts, we have begun an organised process of listening. We are here to keep listening and that comes from the staff, management and Trustees. It's not easy to speak up, but in so doing, you will bring about real change for good.
Under our new Principal we had started a review of the curriculum but in light of the recent deeply distressing revelations the remit for this review will be accelerated and widen. We will also consult with outside organisations to help us as we are committed to finding swift and lasting change.
This document outlines our new strategy for change.
A New Future
At the Oxford School of Drama, we pride ourselves in the rigour of our training. It is a demanding training that aims to provide a performer with a set of tools that they can use to make the most of that raw talent. It is important for actors to be curious in order to discover new worlds. For our school to become a true beacon of drama training we will put the experiences of all our students right into the fabric of the training itself. We will make sure that every single member of our community of students and staff feel like they belong and are accepted. Where better to feed that curiosity than at a drama school that celebrates, embraces and learns from a diverse range of life experiences. Our aim is to provide for all our talented students regardless of background, race or colour with a safe environment. They should all have the same opportunity of an equally rich training that enables them to fulfil their true potential. Our students deserve nothing less.
The Governance of the School and its staff will listen and learn from students and graduates and will work with external consultants and agencies to educate itself and inform its approach and outcomes. Below is an initial action plan that outlines the scope of the brief for change.
Where actions can be taken at speed they will be. The staff and Trustees would like to thank the contribution of graduates, students and staff in putting together the brief for change.
1. A strategy for change, informed by the community of OSD, will be created and shared publicly
2. The scope of the strategy will cover:
a. An improved induction programme for students and staff that establishes core values that support a culture of openness and respect and educates on racism;
b. A thorough evaluation of covert supremacy in the current curriculum and individual syllabi;
c. A review of texts and teaching materials used across all syllabi to further diversify the reading lists, curriculum and plays that are studied and performed;
d. A comprehensive examination of teaching practices to support and promote the individual identity of the student artist;
e. A training and development programme for all teaching staff that supports staff in a review of individual practice;
f. Training for Trustees, staff and students on confirmation and unconscious bias;
g. Clear routes for students and staff to report micro aggressions and a transparent system that details action taken;
h. The pastoral support service for students to provide more available, regular access to appropriate support;
i. New packages of financial support that increase access to training;
j. The diversity of the teaching faculty and the industry professionals engaged by the school to be more representative of the UK communities;
k. The activity to broaden the diversity of applicants to the School;
l. The activity to broaden the diversity of the Board of Trustees to be more representative of the UK communities
m. The Audition process including diversity of panels, regional locations and guidelines;
n. The role of an industry scrutiny group that holds the School to account for the rate and extent of change.
Edward Hicks (Principal), Liz Wilson (Executive Director)