Arts Schools Are Frustrated: Performing Arts Schools aim to keep classes going online

By Aideen O'Flaherty

Performing arts teachers have been left frustrated by the closure of their businesses during the current lockdown and uncertainty around when they can reopen, according to advocacy group Performing Arts Educators of Ireland (PAEI).

On October 6, operators of performing arts schools were informed that under government guidelines music and dance classes could continue during Level 3 and Level 4 restrictions, in groups of up to 15.

Rob Murphy 1

Rob Murphy

By this stage many performing arts school owners had got their studios kitted out with the required social distancing markers, and also implemented hand sanitising and put up plastic screens between the teachers and students.

However, on October 23 teachers were informed that indoor classes could now only operate under Level 1 or 2 and there can be no indoor classes for any performing arts activity under Levels 3, 4 and 5.

Many of the members of PAEI were planning to reopen on December 1, when the country is expected to be moved back to Level 3 restrictions, but now it is unclear whether performing arts facilities can reopen at that level.

Pamela Hughes, the chairperson of PAEI and a performing arts educator with 32 years’ experience, told The Echo: “We’re just frustrated, because we were given guidance that said we could open up at Level 3, but now they’ve done a complete U-turn.

“A lot of people can’t reopen their schools. For the children who attend these classes, this is their outlet, and losing that is a massive issue.

“We’re trying to keep our classes going online, but it’s very difficult.”

Pamela added: “I have spent thousands getting my school Covid compliant – we've got big screens for our singing teachers, we put in hand sanitisers and PPE.

“Some schools have said they won’t reopen, and some dance and drama teachers have sought employment in other industries.”

Rob Murphy, an Inchicore native who is the director of Dramatic Action Stage School, which has classes in Palmerstown and Crumlin, and is heavily involved in The Civic Theatre in Tallaght, said that it’s been a struggle for performing arts teachers, and he worries about the impact the closures are having on students.

Rob said: “We’ve basically been out of action since March. We came back for a few weeks in the summer and it went really well.

“Even one of my parents, who is a nurse, was bowled over by how compliant it was.

“The kids really understood social distancing, which was always a part of dance classes anyway, and they were very compliant. It’s really bizarre that we’re not allowed to open.

“I worry about those kids who, like me when I was growing up, can be themselves when they come to their dance and drama classes, when they feel that they can’t be themselves in school.

“We also have kids that go on to train in performing arts in college, and they have auditions for college in February, but we haven’t been able to see them to help with those auditions.

“It’s quite scary that they haven’t been able to get the training that they needed to get.”

Rob and Pamela are hopeful that performing arts schools will be able to reopen on December 1, however they said they have been “left in limbo” as they are unsure if the schools will be allowed to reopen.

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