I recently visited the Royal and Derngate Theatre in Northampton to meet the Chief Executive Martin Sutherland.
I have long been a supporter of the Royal and Derngate as a proud example of culture here in Northampton and as Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism I was pleased to visit the theatre again.
Theatres are a positive contributor to the country both economically and culturally. Mr Sutherland told me that the Mamma Mia musical had been a huge success, with sold out audiences!
Another issue that I discussed with Mr Sutherland was the theatre’s application to be the very first theatre to open up a free school, which would specialise in the arts. Mr Sutherland believes that opening a new free school which specialises in the arts would help address the perceived lack of focus given to the arts in education.
I firmly believe that the arts are a real force for good and I want to use my Government role to encourage everyone to have the opportunity to enjoy the arts in our schools and therefore, a free school set up by the Royal and Derngate is certainly an interesting proposal. You can read about this by clicking on the following link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-37720037.
I support the Government’s drive to encourage new free schools – free schools on average perform better than state run schools. Recent Government figures have shown that free schools are the best performing type of secondary schools on the Government’s preferred Progress 8 measure. The 53 free schools included in the GCSE league tables had an average Progress 8 score of 0.15 compared to -0.06 for local authority maintained schools.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Royal and Derngate and I was most encouraged to hear that the theatre is doing very well!