The Old Vic: Cultivating audiences and theatre-makers of the future

Many schools remain under-resourced and creative subjects continue to be deprioritised in favour of STEM subjects. That is why The Old Vic remains committed to supporting teachers and pupils to access live performance.  

Its renowned education team works with schools with poor arts provision and with pupils who have little, or no access to the arts. In the 2022/23 academic year, The Old Vic welcomed over 2,000 students from across London into the theatre – 80% of whom had never been to The Old Vic before.  

The Old Vic is a charity without regular government funding and its education programmes are generously funded by trusts and foundations, via donations and through sponsorship. It is deeply committed to delivering this work because the organisation and staff are passionate in their belief that engaging with the arts enriches lives, expands horizons, and that encounters with theatre can act as a gateway into the arts for people from all backgrounds.  

Schools Club, now in its 15th year, works with 40 state secondary schools from across London. Schools Club encourages the next generation of theatre-makers by introducing pupils to a broad range of non-performing roles. Every year up to 1,200 pupils in years 9–13 can watch four shows at the theatre for free and enjoy workshops in their school.  

Photo of 3 students in uniform sat on the floor of a classroom. Two students have their back facing the camera with the third laughing in the direction of the camera
Schools Club at the Old Vic (Photo by Manuel Harlan)

“Having the opportunities to see and engage with exciting theatre blows our students minds. The benefits it offers are intangible, improving emotional literacy, culture capital and self-confidence and self-worth.” Schools Club Teacher 

Take the Lead is a free employability programme for up to 800 students in years 11–13 that uses drama techniques to explore five core employability skills – communication, self-management, self-belief, teamwork and problem-solving. The programme supports young people to take ownership over their next steps after school life and prepares them for the working world of the future through workshops and a trip to the theatre. 

I like how we got to actually go to the theatre and see how people act because it’s not just about acting, it’s also about standing in front of an audience, having that confidence, and expressing yourself. So, I think because of that, it is different to any other experience, because we actually got to go and see what it’s like to have that open body language.” Take the Lead Student 

This kind of supported intervention can have a lifelong impact on the lives of young people, making them feel welcome in cultural institutions, broadening their horizons, and up-skilling them for jobs of the future. 95% of students who took part in the schools programmes last year strongly agreed or agreed that they felt comfortable and welcomed at The Old Vic. 72% said that the programme had inspired them to visit more creative and cultural organisations. Programmes like Schools Club and Take the Lead enable theatre to be open to everyone.  

One of my enthusiastic year 9 theatre students sat down beside me at Eureka Day this year and burst into tears. I asked her what was wrong, and she said she was just so happy as she had never been to the theatre before. Not even to a Panto. Her family just cannot afford it. I hope to give these experiences to more of my pupils. It has boosted their confidence and raised their cultural capital.” Schools Club Teacher 


Society of London Theatre & UK Theatre believe that every child has the right to experience and enjoy our country’s culture and world-leading theatre, so we will be asking political parties to commit to providing funding and support for our aim in their general election manifestos – that every child goes to the theatre by the time they leave school.

Find out more about our Theatre for Every Child Campaign at theatreforeverychild.org

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