A significant drop in the number of young people participating in dance is being masked in government statistics by an increase in those making films and going to the cinema.

Photo of children dancing
Country Dancing at Kenilworth Castle, 2008

Hamish Foxley (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

An increase in the number of young people taking part in film and video activities – from making videos to trips to the cinema – is masking a drop in engagement in the arts, particularly dance, in official government statistics. Arts Council England has pointed to challenges faced by schools and the slipping value of the arts in the curriculum.

According to the latest figures from the Taking Part survey, almost all children and young people aged between five and 15 (98%) engaged with the arts last year. While this figure has stayed steady over the past six years, the proportion participating in dance has dropped dramatically and there have been significant decreases in 5 to 10 year olds taking part in music and drama activities outside of school.

The Taking Part survey asks young people aged 11 to 15 about their participation in arts activities both in and outside of school, and surveys adult respondents about the arts engagement of children aged five to ten outside of school.

Between 2008/09 and 2014/15 the proportion of young people aged 11 to 15 who had participated in dance activities in the previous year fell from 52% to 36%, making it the least popular arts activities. Just 27% of those aged five to ten participated in dance outside of school last year – down from 43% in 2008/09. During this time there has also been a 19 percentage point drop in this age range participating in music outside of school (from 55% to 37%) and a 15 percentage point drop in participation in theatre and drama activities (from 47% to 32%).

Cate Canniffe, Director of Dance for Arts Council England, told AP: “Many children and young people rely on in-school provision for their access to dance, and there continue to be challenges around schools’ capacity to offer dance as part of the school day and the value placed on dance and the arts more generally within the curriculum.”

The only arts activity to rise significantly in popularity in the past six years is film and video, a category which covers making or appearing in a film “for artistic purposes” or watching a film in the cinema. 82% of 11 to 15 year olds participated last year – up from 70% in 2008/09 – making it the second most popular arts activity for this age group. Film-making and cinema going is the third most popular activity for the five to tens, 69% participated in 2014/15, up from 49% in 2008/09.

The most popular arts activity for both age groups is reading and writing.

A photo of Frances Richens


As a Dance/Movement Therapist, practicing in the US, I was wondering if you think or if any early research shows that this deacrease in young folks dancing, directly affects or will affect the number of dance/movement psychotherapists that will go onto practice in the field in the UK. As dancers are usually drawn to this field.