By Simon Smedley • 08 February 2023 • 11:17
Actor James Norton.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plans for all English school pupils to study some form of maths until the age of 18 have been criticised by actor James Norton.
Speaking on The News Agents podcast, Happy Valley star Norton insisted that “we need to keep nurturing the arts”.
Mr Sunak announced his plan to combat high rates of innumeracy last month when he pledged to make it a central objective of the UK education system.
Norton, who turned in some jaw-dropping performances when portraying notorious villain Tommy Lee Royce in the hit BBC One drama Happy Valley, has expressed his disappointment at the policy.
He reckons children should be allowed to pursue subjects which are not vocational.
Asked about the arts becoming more accessible for children across the UK, Norton said: “Well, first thing you do is you don’t follow Rishi Sunak’s advice and make everyone take maths through to A-level.
“You nurture arts and humanities all the way through school and allow kids to take on courses which aren’t necessarily as practical and vocational.
“And so the most important thing is school, I guess, making sure that they are supported and there’s outreach programmes from centres of excellence in London and then in other big cities, and they get out to those schools, and they introduce kids to theatre at an early age and so there’s an awareness.”
Acclaimed actor Norton, aged 37, then spoke about growing up in North Yorkshire and participating in youth theatre performances there.
“Every summer holidays I did a youth theatre, it was called Live Wire and it was great,” he added.
“I went to Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough for work experience one summer.
“So there was stuff there, it was just about finding it and making sure kids know it’s there.”
Reflecting on the UK’s arts legacy, Norton, who many have tipped to become the next James Bond, added: “This country’s got such a cultural heritage and to waste that.
“Talk about us standing on the world stage right now.
“I mean, the way shows like Happy Valley travel over to America, it’s amazing.
“I feel so proud when I go over there and random people come up to me on the street and talk to me about Hebden Bridge.
“They watch it with subtitles on, but they love it.
“And it’s an amazing advert for this country.
“So, I think we need to keep nurturing the arts.”
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