Govt moving to fill Stage Challenge void

Chris Hipkins
Chris Hipkins
Otago schools are delighted the Government is attempting to fill the music, drama and dance showcase void left by the closure of the Stage Challenge and JRock events.

Potential providers have been invited to put forward ''expressions of interest'' to run national and regional opportunities for school pupils to showcase their music, drama and dance skills.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has pledged to provide new opportunities for pupils following the cancellation of the Stage Challenge and JRock events last month because of financial issues.

Linda Miller
Linda Miller
Mr Hipkins said the events had showcased the talents of budding musicians, actors and dancers from across New Zealand for the past 25 years, with financial support from the Ministry of Education.

But as costs increased, and corporate sponsors and local grants decreased over the years, organisers of the Stage Challenge Foundation said they could no longer deliver the events in their present form.

''Like many people, I thought regional and national activities of this sort were too important to lose,'' Mr Hipkins said.

''Music, drama and dance are an important part of the curriculum, and for many young people are a way of expressing their creativity and building confidence.''

Mr Hipkins said the Stage Challenge brand was licensed and could not be replicated, but yesterday he invited potential providers to put forward expressions of interest to run national and regional opportunities for pupils to show their skills.

The Stage Challenge Foundation was also invited to put forward a proposal, he said.

''The ministry has already allocated $267,000 for this purpose for each of the next two years.

''Because time is short, I have asked officials to free up more funding for the activity this year to increase the chance of it continuing, while it works with potential providers on a more sustainable, long-term replacement.

''The amount will depend on negotiations with the future provider.''

The ministry will now seek potential providers with the capability and experience in producing performing arts activities.

''It's expected the process will be completed by the end of term 1 for activities to be held from the second term of this year.''

Otago Girls' High School has been one of the more successful schools in Stage Challenge in recent years.

Principal Linda Miller said Otago schools would be delighted with the Government's support.

''It sounds great. We've got to foster creativity and artistic pursuits in kids if we want them to be able to perform in the future.''

Stage Challenge, in which performances were designed and led by pupils, provided a valuable opportunity to build leadership skills while promoting teamwork and commitment, she said.

They also allowed pupils to work alongside industry professionals in staging, lighting and video production, and they could gain NCEA credits for choreography, dance and costume design.

''It had incredibly good educational outcomes, both in terms of NCEA qualifications [and] also in terms of all those soft skills that are so important for the world of the future, like collaboration and leadership.''

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