Dance School Industry – COVID-19 impact
My name is Emma Scott and I am the owner and director of ELS School of Dance in Kealba, Victoria. I’m concerned about the impact that COVID-19 and the lack of funding is having on my industry and business.
I have run ELS School of Dance for 5 years and during this time I have impacted many children’s and families lives in a positive way. At our studio we don’t only teach dance, we teach important life skills and our key values are of friendship, equality, inclusion, commitment, team work, organisation, respect and work ethic. These values are shaping our children and are helping them grow into confident and kind young adults. Our weekly dance classes boost the physical and mental wellbeing of our toddler students all the way through to our adult students.
Studies show that dance is the 2nd most popular activity for girls in Victoria (AusSport 2017) and that over 150,000 children attend dance in our schools each week (ABS 2016). Dance provides physical and mental health benefits, even one dance class can help reduce depression (The Arts in Psychotherapy 2011) and increased levels in happiness from dance can last up to a week after class (University of Hertfordshire 2012). There are approximately 1000 dance schools across Victoria who provide employment to over 5000 Victorians (Dance Studio Alliance Victoria survey 2020).
Dance and Performing Arts studios, like ELS School of Dance, were forced to shut their doors on 23 March. Since then, businesses have been either teaching online to deliver their classes, or remained closed. Those in Melbourne were able to open for one week (22-28 June) and now are closed again until at least 19 August.
Unfortunately our industry has not been provided any specific support since COVID19 began, yet there is support for hospitality, construction, tourism and education. Many Dance schools across the state provide Nationally Recognised Training in Cert I-IV or VCE or VCE VET Dance, yet our classification is the same as a “gym”, not a “school”. We are not classified as a “sport” or even in the “arts sector” which means we miss out on funding and are left to fend for ourselves in times of great financial hardship.
For my school and many others, our teachers are subcontractors. This means we are not eligible for the government grants, nor are we eligible for job keeper payments for them. This means that I, as the business owner am expected to keep a business running, pay myself and my staff off my individual government payment of $1,500 a fortnight. I, as many other schools across Victoria have been trying to run classes online. Even running classes online I have been down an average of 80% in profit compared to April-June of 2019 and am in a state of financial stress.
A recent survey of 142 Victorian Dance and Performing Arts Studios has shown during the first lockdown, the industry lost over $17m in turnover – a second lockdown for Melbourne, and a nervous customer base across the state is compounding this loss and is having a devastating effect across the industry.
Since we have been forced to close the physical and mental health of our students and our staff is critical, yet for some reason our industry is being ignored.
If the government does not step in and provide tailored support, thousands of students (280 at ELS School of Dance before we were forced to close) and teachers (6 at ELS School of Dance) will have no dance schools to come back to after this is over.
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