Monday, 20 June 2016

There's a herd of elephants in the room - and none of us are talking about them!

Once again the drama kicks off about 'poor people' AKA the working classes being given access to the arts, specifically training. A recent article in The Stage started yet another debate about the subject.  The hypothesis in the article was that however well meaning all the celebs were by speaking out about the 'crisis' they were, in fact helping to perpetuate the myth, therefore stopping the working classes giving it a go.

I have to say that this is 100% my experience. The amount of parents that contact me, telling me that they've researched training options and they've seen that so and so has said that it's too expensive.  It's only when they speak to me can we look at all the options available to them from the perspective of The MTA (obviously every college has their own criteria).  Now that said, I also once had a Principal of another college contact me, trying to convince me to take a student that we had turned down, and said at the end of the email that my other consideration should be that (and of course I'm paraphrasing here)  the family were loaded so I should take them anyway!!

I guess that last paragraph sums up the issue. There are colleges bending over backwards to facilitate students training with them, then there are 'businesses' just piling those fee paying students high and proud. The question is how do we ensure that talent is nurtured, as opposed to where do the pounds come from?

With the EU referendum looming, there is also the issue of colleges actively looking for overseas students. Now why is that do you think? Far be it for me to suggest that the financial premium that they're adding to these students has anything to do with the race to get some of them to train at UK establishments!  I'll quickly add that The MTA just charges everyone the same - it costs me the same to train them so I can't quite justify a price increase because they're moving countries to train!

The Stage article then, via FB comments, quickly shifted to the cost of just auditioning for drama colleges, and how that alone stops people applying.  Now this is definitely a subject to start jumping up and down about. Colleges are auditioning people in their thousands which clearly brings in a useful financial stream. How they can argue that they're losing money on a day when over 100 students are auditioning at one time I really don't know.

Each college has it's own system of auditioning, however I can't help thinking that it's not quite right to charge up to £80 to spend less than 30 mins in a room discussing a monologue? Or indeed if you're auditoning for a MT course why you couldn't at least have a stab at all 3 disciplines before they throw you out onto the pavement of despair.  I find it interesting hearing the stories of auditions, and how the students' experience of them defers from the website and indeed official line.

I think that the audition day charge SHOULD be capped. We charge £45, now that's for a full day (9 - 5...sometimes 6), we see them do all 3 disciplines, we give them written feedback at the end of the day, and make our decision that evening. They are then emailed the results, hopefully on the same evening (including the written feedback). They are auditioned by the entire senior faculty.  We've always given them a questionnaire to anonymously fill in at the end of the day, and one of the questions is 'do you feel like you've received value for money' and in 8 years 100% of them have said yes.  Quite a large percentage state that they feel like they should have paid more for the day! Our day has always run at a loss as we chose to audition in small numbers.

The problem here though are the elephants very clearly in the room ie we are training too many people for the industry, and more specifically some people are being trained purely because they can  pay (as demonstrated by the other college Principal). Colleges are increasing their intake, increasing their courses, and we are oversubscribed to the hilt. There are courses being run on something silly like 15 hours of contact time/week and their students think (and have been led to believe) that they're going to be 'industry ready' after that training.

Why are we seeing so many people coming through the door who have already trained? They've already paid £27,000 for their degree...and are now being forced to pay the same again to actually be trained for the industry that they wanted to be in?

Who is regulating this system? Can a university start any course it likes without someone actually checking the validity of the course?

Who is regulating the drama colleges? Drama UK aren't - they're busy in Asia last I heard, getting their 'brand awareness' up over there??

Everybody up in arms about stuff is sort of right....but in my humble opinion they're up in arms about the wrong stuff. There is a bigger picture here that's been well and truly lost.





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