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A new way of applying for drama school?

There is no doubt that applying to vocational training organisations is an expensive minefield.

Some operate within UCAS. Others don’t. Some are independent so most students have to self-fund. Others, including the ones which have been absorbed by universities, entitle students to student loans or, possibly Dance and Drama Awards (DaDA). Some schools operate through UCAS. Others do not.

I have often written about these complexities.

Wherever you apply you will almost certainly have to pay an audition fee to each of the college you apply to and that means that less well off applicants can’t afford apply to as many as they should. So they are disadvantaged even before they start.

Enter Paul Taylor who thinks he has found a way round this. Having trained at LAMDA  as an actor, Taylor now runs a multi-media marketing company called Consider This which works with lots of drama schools and other providers of vocational training.

“I’ve spent a year building a website, Perform This, which will enable schools to share auditions so that the candidate only has to pay once through a central application system – a sort of UCAS for performing arts” he tells me.

Hang on a minute, I stop him. How this will work with UCAS itself through which many of the schools are already operating? He tells me it’s a good question and that he wants to sit down with UCAS soon and thrash it out.

Meanwhile he has listed over 100 schools – a much broader sweep than the well known 20 which belong to Federation of Drama Schools – including all their details and courses. That, at the very least, makes the site a useful source of information all in one place.

“What I need now is for schools to come on board and list their auditions so that we can get schools working together” he says, explaining that he is so keen to get this project going that, although he already spent “the cost of a couple of Aston Martins” on it, he is offering it completely free to schools for the first year.

I suspect this could prove useful to the smaller schools who sometimes struggle to get the number of applicants they want and need.  As we all know, the big players, whose prestige status and reputation ensure they get thousands of applicants, openly use the audition process as a revenue source.  It will be interesting, therefore, to see whether or not they are prepared to forgo that in order to make things more inclusive for the candidate by using Perform This

Those of us who dish out advice  to wannabes usually suggest that they try to get the feel of the college they’re auditioning for while they’re there, as well as chatting to current students. One unnamed principal  cautiously told Taylor that he/she might be willing to consider his system but not if it meant using an another school as the audition venue. If you’re on neutral premises in, say, Birmingham, you can’t get any sense of the character of the school which (we hope) makes you an offer.

Maybe, therefore, there would have to be a completely new system of every offer being provisional until the student had visited the school – that way at least he or she would only have to travel to the school or schools which have already made it clear that there’s a place available if the student wants it. But that would make the process lenthier.

Perform seems a good idea in principle and I shall be very interested to see how it develops and/or takes off. Taylor tells me that every school he has spoken too so far has reacted very positively.


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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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