Isn’t it funny how some dates just stick in your mind, whilst others (eg my wedding anniversary) never quite lodge there.

15th March 2022 I suspect will forever be one of those dates. This time last year the date was actually one of abject optimism. The MTA had undergone the Trinity pre-validation assessment a few weeks earlier; more recently I had been invited into a zoom with our 2 assessors, John and Brenda, in order for them to discuss with me what their recommendations were going to be and indeed for them to help me to think how we could implement them. Fortunately, the recommendations were relatively easy fixes and tweaks. Brenda had been to see our show a few days earlier and made a point of sending a message backstage to me informing me that she’d enjoyed it. So we were right on schedule to receive our “report” as promised 14th March (or thereabouts).

Then on 15th March John sent me this:

Dear Annemarie –

I hope this finds you well and that ‘Something Old Something New’ went well last week.

Apologies for the delay in getting back to you. Our Director of Performance has unfortunately been on sick leave with Covid for three weeks and I have been unable to consult with him on matters relating to your application.

I am pleased to say that his recovery is progressing well and his return is now imminent. When we have completed the relevant meetings with colleagues I will be in touch to update you.

Thankyou for your patience – all best wishes – John.  

As frustrating as it was – the pandemic had taught us all that things had stopped going to plan, so we just figured that we’d wait, after all, we had already implemented the changes so what difference would a week make – we’d still be able to apply for the full validation in plenty of time for us to secure it for the next academic year, as discussed with our assessors.

However, we never heard from John again. He simply disappeared. We received an out-of-office response telling us that he was off work sick on 25th March 2022, and as those of you that followed the story of The MTA might remember our pre-validation assessment report didn’t arrive until 12th July 2022. We were never told that John had left the organisation – in fact we found that out by some clever detective work by a member of my faculty after we received “that” report. . . a report that we have always maintained bore no relationship to our course.

March 15th reared its head again after we complained about the report. At first, Trinity rebuffed our complaint, so we followed their complaints procedure and complained AGAIN – this time pointing out that we had evidence to support our claim that the archive video recordings that John had requested had not been viewed. If you followed the story at the time you might recall how Trinity subsequently put out a couple of public statements answering those accusations, the only issue being that the narrative of each public statement they put out differed from the one before. Anyway as a result of our 2nd appeal, they agreed to bring in an independent arbiter to review our case and investigate our claims.

In the final report written by the independent arbiter we found this:

Yup. . . there was that date again, 15th March 2022. Gregg Whelan was the Director of Performance, who according to John’s email to me on the same day was off sick and unable to be contacted, yet that was the day that a handover document was dated?

The arbiter continued:

The one theme of the complete report that does not appear in this early draft is the level of attainment in Dance, which does not appear in the document trail until the Performance Assessment visit of 9 March 2022. This theme, along with the others signalled but not yet elaborated upon are discussed in detail in the internal briefing document dated 15 March 2022.

The report continues to say that contrary to the feedback we had received on the day, the assessor actually had some concerns about the standard of dance in the performance that she watched (which of course she had every right to voice). . .then here comes the mystery as both the arbiter’s report and a letter sent earlier from Trinity threatening to sue us for wanting answers in the public domain to our concerns, stated this (this one taken from the letter)

The original assessor. . . reflected the view of his colleague that the performance which she attended in early March was strong in material and acting, but the dance numbers were basic and overall the work seen did not fully demonstrate appropriate Level 6 standards. 

Yet the original assessor went off sick on 25th March and never saw that performance as only one assessor came to the theatre to assess the show.

To add to the confusion over the standard, yet another assessor came to watch the same students in a show just 3 months later and they felt that:

Hair at the Bridewell Theatre seen in June 2022 demonstrated standards of singing, acting and dance required by the diploma

I mean whichever way you look at it – bravo the dance faculty for getting everybody up to the right standard in just 3 months eh, plus with The MTA running a 4 term year, that meant that everybody was at the right standard 3 months prior to graduating. . . .seemingly even our first years who were also in both shows.

We are still exploring various routes to get our case fully investigated and in the meantime if ever my wife and I decide to upgrade our civil partnership to a marriage. . . I’m going to suggest 15th March as a good date 😉