I know, I know, I’m like a stuck record when it comes to this topic – but having just seen the announcement of a new drama college opening in 2023, it’s prompted me to write about it. . . again

CAST is a new venture headed by Ruthie Henshall, and having just watched the promotional video, it’s great to see another new college opening up focused on the industry and not on some faux academic qualification. However, as I know only too well – this also means that CAST will be at the mercy of Trinity if it wants to access government funding streams for its students. Given that Trinity demand graduate destinations for 3 years of training, that will mean that CAST will not be able to apply for validation for a further 6 years (3 years of training then a further 3 years of graduates). So firstly that is far too long for a college to go without funding.

In comparison, a university could elect to run a performing arts degree next week and its students would automatically be eligible for student finance. At this moment in time, it doesn’t have to prove its outcomes before accessing funding. This explains why in an over-saturated, popular marketplace so many universities suddenly started offering performing arts degrees a few years ago. So many of those courses do not have the expertise to get students industry-ready and they’re certainly not offering enough contact hours to even make a career in the arts a possibility – yet still, they get funding.

So let’s say that CAST goes the Trinity route – which is the only route to access Advanced Learning Loans or to open up the possibility of going on the DADA list (though I suspect that DaDas will be history very soon). This is your reminder that the process to get validated is NOT regulated by anybody. Ofqual does not jump into action until the course is validated – meaning that you’re completely at the liberty of a few people at Trinity during your application process.

In spite of Trinity stating in every press release that they’re regulated by Ofqual they KNOW that this regulation doesn’t kick in until the validation process has been successfully completed. I know that they know this because that was their defense when we asked Ofqual to investigate them – so they know it, but still choose to make out that the process is regulated when making public statements – go figure.

In all of our public statements about the demise of The MTA, and indeed in all of my blogs on this topic, I have been (metaphorically) screaming that this state of affairs leaves vocational training in the UK vulnerable. I’ve been clear that The MTA was a victim of office politics at Trinity, with that organisation inventing a narrative to fit the mess that it had unwittingly created. eg we ended up with a report that omitted any classroom observations on 2 of the 3 key skills needed to be an MT performer, or to put it another way, a report that failed to have any of the observations that the main assessor had made – even though we had waited 4 months for the main assessor to return from “sick leave”. Yet the invention was that after seeing one of our shows (SOSN22) they suddenly realised that one area of our course wasn’t strong enough – therefore the report was solely written to focus on that area.

That would have been OK I guess if it wasn’t the case that just 3 months later another assessor had come to see a show (Hair) and deemed that we had met the industry standard in all 3 areas of MT. Even to a lay person, this makes no sense whatsoever. Or how about the fact that they claimed that our main assessor had shared the doubts of the (SOSN22) show assessor when there was no way on earth that our main assessor had watched the show? Questions that are still to be answered, and questions that are now sitting with the Charity Commission.

I won’t go through all the nonsense again – but you get the picture.

I celebrate the announcement of CAST, but I truly worry that nobody is taking notice of what’s happening with vocational training. Unless vocational training is regulated we are all at the mercy of Trinity acting with integrity and honesty, and I, like their whistle-blowers, suspect that this is not always the case. As they have failed to properly implement an independent investigation into what happened to us systemic issues still remain. To be clear what I mean by this, as I’m aware that Trinity always states that an independent arbiter did investigate our claims – I’m talking about a truly independent investigation that looks at the whistle-blower evidence, with both ourselves and the 3 assessors directly attached to our process all interviewed.

As of today 86% of The MTA’s class of 2022 have secured their first contract. Contracts that have included operas, No 1 tours, pantos etc. This is not a fluke year for us. Pre-pandemic we would regularly see around 75% of our graduates employed within 3 to 4 months of graduating. Our stats clearly demonstrated that we were a successful college that got students industry-ready.

So I will keep shouting into the abyss until validating organisations are held to account, and until access routes to funding for vocational training are properly regulated. To be absolutely clear I’m not shouting for The MTA, we’re done for. I’m shouting for new colleges like CAST.