From education to employment

Improved Management and Attainment for Theatre and Dance School

An inspection can often be a stressful time for an institution, as administrators, managers and teachers all strive to meet the criteria of the inspectors to be awarded the status of “successful”.

In some instances, one inspection leads directly to a second visit, to determine whether or not there has been a significant improvement in provision and an attempt made to address the issues raised in the first inspection visit. This was the case for the Millennium Dance 2000 Theatre School, who welcomed inspectors back again to assess improvements in management structure in particular and general provision. The re – inspection was published earlier this year

A Story of the History

The school is a performing arts school based in the fashionable Belsize Park in north London. The courses on offer include a three year, full-time, course in both dance and musical theatre which leads to an internal diploma in performance as well as leading into national diplomas in dance and / or musical theatre.

Considerable expansion has taken place since the school’s foundation in 1997. It moved to its present location in the Interchange arts complex in the old Hampstead Town Hall in 2000, and shares accommodation with other arts bodies in the area. The mission statement promises to “provide an outstanding opportunity for young dancers of the millennium.” The school aims to accomplish this through highlighting the creative and inspirational side of their staff. Discipline is also called upon, all of which combined creates ““ it is hoped – a “progressive environment”.

The Re ““ Inspection

The initial inspection of the course took place in May 2002, with a level 2 or “good” grade being awarded for achievement and standards and the quality of education and training as well as for leadership and management. The course was inspected again in October of 2004, and the management and leadership of the college were thought to merit a return visit to assess progress made in 2005.

The re ““ inspection appears to have found substantial improvement in terms of the performance of the management structure. Amongst the “key strengths” of the school were the links with the performance and theatre industry (rated as “excellent”) and either good or very good teaching provision. The Matt Mattox based jazz technique in use was singled out for praise, with the inspectors finding the standards especially high.

The good grade card, so to speak, continued when the focus was turned upon issues of staff and management. The loyalty and commitment of the staff ““ all 26 teachers at the time of the 2004 inspection were part time, not including eight accompanists and guest tutors who visited occasionally ““ was praised. The school has been found to have a strong and clear commitment and a clear vision for the future, a strong professional ethos and a strong, effective leadership.

Concrete Support?

However, and worryingly, the report raises as an area for improvement the level of attainment in the classroom. It also states that, whilst the overall management picture is good and certain issues previously raised (such as the theatre programme and the audition process) there remains work to be done. The inspection team cite a lack of what they call an “institutional development plan”.

The report also claims that the criteria upon which admission and acceptance are judged through the audition process are not clearly enough expressed. It also finds that students rely to some degree on informal guidance, rather than documented or regimented procedures. This, of course, is a difficult area for any performing arts institution. The report would seem to indicate that the school should offer more concrete guidance and support for students.

On the whole, this should be taken to be a resounding success for the Millennium Dance 2000 Theatre School, particularly in the area of professional development. Too many people enter arts institutions with little idea of the best practices for entering the workforce of the industry, and often leave with just as little awareness. Issues of attainment and the audition criteria, however, should be addressed to assure the continued success of the school.

Jethro Marsh

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