When I was a secondary English teacher pupils often asked me for advice about performing arts careers. They knew that I write for The Stage (as I have been doing so for the best part of twenty years now). They came hoping for some sensible, impartial, informed thoughts, since typically careers advisers and teachers know little about it, parents rarely want you do it and school drama departments tend (understandably) to be unreasonably prejudiced in favour.
So what did I tell them? “If this is your dream and it’s what you really want, then I think you should have a go — because otherwise you’re going to regret it for the rest of your life,” I would say. Then came the parent-appeasing ‘but.’ But, I told them as firmly as I could that I thought they should also make sure they were developing another reasonable means of earning a living at the same time. I recall one student mentioning, for example, that she had a lifeguard qualification and did holiday work at the local pool and another who was working for a qualification as a tennis coach. Both useful sources of top-up income.
Another obvious way of making sure you can always pay the bills - without having to resort to bar or call centre work - is to get some sort of teacher training qualification along the way. That way you can always supplement your income by sharing your performing arts skills with children and adults. I frequently pointed this out to potential drama students in my informal careers counselling sessions - and sometimes to their parents.
And now Stagecoach Theatre Arts, which has just launched Stagecoach teacher training, could be a useful way of adding another string to the bow for some of such students or professional performers.
The Associate Diploma in Performance Arts (ADPA) has been developed by teachers working with young people in part-time performing arts schools. It’s an international qualification awarded and conducted by Performance Arts Awards, and taught by Stagecoach Theatre Arts plc.
The intensive course is taught over 10 days and offers a minimum of 60 hours contact time with tutors. Unit One is about lesson planning and delivery and Unit Two focuses on Assessing and Observing Teaching Practice. Anyone without teaching experience must show evidence of 20 hours experience before being allowed to progress to Unit Two. At the end of Unit One candidates are assessed on all the components of the course and interviewed by an examiner. The Unit Two examination lasts about two and a half hours and includes both practical work and discussion with an examiner.
There is a fast-track option for anyone with a strong background in teaching for which the overall fee is £225. The fee for the full course is £1050. The next full course begins on 28 February (with further opportunities in April and November). The next fast-track course also starts on 28 February with another option in December.
The application form is - incidentally - so straightforward that it would be a pleasure to fill it in. The course is open to those aged 18+ and I would certainly be pointing my “thespy” sixth formers in its direction if I were still teaching. It would, for example, be a sensible ‘gap’ year project before drama school because you could then teach part-time during your training. But, of course, it also has plenty to offer performers who are already launched but wanting, or needing, to diversify.