CDS and NCDT merge to form Drama UK

Two of the UK’s foremost performing arts training organisations have merged to create a body responsible for championing and improving drama training at all levels across the country.

Drama UK has been formed from the merger of the National Council for Drama Training, which was responsible for accrediting courses at top drama schools, and the Conference of Drama Schools, the membership body representing the ‘premier league’ of Britain’s acting institutions such as RADA, LAMDA and the Central School of Speech and Drama.

The new organisation will assume the functions undertaken by both these bodies, but will also act as an advocate for the whole of the drama training sector and will host a website offering an overview of training options from age three and up, for parents and students to consult prior to choosing a course or group.

Ian Kellgren, the former director of NCDT, will serve as chief executive of Drama UK. He told The Stage the organisations would be a “champion for drama training, providing advocacy, assurance and advice”.

He added: “Given the circumstances that the industry finds itself in – which is, as ever, a strong supply of performers but an increasing demand for technical staff – the time seemed right to move forward to something new.

“So, we took the two organisations, which had their own strengths, and are bringing them together but also creating added value so that they could become advocates and champions for the drama training sector. Drama UK came from NCDT and CDS, but it is not a regurgitation of those two organisations.”

The move has been welcomed by leading figures within the theatre industry.

Society of London Theatre chief executive Julian Bird, who also served on the steering group to set up Dance UK and will sit on its board, said: “Employers need a skilled workforce to continue to maintain our industry, which contributes £3.4 billion to the UK economy each year. By streamlining the functions of these two smaller organisations and focusing on advocacy, we are not only creating better value for our members but we are creating a fresh new voice for the sector.”

The Stage’s education and training editor Susan Elkin added: “This merger is very good news because it will make training provision information and funding arrangements much easier to access for potential students who usually found the former system complex, confusing and unhelpful.”

As well as offering accreditation for conservatoire-level courses, Drama UK will provide ‘quality assurance’ at two other levels for different types of drama training – recognition-level assurance will be aimed at non-conservatoire higher education courses and will guarantee a course delivers what it claims, while confirmation-level recognition, aimed at less formal types of education, will vouch for the safety of drama classes.

Schools will pay for accreditation, but anyone will be able to apply to have a free listing on Drama UK’s comparison website. The top two tiers of assurance will require site visits and inspections from Drama UK, while groups and courses signed up for confirmation will be subject to spot checks.

Drama UK will launch officially in the autumn and is recruiting for a president and a chair. Its board features principals from drama schools, theatre managers, union representatives and broadcasters. To avoid potential conflicts of interest, Drama UK’s quality assurance board, which inspects schools and grants accreditation and recognition, will be made up of industry professionals. Its recommendations will be binding on the board of Drama UK, unless shown to be “perverse or wrong-headed”.

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