Means-tested DaDA awards to exclude wealthiest students

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One of the major funding streams for vocational drama and dance training in England will now means test applicants, with students from wealthier backgrounds no longer eligible for the bursaries.

From September, eligibility for the government-funded Dance and Drama Award will be based on a student’s household income. If this exceeds £70,000, the student will have to pay full tuition fees, with a sliding scale of funding for those on incomes below this level. However, information about a student’s financial background will not be available to schools during the audition process, so that awards are still based on ability.

In recent years, all pupils selected to receive a DaDA, apart from those in families earning less than £33,000 a year, had to pay an annual fee of £1,275 towards their tuition.

Under new arrangements, students enrolling from the academic year 2013/14 to 2015/16 will top up their fees by contributing money towards them, depending on their household income. Those from low-income families will still be exempt.

There has been a mixed reaction to the changes, with some in the sector grateful the DaDAs are continuing, while others believe it will create more work for schools.

Sue Robertson, principal at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, said it was a “matter of swings and roundabouts”.

She said that although the scheme is now fairer, it also creates “a greater period of uncertainty and potential anxiety” for students at Mountview as they will have to wait until “at least July” – two months before enrolling – to find out how much their fee contribution will be.

Liz Dale, head of education and training at the Council for Dance Education and Training, who also chaired the DaDA steering committee, said it is “lucky” that the scheme has been retained.

She said: “At a time when the arts are contracting considerably and money is under pressure, I think all the schools are absolutely delighted they have retained the same amount of money available... at an annual rate of £14 million.”

Support for maintenance costs will continue to be means tested, which has been the case since the scheme began in 1999. But individual schools will now have to carry out the administration for this.

Adrian Hall, co-director of ALRA, warned the new rules could deter many schools from taking part. He said: “This will make more financial work for the schools to make sure the figures are right and the allocation of the awards and percentages is correct for students.

“I would suggest there will be more than a few schools looking at it [the DaDA scheme] and going ‘it just isn’t worth it any more’. That is due to a combination of the value of the award now being in real terms about 20% less than it was five years ago and the cost of administering the scheme now falling on the schools.”

Ian Kellgren, chief executive of Drama UK, said it was “excellent news” that the DaDAs are continuing. He said: “There may be a few people who will be perhaps a little better or little worse off, but generally the intention of the department is that the people on low family incomes will pay less, those on slightly larger  incomes will pay about the same and those that are still within a band that you’d get subsidy for will be paying more.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “The Dance and Drama Awards will continue to support the most talented and likely to succeed in the industry. The amount of support for fees and maintenance that new DaDA students starting in September 2013 receive will be based on an assessment of family income, so the help is received by those students who need it most.”

She added that around the same number of awards will be made to students as in previous years.

More details are available at


  1. I wonder if anyone is going to ask the PARENTS of dancers what their thoughts are about this scheme? There are very few parents that will actually be able to afford 16+ training now that the new means-tested DaDa has come into effect as the scales are prohibitive to most parents from the middle band of the scales and hits a cliff-edge at £70k and I believe dance schools will see a huge slump in the number of dancers that can now take up these places.

  2. I am the mother of a dancer who has successfully auditioned for a place in the 6th form of a ballet school. However, we are slightly over the cut off point for DADA help as the sliding scale has been much reduced and so we can not afford to pay the full fees for her training. She has spend 4 years away from home missing family and local friends so she can persue her dreams of a classic ballet career and training hard. This is now not to be. I can say with certainty that the cut off point has been reached by many middle income families with two working parents in reasonable careers. The set top ammount does not include any other financial implications such as mortgages or other children/elderly relatives that also need to be supported. This means that there are many already financially squeezed middle income families who will be in the same position as ourselves who have to tell their dedicated children that although they are talented their dream cannot happen. These are fit, healthy and above all dedicated and focussed young people who would be an asset and role model to many of the younger generation but apparently not to our government.Who will represent the UK in the British dance companies in future years if all but the richest people can afford these new DADA rules????

  3. My husband and I earn just over the £70,000 cut off for DaDA funding. Given that the average combined cost of fees and maintenance at these schools is about £26,000 (nearly two thirds of our take-home net pay), the cost of post-16 training is completely out of our reach. Even if we sold our house, the equity would not cover the cost of a year’s training and we would have nowhere to live. Unlike degree-based training, there is no access to student loans either. My daughter has been at a specialist vocational ballet school on an MDS-funded place for 5 years and this will all now be completely wasted because the full costs of post-16 training are beyond reach. The schools should not be worrying about the admin costs – they should be worrying about all the talented students that they will lose as a result of these disproportionate funding changes. I already know of several students turning down final auditions because it is totally unaffordable. Parents have been given less than 6 months notice of these changes which affect children’s lives. Many more who are currently unaware of the changes will be turning down offered places when they realise the cost implications. Some of the most talented students will be lost and the overall standards will be reduced. This new scheme does NOT support the most talented – it skews it unfairly and rules out a whole cohort of talented children whose parents are by no means “wealthy” and both work incredibly hard long hours to just scrape in above the threshold!

  4. Have Ian Kellgren or Liz Dale actually looked at the implications of the new funding scales and worked out what it means to people in reality? It is completely unaffordable for anyone who earns over £70,000. There may be the same number of DaDAs but they are all going to those who earn lower incomes – how is that fair? How can you exclude a whole section of talented children? These schools fees and boarding cost the same as sending a child to Eton or Marlborough College. How many people earning £70,000 can afford that? We are not wealthy, we are barely making ends meet in our two bedroom terraced house in Berkshire.

  5. Many broken dreams after years of hardwork and sacrifice. Those overseeing these changes are totally out of touch with the cost implications of family life on incomes just over 70000 – with a child at university,mortgage and ever increasing cost of living these changes mean our dancing child will not be able to accept a place post 16. The figures need revising upwards!!

  6. This is terrible news and I’m so relieved my son’s now graduated. Even with funding in the mds scheme for years 7 to 11 and then the old DaDA, it was a real struggle for us. Under this new system there’s no way he could’ve continued his ballet training into sixth form, and he would not now be a professional ballet dancer! What a waste.

    (Although there are a couple of schools who fund things differently – I think we’ll find Central for example overrun with applications next year!)

  7. Under the new scheme we cannot afford to send our 2 daughters to train – 1 in Musical Theatre and 1 in ballet because under the new scheme other children are not taken into account. We earn just over the threshold of £33,000. A friends daughter who is on a low income can only afford to audition for 1 school, taking into account audition fees, travel costs, overnight accommodation then maintenance because even on a low income the maintenance provision part of a dada doesn’t cover. The school she is auditioning for is close to relatives so no maintenance. So who exactly benefits from these changes??

  8. We are both retired parents who are in the lowest income bracket but have suffered as our daughter auditioned and was offered a non-funded palace last year at Alra. Since Alra opened it’s Wigan school their original DaDA allocation has been split between both school sites of Wandsworth and Wigan. My daughter did not know when she paid her audition fee and attended the audition this was the case! All of my daughter’s cohort joining in 2012 have been disadvantaged and clearly discriminated against as the school has recent intakes have suffered financially from this unfair lack of parity. Despite our contacting two members for parliament; one from our home location and Lisa Nandy MP for her Wigan new home location, nothing has been done to right this obvious wrong. We have also contacted the Education Funding Agency, David Willett’s Department as they have only raised the student loan to £6,000 for students attending private providers as Alra. We have also explained our standpoint to Ian Kellgren of Drama UK. My daughter worked at two jobs during a gap year as well as studied for an additional A level in English. She could not take up her opportunity to dance under Danny Boyle at the Olympics ceremonies as needed to work to save for drama school. Now she cannot get hlep with her prescription charges, dentist etc. as she averaged more than £52ut this ridiculous mess as something has to be done here. The criteria for offering the DaDA’s are nonsensical as these should be awarded retrospectively when a student who has been offered a place proves they have the ability to withstand the training. A short audition is not fair or viable grounds on which to offer such life-changing fee waivers. With university academic excellence bursaries, at least a student has to ‘hit’ a level of continuing success in all they work at otherwise the perk is withdrawn. Everyone can now access a student loan so that woyld be the fairest way to fund at private schools then offer scholarships on actual proof of a likelihood to succeed in the industry. All students who get through gruelling auditions are equally talented. Every person’s idea of talent is different therefore to award some and not others is divisive and morally and ethically wrong. The other very strange phenomenon is that of the qualification. How can a degree be the same as a Trinity award just because it suits the government in terms of funding a DaDA whereas Student Finance England offer loands to the non-DaDA SUCCESSFUL auditionees! We have been told the DaDA quotas were and still are based upon ‘historical’ data. We care not about an old, outmoded system but know that today if all schools, validated as NCDT competent and equal should all receive the same DaDA quotas. I have figures of awards by contacting schools and they vary dramatically. Where is the fairness or justification for this. The government is attempting to take advantage yet again of young people although even mature students can attract such an award. There has to be far more honesty, transparency and discussion concerning the issues I have raised here. Funding details such as number of awards available should be clearly displayed on drama school websites along with the fees. Our experience has caused unbelievable stress and anxiety and it should NOT have been necessary for me to have become a detective all because those people and authorities who should be supporting our talented, hardworking young people clealry cannot be trusted. Also, non-DaDA students are referred to as purely fee-subsidisers for the government framework etc on-line. There is absolutely NO duty of care towards the self-funded students as they are not even mentioned. Ofsted only go into schools on behalf of Trinity Awards to see how our tax-payer’s, public funds are being spent on the scholarship students. What rights do the self-funded TRAINING PERFORMERS HAVE? It should not be the case that in the eyes of the government and arts related organisations non-scholarship students are regarded as second-class, second-rate hopefuls who were lucky to be offered a place to train. If that were true however, why was my daughter offered an outright place following audition and is doing incredibly well now in her first year? As a british citizen this should not be the reality. Afeee structure should be just that and the only people paying higher fees should be foreign students. If all studetns train alongside one another and rely upon each other they should all enjoy similar funding advantages and possible bursaries on track record alone. It has even been pointed out that where such actions benefit some of the community but to the detriment to others then there could well be legal implications. How very sad it is when a young person cannot just concentrate on working incredibly hard in an area they love, with people they have become fond of and respect, at a school they regard as brilliant for fear of worrying the limited state financial support could be inadequate to enable them to complete their training.

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