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Theatre-led free school proposed for Berkshire

Students at Niki Robinson's private performing arts school Artemis Studios
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A free school for the performing arts for 16 to 19 year olds has been proposed in Berkshire by an ex-Brit School student who wants to ease the “lottery” of state-funded drama education outside London.

Robinson Academy of Creative and Technical Arts aims to offer acting and musical theatre training to 400 students, with aspiring technicians also able to take classes in theatre technology and design, filming and streaming, and photography.

Courses will be offered as a mix of A Level, BTec and other vocational qualifications.

Brit School graduate Niki Robinson is leading the steering group behind the school, and told the The Stage that young people are being placed at a disadvantage because parents cannot afford to send them to fee-paying schools.

She said: “I see all these young people who desperately want to do this for a living, they have talent, they have ambition, they just don’t have the resources. I want these kids to have what I had, I was so lucky that I got into Brit.”

Robinson, who runs private performing arts school Artemis Studios, explained she was motivated to open a free school because 25% of young people on her courses could not afford part-time training, and had to be subsidised by fundraising.

RACTA will cost about £3.5 million to build and will take students from within a 40-minute commute from the proposed site in Bracknell, opening the school to students from inside and outside London.

Criticising the availability of free theatre education outside the capital, Robinson added: “It’s such a lottery for anyone who doesn’t live in central London to get any kind of decent, free arts provision. It’s not to slate local state schools… but they’re not run vocationally.

“Whether you’re going to be an actor, singer, dancer, technician, director or producer, you train as hard as if you were to be a doctor. You might not be saving lives, but you train super hard.”

If approved, the academy would join existing performing arts free schools such as LIPA Primary School in Liverpool.

RACTA’s steering group has been given the backing of the independent advisory body New Schools Network, and is looking for an experienced head teacher to act as project adviser.

The group’s proposal will be submitted to government in May, which will decide whether to fund or reject the free school.

If the plans are given the go-ahead it is hoped the school will be built in time to open in September 2016.

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