London’s Academy Drama School has gone bankrupt owing thousands of pounds to students who will now be unable to complete their training at the institution.
Some of the school’s 63 full-time pupils had paid up to £1,350 in advance for tuition and were more than halfway through a two-year course. They were called into a meeting on the last day of term before Christmas to be told that the school had gone bust and they would not be getting their money back.
One student told The Stage: “We weren’t given any notice at all. The teachers didn’t say anything, they made out next year would still go ahead right up to the last minute. There were second year’s there who were distraught. I couldn’t stop crying. I haven’t got the money now to go elsewhere and I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Judith Reynolds, who founded the Whitechapel-based school in 1985 with her late husband Tim, said she had known since November that it was on the verge of bankruptcy but insisted that the board had been trying “everything in its power” to prevent the closure from happening.
She said the organisation had got into financial difficulty because it had not put up its fees enough over the years and because it was owed £67,000 by students who had not paid up.
“After Tim died we realised the school was in financial difficulty,” she explained. “The bank agreed to allow us a £60,000 overdraft and I put in £5,000 of my own money. Unfortunately, we only managed to collect £3,000 of what we were owed, plus the bank changed its mind and only gave us a £40,000 overdraft.
“We looked at it in November and realised we probably couldn’t get through January’s term, so we couldn’t take people’s money for it. There was nothing I could do to stop the school going.”
Former principal Daniel Brennan is launching a new drama school in Wapping this month, offering Academy students the opportunity to continue their training with him and allowing them to deduct the amount they have lost from their fees.
The Actor Works will use several of the teachers who previously worked at the Academy but has no links to its former owners. Like its predecessor, it will offer a full-time evening course, allowing students the option to work during the day to support themselves financially.
Some former pupils have expressed concern that they will receive fewer hours than on their previous courses but Brennan said he expected the majority to transfer to the new school.