With small class sizes, READ College assures its students of attention and support throughout their training at the Reading-based performing arts foundation college, which is dedicated to widening access through means-tested bursaries
If you were to pick a foundation performing arts course on statistics alone, then those offered by READ College would be an obvious choice. Since the school was founded in 2008, 96.5% of its graduates have gone on to gain places at vocational training establishments, ending up everywhere from RADA to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
That extraordinary graduate success rate is only part of the picture, according to co-founder Jamie Read. The Reading-based college is proud of its remarkable record, but it is equally proud of its nurturing, family-like ethos and its dedication to making performing arts training as accessible as possible.
“Our students go on to do all sorts of really amazing stuff, from acting, to writing, to producing, to directing,” says Read. “But they also really enjoy their time here. They are treated as young professionals so they do a lot of work, but they are always really well supported, too. Our class sizes are small – there are only 50 or 60 students across the entire school every year – so everyone receives a lot of attention. It’s intensive without being intense at READ College.”
“Widening access has always been at the heart of what we do,” he continues. “Through our Access to the Arts scheme, we offer means-tested bursaries to anyone whose household income is less than £70,600. And if that still isn’t enough, we work with charities, sponsors and trusts to endeavour to find further financial support.”
READ College offers four full-time courses – two vocational sixth-form courses in acting and musical theatre, and two one-year foundation courses in acting and musical theatre. Each is designed to equip students with the technical skills and academic expertise to gain them places at drama school, and to help them excel when they get there.
“No two days are the same,” Read says. “Students are in college for an 8.30am start and will have up to seven lessons until 6.30pm in the evening. They spend a lot of time on vocational skills, of course, but they also do contextual studies so they understand the industry itself and how to navigate it.”
Everything takes place at READ College’s own building – a converted Victorian church in the thriving student town of Reading, only half-an-hour’s train ride from central London and the world-class theatres of the West End. Most students live within walking distance of the facility, in student accommodation or in vetted homestay situations.
Teaching is led by Read and his co-founder and partner Helen Read, alongside a 14-strong staff of experienced tutors and industry professionals and an attentive welfare faculty dedicated to taking good care of every single student – a responsibility that includes a robust and regularly updated policy concerning Covid-19. READ College’s relationship with its students doesn’t stop at graduation, either.
“We have a thriving network of alumni, and we keep in touch with all of them,” says Read. If they are ever having a bit of a wobble or don’t know what to do with their career, they can come back for a cup of tea and a chat. We always support our graduates in their triumphs and help them through their disasters.”
Interested individuals can apply to study at READ College through the college website. Entrance auditions and interviews are currently scheduled to take place in-person in 2021, and Read says he will be looking at applicants’ attitude as well as their ability.
“Of course, we are looking for people with potential,” he says. “But we are also looking for people with the right mindset. People who are going to throw themselves into it all. People who are going to help us help them succeed.”
For more information, visit readcollege.org