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LIPA opens free sixth-form performing arts college

Third BRIT school good news for teens without a sugar daddy

Written by . Published on June 19th 2014.

LIPA opens free sixth-form performing arts college

LIVERPOOL is to get its first free sixth form college dedicated to the stage.

Following on from the announcement that the Liverpool Institure for Performing Arts is to open a primary school in September (motto: "Learning y Doing"), Michael Gove's Education Department today revealed that LIPA has been granted permission to open a college for 16-year-olds, operating as a free school.

LIPA is hailing it as "BRIT 3" and it is set to open in 2015 - 21 years after the school's boss, Mark Featherstone Witty, created the first BRIT (British Record Industry Trust) school, in Croydon, Adele and Amy Winehouse were among its students. 

LIPA, which last year bought the former Liverpool Art College building on Hope Street, says the new sixth form "will offer 16-18 year olds the opportunity to achieve accredited, recognised qualifications in an institution that mirrors the ethos and curriculum of renowned higher education establishment LIPA co-founded by Lead Patron Sir Paul McCartney and Principal Mark Featherstone-Witty", newly an OBE. 

Featherstone-Witty says he sees the new sixth form as the third BRIT School (Birmingham Ormiston Academy is widely known as BRIT 2). 

“The new LIPA sixth form marks the progression of a dream conceived back in the 1980s to create a performing arts school focused on the skills needed to achieve lasting careers within arts and entertainment," he says. "That dream initially led to the creation of The Brit School and has now inspired the concept of The LIPA Sixth Form, offering young people the chance to learn through the creative and performing arts. 

Mark Featherstone Witty %28Pic by Stephanie De Leng%29Mark Featherstone Witty (Pic by Stephanie De Leng)

“The announcement today is the start of an exciting journey, which will see us recruit teachers and enlist the Sixth Form’s first students, who will study a range of BTEC, A-level or equivalent courses emphasising the creative and performing arts. 

“We will offer students a unique opportunity to understand and learn how the performing arts industry works, as well as how to succeed in working in it or create their own enterprises. 

“It’s the ideal extension to the LIPA family, complementing what’s already been achieved in the 18 years since LIPA’s launch in 1996.” 

A big break for a messy kid from a council estate?

Steve Mcgann And Heidi ThomasSteve McGann, with wife Heidi Thomas, bemoans a lack of opportunity for the young to break into film and TV

DEDICATED, vocational, free education for 16-18 year olds in the performing arts has been thin on the ground in Liverpool for many years (writes Angie Sammons).

At one time, Wavertree's Mabel Fletcher Technical College offered a full-time course in theatre studies for sixth formers, alongside other more formal A-Level subjects. However any parent worried that their wannabe Redgrave was about to embark on a shaky trajectory into the dramatic arts needn't have worried. The leaden course's unlikely ourcome was that it served to dissuade far more students from treading the boards than it ever created - Cathy Tyson and Ian Hart being notable exceptions. 

But with LIPA's its track record - "of the 87 per cent of graduates traced after three years since leaving, 92 per cent are in work" - things may be different.  

Gove's free schools have many downsides, but news of this kind of sixth form, which will be run in partnership with Edge Hill University, is bound to be welcomed by Year 11 pupils pursuing the notion of a career in the entertainment industry while studying more formal academic qualifications close to home.

But that's not all. Toxteth-born actor Steve McGann, who stars in Call The Midwife (written by his Livepudlian wife, Heidi Thomas) recently said the opportunities for working class actors on stage and screen are becoming so limited that a “messy kid from a council estate” like himself would no longer be able to forge a career.

Old Etonians Tom Hiddleston and Damian Lewis, as well as Harrow’s Benedict Cumberbatch, currently dominate Britain's theatre and TV world. Meanwhile, any young, unpaid intern starting out in film or TV can only do so with a private source of income. It is a demographic that can't not have a significant impact on the creative mindset of these industries 20 years down the line. 

Let us hope that LIPA's new venture will give a boost to those who are unable to rely on the financial support of a minted family to fund their aspirations - and a leg up onto a ladder tantalisingly out of reach.

Tweets by Angie Sammons here.

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AnonymousJune 19th 2014.

Chris Maloney's new Academy for performing arts has obviously got them running scared.

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