The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from School of the Arts Sota is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.
School of the Arts Sota
Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett, MP
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles, MP
1SCHOOL OF THE ARTS SOTA |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
Founder Juliette Caton
Younger SOTA pupils
enjoying their first moments
Following a 20-year career as a screen actress and West
End performer, Juliette Caton founded School of the Arts
(SOTA) in 2005 with the aim of delivering outstanding
training in performing arts to young people between three and
18 years old. Dance, acting and singing training is delivered by
dance teachers, choreographers, acting coaches and singing
teachers who not only have professional performing industry
experience but also teach from that context. Juliette offers the
a further insight into her organisation.
With an enormous selection of dance and drama schools already available, I knew that
to survive, SOTA must bring something different to the marketplace, and that is what
we did, by bringing our extensive industry knowledge and experience to thetable.
A diverse approach to training
Our awareness as professional performers of what it takes to survive in our highly
competitive industry has helped not only our pupils to thrive but our business
too. Fourteen years of nurturing talent and developing creativity has led to the
establishment of three SOTA schools in Reading, Windsor and Bracknell and has
seen thousands of pupils achieving internationally recognised qualifications with
the examination boards of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and the
Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing.
Where some part-time theatre schools only offer dance and drama examinations and
others just offer freer, creative classes, we deliver a comprehensively orchestrated
blend of qualifications alongside a wider variety of performance opportunities.
SCHOOL OF THE ARTS SOTA
»Founder: Juliette Caton
»Established in 2005
»Based in Reading, Windsor
»Services: Dance, acting and
»No. of employees: 15
»Berkshire’s leading performing
arts academy and theatre
School of the Arts
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
2| SCHOOL OF THE ARTS SOTA
This allows pupils to experience
intimate performance settings such
as solo cabaret-style performances
as well as larger biannual shows at
local professional theatres. Some
even perform regularly on a West
End stage. We find this combination
of qualifications and performance
experiences gives SOTA pupils the best
of both worlds.
Our reputation in the industry for
providing training to a professional
standard has led to many of our pupils
gracing the West End stage in musicals
and between 2017 and 2018, we had
pupils working on every major movie
that was shot in the UK, including
Mary Poppins Returns
Solo: A Star
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of
SOTA students have gained places at
the top full-time drama schools and
performing arts colleges. We have
alumni appearing on national theatre
tours, in West End productions, and
successfully working in the film, TV and
theatre sector – an accomplishment
not to be underestimated given that
two per cent of actors actually make
a living from the profession and 90
per cent are unemployed at any one
time. It’s the realities of the industry
that inform the training we deliver,
ensuring the fun and enjoyment always
comes as a result of being challenged
and highly disciplined.
Not everyone will be a star
Personal growth for the individual
is key. Not every pupil harbours
dreams of becoming a professional
performer, but at least one thing
is clear: that what our pupils learn
in their classes and rehearsals with
us – such as personal resilience
and autonomy, mind-body control,
physical stamina, self-expression,
creative communication and self-
directed practice – are valuable and
transferrable skills that will support
them through life, giving them a
future-proofed advantage in whatever
vocation they choose.
Our app-lication of
In the 14 years that SOTA has been in
existence, we have seen huge changes
in technology, and we recently
embraced that by developing our
own app, which enables pupils and
parents to access timetables, order
uniforms and receive notifications to
their devices. Nevertheless, we insist
pupils put their screens away during
breaks, creating an environment
for uninterrupted real-life social
connection: a value which is at the
heart of performing arts.
We are increasingly employing
technology to support our teaching
beyond the studio, creating video
tutorials to support pupil-directed
home practice, and we recently
delivered an entire day of training
through online tutorials when the
school had to close for a snow day.
This ensured that our pupils didn’t miss
out on their beloved SOTA Saturday.
Pupils performing in
SOTA Goes To The
at the Wilde
places at the
3SCHOOL OF THE ARTS SOTA |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
A response to GDPR
The changes in GDPR legislation were
incredibly challenging to implement.
We discovered that thousands of other
theatre schools were experiencing
similar difficulties, and therefore
we united through social media to
support each other and navigate a
Our experience was that the
changes were unreasonably vast
and complex, and the process was
further hindered by inaccessible
and complicated so-called advice.
As a small business owner, it was
an incredibly stressful period that
was spent trying to ascertain exactly
what changes we needed to make
within the short space of time given.
With support for small businesses
evidently lacking, implementing the
enormous amount of new processes
and procedures before the deadline
felt like an unreasonable expectation.
We communicated with many dance
schools nationwide who spoke of
wanting to simply close the doors of
It is worth noting here that once a
business has declared it processes data
on a particular “basis”, it can never
change the way it operates, as this
would be considered to be reneging
on data protection choices it had
previously given its customers. Of the
many businesses we communicated
with during this difficult transition,
several have since revealed that they
have regretfully discovered that the
data processing basis they chose for
their business, in the absence of any
meaningful support and in haste to
meet the deadline, was not the most
practical or accurate one, and they
now find themselves married to a
system of data processing fraught with
administrative complexity, which they
are stuck with for life.
Since Gordon Brown’s 2006 introduction
of film tax-relief incentives, Britain
has become one of the world’s movie
centres, and there is no doubt that
Brexit hovers over our industry like an
unwelcome ghost of Christmas future.
It will have an undisputedly negative
impact on the current £8 billion annual
film industry production spend and
will make worldwide collaboration
challenging and expensive, leaving
competitor regions with the option
of presenting more attractive
opportunities in order to tempt
productions away from the UK.
It was entirely appropriate that
“culture and education” was one
of the five “co-operative accords”
earmarked in the July 2018 Brexit
white paper as an area where
continued co-operation with Europe is
deemed particularly important. We’ll
all need to be creative, resourceful
and willing to foster new alliances in
order to generate innovative solutions
if we are to protect our industry –
qualities that our training is consciously
equipping our pupils with.
leads to outstanding
The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review
A new Prime Minister, a new Education Secretary and, as we're all painfully aware, a deeply uncertain future. It is in this context that the education service continues to deliver for individuals, communities and of course for our nation.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the education service as a whole, schools, post 16/Further Education, and yes, lifelong learning, needs the most enormous injection of cash. Independent analysis shows that there has been at least an 8% average reduction in the amount of spend per pupil in our schools. Those damaged most by this have been pupils with special educational needs, whose voices are sadly rarely heard. The necessity of urgent action was underlined in July by the report of the all-party House of Commons Select Committee on Education. They could not have been clearer about the need for substantial funding and a long-term 10-year commitment.
At the same time, there are a number of reviews taking place. One of them, in relation to post-16 qualifications, is in danger of a classic mistake by politicians and officials who have little or no understanding of the complex territory they're dealing with. Namely, the ridiculous proposition that BTEC National Diplomas might be set aside because 'T Levels are the gold standard'!
I'm in favour of T Levels, but in the right context and for the right outcome. They are intended to be extremely focused specialist qualifications in defined areas of employment. When and if they eventually take off – there is predicted to be just a thousand students in 2021-22 taking up the qualification – they will not replace the BTEC, which has been the workhorse providing a general and high-quality education for decades. The BTEC has equipped young people for a variety of opportunities in a very changing employment market where the development of artificial intelligence, robotics, and changed working practices makes confining the choice of vocational pathways to one narrow focus, frankly ridiculous.
Meanwhile, her Majesty's Opposition continue to throw out titbits which do not give, as yet, a very clear idea of what, if elected, Labour would do in office. What is needed is positive proposals. Abolishing this, that or the other – assessments/tests for those leaving primary school, for instance – is not the same thing as a very forward-looking agenda for radical improvement in standards and equity between those who can and cannot afford additional help for their children.
There are a handful of Labour Party members, supported by some people who ought to know better, who have decided that a full-frontal assault on private education would be a good idea. For those worried about this, stop worrying. A party that put this in its manifesto wouldn't get elected, and if by some fluke it did, it would be challenged in the courts to the point where all the contradictions would be exposed for everyone to see.
Just contemplate one simple fact. 20% of secondary schoolchildren in the borough of Hackney attend private schools! Yes, Hackney. This is because a large number of parents, some of whom scrape the money together, are sending their children to private education in London which happens to be the area of England with the best academic outcomes from state education. What's more, very large numbers (again, particularly in London) pay for private tutors. At the last estimate 40% of parents in London had at some point over the last year paid for a tutor for their child!
Perhaps therefore an opposition party, hoping to provide unity rather than division, opportunity for all rather than a futile class battle against educational privilege, would seek ways of ensuring that those who can't afford tutors have the kind of support outside school that would put them on equal terms.
One thing is very certain, no government would be able to stop parents buying additional tutoring for their children.
So, a practical agenda for equalising opportunity, for investing where it's needed most, for transforming the pipeline from school through college, apprenticeships, or university, is a goal worth fighting for. A positive way of linking business and education through political decision-making, with the delivery by excellent professionals in the education service, to the children of today and the economy of tomorrow. Surely that is a much more progressive and less negative way forward for both government and opposition.