In attendance: Trudi, Sarah, Beth, Rinkoo & Pam

Context of the discussion: Following the recent collapse of the drama school accreditation system, Spotlight and Equity have this year introduced a new set of criteria which all training courses must meet in order for their students to qualify for student or graduate membership of their organisations. This new criteria includes a stipulation that a training course must carry an awarded qualification, equivalent to NQF level 5 (degree level). The School, London is a new actor training set up by Trudi Rees and staffed entirely by former tutors from The Poor School, and is one of a number of schools whose students will not qualify for student/graduate membership of Spotlight & Equity under the new criteria, owing to the fact that the course does not carry an awarded qualification. The Poor School closed last year, after 32 years of successfully training actors from all backgrounds and walks of life; many of whom would never have had the chance to train had it not been for the course's unique structure, allowing students to work and earn whilst they studied. Had the Poor School continued to operate, its students would this year have lost the opportunity of joining Spotlight and Equity on graduation - a vital part of entry into the industry.

It was felt that the inclusion of an awarded, degree-level qualification as part of the new criteria could potentially discriminate against certain individuals and groups wishing to enter the industry, for example those who are older and wishing to change career, may already have a degree and are unable to afford full time study, those who would struggle with the pressure of assessments, etc.

The group was joined by Rinkoo, who talked about his experiences as a deaf actor. He himself does not have a degree and honed his acting skills by attending workshops and taking part in productions - an 'on the job' training. He made some interesting points about how he uses his physicality in his acting and also about some of the things that actors would need to understand when working with a deaf actor. It was felt that this could potentially be explored in terms of training, as a workshop with someone like Rinkoo as part of the two year training course could provide valuable experience for actors about to enter the industry. Rinkoo also shared details of his one man show, which is due to take place at Camden People's Theatre on 19th March.

The group was also joined by Pam, who reminded us of the 'old' Equity rules, whereby you needed an Equity card in order to get an acting job but you needed to gain paid acting credits in order to gain an Equity card, thus creating a vicious circle...

Pam suggested that the best approach to the issue would be to join forces with some other institutions who were similarly affected and then make an approach to The Stage with our thoughts. She also suggested compiling a list of successful actors who would not have gained their Spotlight/ Equity membersip under the new criteria, in order to add weight to the argument.

Pam also suggested that there may be a good reason why this particular stipulation had been made by Spotlight/ Equity, but that their membership department may not be best placed to explain this reasoning, as they were not experts in education and may not themselves fully appreciate the different qualification levels/ equivalents and their requirements. She suggested the department of education may be a good port of call to investigate what equivalent qualifications were available and how possible it would be to make the course into an awarded qualification without making any major changes to its structure/ substance.

Next steps: The School will be contacting other institutions who may have been similarly affected by the implementation of the new criteria and will aim to discuss with them the possibility of a combined approach and potentially an online petition to gather support from other quarters.

To follow our progress, check, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@TheSchoolLDN) or get in touch via email: [email protected].