Chichester leads the way for disabled performers

Chichester-CollegeEducators in Chichester will launch a pioneering educational project for young actors, dancers and musicians with learning disabilities on February 26th.

Chichester College has joined forces with Chichester Festival Theatre and Rolls-Royce to launch a specialist training in the performing arts for students who live with conditions such as Down syndrome, autism and Asperger syndrome.

The ground-breaking programme, entitled Theatre Inc., is the first of its kind in the UK to be recognised by the Government’s Educational Funding Agency.

It will be launched at Chichester Festival Theatre on 26th February at 7pm, attended by local business leaders, community leaders and academics.

A new approach for learning disability

According to Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities only 6.6% of UK adults with learning disabilities are in paid employment.The performing arts can offer a valuable outlet and potential career to people with disability, but the right training has often been hard to find.

Only 1 in 3 people with a learning disability will take part in education or training and currently 58,000 people with a learning disability are supported by day care centres.

Courses are publicly funded up to the age of 25, but students with learning disabilities have often had to re-enrol in similar courses. This means they lack ways to develop skills in one area, find it hard to become specialists or gain qualifications leading to employment.

Estelle Palmer, lecturer at Chichester College, said: “I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and training many brilliant, talented students who desperately wanted to continue their training past the foundation level, but had hit an academic ceiling.

“They could pursue recreational courses which were fun, but not designed to prepare people for employment. We want students to fulfil their potential and become technical specialists who can pursue careers in the performing arts.”

To solve this problem, Theatre Inc. will provide youngsters with the experience of a professional performance company. It will offer specialist, vocational training to young performers through a supported work placement.

The training will be tailored to individuals’ needs and abilities, focusing on the performing arts but also covering numeracy, literacy, ICT, communication and general life-skills.

Lecturer in Dance, Siobhan McCormark, added: “Everyone wants to see greater diversity in the arts.

“To achieve that, we need to look at what’s happening in our schools and colleges. Theatre Inc. is a first step to create opportunities for talented young people with learning difficulties, and unlock their potential in the working world.”

About Chichester College

Chichester College is one of the UK’s top 10 further education colleges, with 15,000 students at campuses in Chichester and Brinsbury and smaller centres in Bognor Regis, Littlehampton and Worthing. The College was given overall ‘Outstanding’ status by Ofsted in 2014.

The College is open throughout over the summer to give advice and receive applications for courses starting in September. If you would like information about apprenticeships at Chichester College information can be found on or call the Workforce Skills team on 01243 786321

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