BRIT Trust Diaries: Stuart Worden, Principal of The BRIT School
The BRIT School has started its 33rd year and, indeed, I have just embarked on my 30th year – both with a spring in our stride. We have 1,443 students, and I love it when term starts and you can feel their energy, excitement, fashion and creativity seep through the building.
And it comes off an incredible summer and an incredible year. Let me start with our results last month. Over 350 students graduated with the best results The BRIT School has ever produced.
When the national average is 25%, three quarters gained a University of the Arts London (UAL) distinction – that is the equivalent of three A's at A Level- nearly a 5% rise on last year. In addition we had fabulous results in the increase in A Level grades: 78% A*-C grades and a remarkable 47% A*-B grades. While these are dry statistics these are grades that will open up doors for so many young people – students now heading off from Croydon to St Martins to study Fashion and Graphic Design; actors going to RADA; film students going to Westminster and Production students going to Royal Welsh College – a whole bunch of students who have gigs coming up, students setting up their own production companies, putting on plays at the Fringe and a whole load going off to travel and change the world. That too is remarkable.
But don’t forget we also have Key Stage 4 and GCSEs where we also delivered. Nearly a third (30%) of our GCSEs were at 9-7, which is 8% above the national average and 86% of our grades were 4 or above which is nearly 20% above the national average. In fact we were in the top three schools in the borough of Croydon for GCSE results. The dream we had of the school being taken seriously as an institution for academic excellence as well as world class vocational training has once again become real. And on the vocational front, in Performing Arts, 94% of students gained a distinction. We should never take the arts achievements for granted.
The future is bright …..and all this came after our Ofsted report. For any state-funded school, an Ofsted inspection is one of life’s certainties and after five years since the last one, we knew our time was coming round again. Which it duly did in June. And, as what is known as an ‘ungraded’ report, it would have been hard to have done better. I feel proud for the staff and I feel proud for the students. As I say, this was before our results and I feel proud because of Ofsted's observations around BRITS’ culture – “extraordinarily high standards”, “children are happy”, “no reported bullying”, “staff are happy”, “trustees believe in a broad curriculum”, “all children with special educational needs are supported”, “harmonious community” and more.
In our wider community, last year we worked in Croydon schools and PRUs, in prisons, hospices, care homes and dementia centres. Every student has this unique experience in their curriculum to use their art as a force for good and make people’s lives better – values which of course chime with the BRIT Trust.
I always like to think of the future as being bright, yet it is getting financially harder and harder to deliver on our aspirations. We have a shortfall in funding of nearly £2,000 per head of student and that will only get higher. It’s not sustainable in the long-term, and if we don’t act soon to secure new sources of revenue, our amazing school will be put at risk. Which of course, would be a significant loss, not just for the students, staff and school given such remarkable achievements, but for the creative industries that we ultimately support.
We couldn’t do this without the support of the music industry and my huge thanks to the labels, the BPI and the BRIT Trust. This support continues to grow and PPL, who have provided us with much support over our history, formally now contributes to supporting music careers-focused activity.
We bear the BRIT name with pride and whilst none was the final winner, we had three (a record number) former BRIT students at the Mercurys in September – Loyle Carner, Raye and Olivia Dean. At last count we have over 50 performers in west end shows alone, not to mention countless backstage, crew, technicians and front of house.
Last year, significantly we received sponsorship from Burberry for our Fashion, Styling and Textiles course as well as working with other industry partners including Doc Martens, Mastercard and Royal Bank of Canada. Our pioneering Interactive digital design course celebrated 10 years and continues to evolve so the curriculum taught reflects the skills needed in the workplace.
Finally, our proudest and most consistent figure is that 98% of students are in education, training or employment within 3 months of leaving school and this has been the case for the last ten years. Now that is an achievement.