Dubai: For the first time, students in the UAE will be able to earn a BTEC Level 3 qualification in performing arts for university admission or employment in the performing arts sector.
A partnership between Dubai Performing Arts Academy (DPA) and Taaleem, a leading UAE school group, offers the international qualification, awarded by UK-based Pearson Education and recognised locally by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) in Dubai.
BTEC stands for Business and Technology Education Council, and its Level 3 is equivalent to two A-Levels — the UK-based international school-leaving qualifications accepted by leading universities globally. The BTEC Level 3 is normally taken by students in their final two years of high school. DPA, which has over 500 students in its first-ever cohort, will see its students begin their second year in September, and applications are now open for its second cohort.
‘Every child is different’
DPA principal Lisa Scott-Lee, a member of the UK pop group ‘Steps’, said the BTEC offers avenues for children inclined towards performing arts. “Every child has something special and unique to offer. That may be in the academic sense, or it may be in the creative arts; they may be a talented artist, they may be a beautiful singer, and they may express themselves through dance and movements. So I do think it’s very important that each child has the opportunity to shine, to grow and to feel happy and supported.”
Open to all
Some of the DPA students are doing an extended BTEC in performing arts in conjunction with their A-Levels, she added. The course is open to all students, regardless of what curriculum they are studying at school. “So I would say it’s also for children that would like to have a higher education, and are interested in the performing arts”.
What students learn
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DPA says the multidisciplinary course explores “all elements” of the Theatrical Arts, designed to prepare learners for further study and careers in the performing arts industry. Learners partake in practical sessions with industry professionals exploring different genres of acting, singing and dance. Candidates can choose to focus their study on an area of personal interest, including musical theatre, dance and acting.
Scott-Lee said BTECs and performing arts can boost the admission prospects of university applicants. “Universities like to obviously know the academic side of the student, but also they want to know what their passions are, what their hobbies are. And I think, to show that a student or a child is well-rounded, it just adds so much to that person; because [performing arts] takes commitment. It shows great character when a student is well-rounded and has lots of interests,” she added.
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Alongside Scott-Lee, DPA and the Level 3 course is also led by Johnny Shentall, a professional singer, dancer and choreographer, who was a member of the British pop group ‘Hear’Say’. Shentall, who is married to Scott-Lee, made his London’s West End theatre debut in the original West End cast of ‘Footloose’. The duo moved to Dubai a decade ago and in 2014 founded DPA, which also performs on the QE2 ship docked in Dubai, as well as in Dubai Opera and other theatres.
DPA is located at Dubai British School Jumeirah Park (DBSJP), a Taaleem school in Dubai, where students — from DBSJP, DBS Emirates Hills as well as other schools outside Taaleem — are taught in facilities with access to a 500-seat theatre, four dance studios, a recording suite, radio studio and a purpose-built Sixth Form hub. A limited number of scholarships are available for the upcoming new academic year.
‘Transcend the normal classroom’
Rebecca Coulter, Vice Principal, DBSJP, said: “DPA has an excellent reputation in Dubai, and Lisa and Johnny are both well known internationally for their successes on the stage. We wanted to provide our students with a performing arts experience that transcended the normal classroom one and gave them access to world-class, industry-relevant provision and professionals.”
Coulter added: “Our performing arts programmes not only provide students with routes through GCSE, A-Level and BTEC qualifications, but give them real-world experience of the profession and guidance through industry-related qualifications like the ‘Trinity’ and ‘LAMDA’ courses.”