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First UK degree level learning-disabled performing arts course is launched in Yorkshire

Published: 19 May 2021

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Female dance performers in a rehearsal studio

Mind the Gap has launched new Performing Arts course for adults with learning disabilities and/or autism. The course has been validated by York St John University and will give students a Certificate in Higher Education in Performing Arts equivalent to Level 4 or the first year of a University degree. This is the first of its kind in the UK.  

Mind the Gap, England’s largest learning disability performance and live arts company, has been running arts training programmes for people with learning disabilities and/or autism via its Academy since 1998. Many are accredited but to be recognised and validated by a higher education institution is a first.  

“The validation from York St John University is a huge coup for Mind the Gap,” says Academy Director Charli Ward.  “It really cements the company as a beacon for learning-disabled creatives and further strengthens our reputation within the industry.”  

The three-year course will study classic and contemporary theatre, dance techniques, music production, and music composition. Students will learn choreography skills, explore physical theatre, develop skills in devising theatre and participate in workshops led by industry professionals. 

 “York St John University is committed to widening participation in higher educations,” says Professor Matthew Reason, Director of the Institute for Social Justice at York St John. “Through this unique partnership with Mind the Gap we are able to challenge some of the presumptions about who education is for and who can access higher learningWe are hugely proud to be working with Mind the Gap on this ground-breaking initiative.  

The course starts in September this year and is in high demand; the deadline for applications is Monday 7 June with auditions on Friday 11 June.   

We’re delighted with the response to the course, though we’re not surprised by it,” Charli continues. “All our courses are hugely popular and highly respected.”  

Mind the Gap’s Academy has more than doubled in size over the past few years from 30 students a week in 2012 to almost 70 a week in 2020, making it the largest of its kind in the UK.  

It runs a weekly one-day course in dance, music, and theatre and a weekly four-day Performance Academy course for advanced students which are currently recognised through Arts Award at Bronze and Silver levels.  

It also runs a weekly participatory course in partnership with Leeds-based disability consultants Totally Inclusive Peopleand a Youth Academy in partnership Bradford Council.   

“We’re so proud to get this academic recognition,” Charli concludes.   “It will help us further on our mission to work in an arts sector where there is equal opportunity for performers with learning disabilities: a world where performers are trained, respected and employed equally, and feature every day on our stages and screens.  

Read more about York St John's Institute for Social Justice

For more information on Mind the Gap, its Academy, and its work visit 

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