Performing Arts Students Take a LEAD from Sunderland Training Provider

A former PE teacher with a passion for developing the educational needs of children and young adults has fulfilled a business ambition by securing a national contract to make the performing arts and sport more accessible to all.


Sunderland based Steve Mann set up LEAD Education in 2016, creating educational opportunities and quality assurance programmes which would make a real difference to the lives of young people.


“I had come to a crossroads in my career after teaching and programme managing; I knew that if I was to carry on in education, I had to develop my own programmes for young people, students and those vulnerable adults who might need extra support,” said Steve.


“I started the business doing everything from teaching to cleaning, and everything in between; marketing, business development, design, social media, contracts, and delivering the courses with my sports colleagues. My first contract was with a school in South Shields who funded me to deliver a programme to our outdoor education sports students. From there, fresh negotiations with head teachers and principals brought in new work from schools and colleges and thankfully, the work kept on coming in.”


Initially building his programmes based on his PE and sport related background, Steve brought LEAD Education into further vocational and employability training before seeing a gap in the market for producing high quality performing arts qualifications and training.


In 2018, Steve targeted performing arts schools across the region, building up his cohorts and a reputation for delivering and managing the quality assurance of the BTEC education programme. One of LEAD’s first clients was Sunderland based Worx Academy who recognised that the model that Steve was operating based on sport could be successful with the performing arts.


Founders of Worx Academy, sisters Bethany Coyne and Keeran Bainbridge helped recruit students to the programme which involved dancing and performing coupled with everything that traditional sixth form or college students would need including their maths and English tuition if required. From those early days, some of those students have now progressed to studying at the country’s top drama and dance schools, some are now studying abroad, and others have found employment within the performing arts sector.


“It’s very satisfying to know that many of the young people who have taken part in a LEAD programme now have jobs within the industry they have chosen. It’s not just about performing either – it’s about business and the arts in general as some have gone into music production or teaching. We knew we had a viable and quality model but somehow needed to grow it to reach more people and change their lives forever,” said Steve.

That opportunity came along in the form of the SCL Education Group, a national training provider, which like Steve had its roots in the sports education field.


Steve was introduced to SCL in early spring 2022, they gave him feedback that his programmes were some of the very best they had seen as an education subcontract. As a result, SCL have asked LEAD to deliver a substantial amount of work nationwide with a fully funded study programme meaning that his network of performing and creative arts courses will grow exponentially.


Lawrence Blair, Director of Partnerships, SCL Education said:

“SCL Education are delighted to be partnering with LEAD Education to deliver Performing Arts qualifications to our learners. With more than 20 years in the sports industry, we are excited to be diversifying into a new area that will allow us to offer a pathway into the ever-growing creative sector. The launch of our partnership is the start of a new relationship between two education and training providers with aligned missions and values.”


As well as their head office and sites in Sunderland, LEAD Education now have further learning sites in the Northeast including Newcastle and Hartlepool. Additional learning sites are in Scarborough, Leeds, Manchester, Leicester, Swindon, Dorset, Newcastle-under-Lyme, and Milton Keynes. Next year, the plan is to grow further in Yorkshire, Cambridge, Kent, Bolton, Sheffield, Liverpool, London, and areas across the south coast. This will create more jobs and offer more educational opportunities for learners across the UK.


From humble beginnings setting up the business on his mother’s coffee table six years ago, Steve now has around 250 students and forecasts 500 students for the 23-24 academic year. He has amazing employees and over 50 contractors working on the LEAD study programme across the UK, all with exceptional industry experience.


“The amazing thing about our team is the wealth of experience and passion they have. Our students are benefiting hugely, learning from their teachers, many who have performed in the West End or starred in TV shows. We are not only creating a great learning environment but real opportunities for career development and I’m very proud of each of my students and the incredible team helping them succeed,” said Steve.” This new contract from SCL Education has been a game changer and I’m looking forward to helping as many young people as I can live their dream.”

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