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BTEC in Performing Arts Practice (Circus)

Circomedia offers students aged 16-18 the chance to study on our two-year Extended Diploma BTEC in Performing Arts Practice.

If you are older than 18 you might be interested in one of our other courses here.

A BTEC is a Level 3 qualification that follows on from GCSEs. The course features the same academic rigour as A Levels whilst also focusing on more practical learning.

The Circomedia BTEC course gives young people from the age of 16 the chance to learn a range of circus disciplines (aerial, juggling, acrobatics and balance) alongside classes in physical theatre, movement and devising. Underpinning this practical skill development is a rigorous program of academic study in which learners investigate theatre practitioners, plan a community project and explore various employment opportunities within the arts industry.

Any questions? Take a look at our FAQs or email

What will you study?

You’ll have the opportunity to study a range of circus disciplines, including juggling, balancing, aerial and acrobatics. You’ll learn about physical theatre, movement and performance techniques, as well as developing your knowledge of influential practitioners and the business skills vital to working within the performing arts industry. The course is very physically intensive and you will need a good level of fitness. Your learning is supported by academic study and assessments are both practical and written.


“There’s something for everyone here. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t done circus before because whatever you do you’ll be supported to explore your creativity.”

– Natasha, BTEC graduate who went on to study at Codarts

What do you need?

You need to be aged 16+ to apply for the course. We recommend that applicants have four GCSE passes at grades 9–4, however this isn’t essential. If you are aged 16 – 18 you must have a GCSE in English and in Maths (please see below).

You don’t need to have any previous circus experience, but you will need to demonstrate some ability in a physical or performance related discipline such as dance, drama, gymnastics, parkour, or martial arts. Applicants will need a good level of fitness as this is a very practical course.

Applicants aged between 16 and 18 will have their course fees funded by the government (provided you have English and Maths GCSE grade 9-4). Adult funding (19+) has unfortunately not been granted by the funding agency for our new course specification. This means if you are aged 19 or over then you could consider the Foundation Degree course.

We can accept applications from international students within the EU and EEA, however we are unable to take anyone requiring a visa to study.

What about English and Maths?

To be eligible for government funding it is a requirement to have GCSE English and Maths at grade 4 or above. If you are a European student with qualifications equivalent to GCSEs then you may be eligible for a funded place providing your qualifications are confirmed by NARIC.

Technical Requirements

Students are enrolled through City of Bristol College, which gives you access to a Microsoft Office Account for free. This allows you to use Word, Teams, and other software.

All students need to have a basic level of IT Literacy and be able to use Word or Docs (to create, edit and save written work), Microsoft Teams (for organisation), and Microsoft Outlook (for emails).

All students need access to their own IT equipment (not a mobile phone) to complete independent written assignments.

What do you get?

A Level 3 BTEC Foundation Diploma is the equivalent of one and a half A levels. If you are successful in completing the first year, you may be able to stay on for an additional year and achieve a full Extended Diploma worth three A levels. Both the Diploma and Extended Diploma carry UCAS points with which you can apply to university.

“I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you and your colleagues at Circomedia for providing a fantastic course and such a supportive environment. He described his BTEC as the best year of his life so far.”

– Tina, parent of BTEC graduate

Where will you train?

Most days you’ll have the chance to train in the historic St Paul’s Church in central Bristol, while once a week you’ll train at our campus in Kingswood, also home to the Degree students. Circomedia provides supervised practice sessions outside college hours so you can really hone your skills.

You’ll have the opportunity to perform at St Paul’s Church for our bi-annual BTEC shows, giving you a real taste of what it’s like to work as a professional circus performer.

Where will it take you?

Many of our BTEC in Performing Arts Practice graduates progress to study on Circomedia’s own Foundation Degree course, while others have gone on to develop their skills at schools across Europe including Codarts, DOCH and CNAC. BTEC students have also gone on to join professional companies, set up their own, or taken their careers in a whole other direction.

BTEC graduate Helena Humm left Circomedia in June 2018 and went on to study at CNAC in France. Helena returned to Bristol to star in ‘Seasons’ by Upswing at the Circus City Festival 2021. Here you can watch ‘Fidget‘, her piece from 2018’s end-of-year show entitled ‘In Focus‘.

Term Dates

Term 1a (6 weeks) 

Monday 12th September 2022 – Friday 21st October 2022 

Induction week Monday 12th September – Friday 16th September 

Half Term (1 week) – Monday 24th October – Friday 28th October 

Term 1b (6 weeks) 

Monday 31st October – Friday 9th December 

Christmas Show Matinee for schools 31st Nov / Evening show 1st December 2022 


Christmas break 


Term 2a (6 weeks) 

Tuesday 3rd January 2023 – Friday 10th February 2023 

Half Term (2 week) – Monday 13th February – Friday 24th February  

Term 2b (5 weeks) 

Monday 27th February 2023 – Friday 31st March 2023 

Easter Show Thursday 30th March /Friday 31st March   


Easter holidays 


Term 3a (6 weeks) 

Monday 17th April 2023 – Friday 26th May 2023 

Half term (1 week) – Monday 29th May – Friday 2nd June 

Term 3b (3 weeks) 

Monday 5th June 2023 – Thursday 23rd June 2023 

End of year show Thursday 25th May / Friday 26th May  

In 2020, one of our BTEC students Tove Tozer created this documentary about the their fellow students on the BTEC course. It’s a fascinating look into why our students join our BTEC, where they come from and where they hope to go. We enjoyed it so much that we thought it was a must to add to our YouTube channel. We hope you enjoy it.