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Seven drama schools where academic achievement is also top class

Students from Sylvia Young Theatre School. Photo: Sylivia Young Theatre School Students from Sylvia Young Theatre School. Photo: Sylivia Young Theatre School
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Children who attend full-time stage school tend to shine in drama, singing and dance. But it’s also worth pointing out that the majority obtain higher than the national average GCSE results, so academic achievement is also high. Attending the stage schools below (with the exception of the Brit School) is as expensive as a private school education. However, full funding options are available through The Stage Scholarships, other in-school scholarships and scholarships through the government’s Music and Dance Scheme


Sylvia Young Theatre School

Location: Marylebone, London
Full-time scholarship available through The Stage Scholarships scheme

The Sylvia Young Theatre School offers a broad-based academic education for students up to GCSE level, together with performing arts training in dance, singing and drama. All students belong to the Sylvia Young Agency and some have recently appeared in films including The Nutcracker, Mary Poppins Returns, Dunkirk, Beauty and the Beast and Tomb Raider. Recent theatre credits for students include: The Ferryman, Motown, Annie, School of Rock and The Lion King.

Sylvia Young, founder and principal of Sylvia Young Theatre School, explains: “We believe our students train hard to prepare for a successful career in the performing arts and associated fields and that they stay grounded.”

Maisie Ayres, who attended between 2012 and 2017, praises the school, saying: “Attending Sylvia Young was not only a time in my life where I was able to gain thorough and in-depth training in the performing arts, but also a time when I was able to grow greatly as a person.”

Tring Park School

Location: Tring, Hertfordshire

At Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, students aged eight to 19 specialise in dance, acting, musical theatre or commercial music, while gaining excellent academic qualifications. Scholarships are available for dance via the government’s Music and Dance Scheme, while school scholarships and bursaries are available for acting and musical theatre. Tring Park offers a high level of academic education where students study up to nine GCSEs, and after this 23 A-level subjects are on offer. Alumni include Daisy Ridley (Star Wars), Lily James (Cinderella and Darkest Hour) and Olivier award-winning choreographer Drew McOnie.

The Brit School

Location: Croydon, London

The Brit School provides an original and free education to young people who want to train in the creative, digital and performing arts. It combines academic achievements with vocational training for more than 1,200 students aged between 14 and 19, from a wide range of backgrounds, aspirations and abilities.

Many well-known artists have come from the Brit School, including Adele (singer-songwriter), Jessie J (singer-songwriter), Kate Tempest (poet, spoken word artist and playwright) and Tom Holland (actor, best known for playing Peter Parker/Spider-Man).

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Brit School principal Stuart Worden says: “Creativity is crucial to the future of our economy and society, and with the creative industries now worth £92 million to the UK economy every year, there is an essential need to train students who will go on to meet the rising industry demand. The school is a special place that believes in giving young people confidence, a sense of community and the courage and the skills to grow and push themselves.”

Cush Jumbo (actor, The Good Wife/The Good Fight) says of her time at the school: “The best thing about the Brit School is that it is free. If I hadn’t have come here, my life would have been totally different.”

The Hammond School

Location: Chester

The Hammond is a specialist performing arts school with a strong commitment to performance and education – both on the stage and in the classroom. The school accepts students from the age of seven and has a prep, lower and upper school. It also offers a BA (hons) in musical theatre and performance for older students.

Many graduates go on to work in the West End, in television or with professional dance companies. The school is recognised as a centre of excellence by the Department for Education and is a nationally recognised centre of excellence for dance.

Admission to the Hammond is based on both talent and potential, regardless of personal circumstances, with many students relying on financial support from the MDS or Dance and Drama Awards scheme to attend the school.

Arts Educational Day School

Location: Chiswick, London
Part-time scholarships available through The Stage Scholarships scheme

Arts Ed continues to be a standout performing arts school, offering outstanding vocational training alongside an excellent academic education; 2017 showcased its best-ever GCSE results, with 97% of all papers sat achieving A*-C grades. Arts Ed day school head teacher Adrian Blake states: “I’m enormously passionate about learning, and when you put creativity into learning, everything is richer.”

Arts Ed allows its students to thrive both academically and creatively in a positive space. In 2017, the Be Open Foundation named Arts Ed as one of the top five schools and colleges in the UK and one of the top 40 in Europe.

Arts Ed sixth formers perform in a music concert. Photo: Robin Savage
Arts Ed sixth formers perform in a music concert. Photo: Robin Savage

Birmingham Ormiston Academy

Location: Birmingham

Birmingham Ormiston Academy provides a high-quality and distinctive education through a specialist arts curriculum delivered in outstanding facilities. For the performing arts, the school offers three different ‘performance pathways’ and students, dependent on their talents, are selected to specialise in either acting, dance or musical theatre.

Olivia Ahmadi (now a full-time student at Rose Bruford), took the musical theatre pathway when she was aged 14-18 years. Ahmadi explains: “BOA gave me the opportunity from the get-go to pursue a career in the arts, by facilitating and sourcing the best teaching staff and industry professionals for us to work with. It allowed room for creative freedom, and academic teaching to match, setting us up for the reality of life in the industry, and most importantly, the need for professionalism and hard work in order to succeed.”

Italia Conti

Location: Barbican, London

Full and part-time scholarships available through The Stage Scholarships scheme

Italia Conti offers full-time academic and vocational training for students aged 10-plus.

Principal Samantha Newton explains: “The main characteristic of Italia Conti is the collaborative and interdisciplinary approach we bring to everything we do. This approach, along with the vibrant atmosphere of the school, underpins the success of our students and makes for a superb training environment.”

Not only does Italia Conti offer world-class training in the performing arts, but pupils also follow a carefully constructed academic curriculum to ensure they graduate with excellent qualifications and have the widest possible range of choice available to them at 16.

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