even some of the PE staff got involved. The students must have done a fantastic job promoting it to their families because it was one of the best-attended events we’ve had. The school was packed and the enthusiasm and enjoyment was palpable!

Our Hawaiian showcase towards the end of term really drove home how popular this enrichment programme has become; we had 65 acts sign up for 20 slots. We had to encourage soloists to join together to form groups so that each student had the chance to perform. To see them so keen after just a year has been so rewarding for us.

How did your students end up performing in the West End?

Through our relationship with the British Theatre Academy (and with Julie at the driving wheel!), The Colour Purple was at the Codogen Hall at the end of May and we wanted to give the students the opportunity to perform with amazing professionals like Tyrone Huntley from Dreamgirls and Cavin Cornwall from Jesus Christ Superstar.

workshops with 20 children and that was what really ignited their interest. We had a lot of buzz about what we were doing and Kerry made the decision to set up a small theatre company within the school.

Our idea was that we would perform in local primary schools that feed into St Andrew’s, to show that all subjects can benefit from a well- rounded arts education, and that enrichment can bring further opportunities.

We developed workshops to take into local primaries and the children in the theatre group then taught the primary pupils. That was a really important part of their journey, and the growth in their confidence has been incredible. Not to mention the fact that it’s a delight to see them teaching other young kids, and to see how the younger pupils really respected them.

When the students become the teachers, does it improve their attitude towards education?

Yes, and it’s something we like to capitalise on! We do a lot with our older student to get them to come into younger classes and speak about something that they have expertise in. The benefits go beyond a great attitude to learning though; we’ve found that music and drama help them in other subjects too. Both seem to help enormously with memory, and drama in particular helps to build their confidence and their presentation skills. That confidence then plays into interviews, speech exams and helps them in any new situation. Their resilience has grown considerably.

We’ve been able to use this work to challenge the students in really constructive ways. We were speaking to some students at the beginning about asking questions in class and the particularly shy ones almost physically recoiled at the thought of it. We set them a challenge that by the next half term, they had to ask questions and they all have. One of our students talked about how she was a two in confidence when she started, and now she’s a ten! It’s a tremendously important learning curve for them.

September 2017 21 Does the family ethos help?

It really does. We’re a tight knit community full of different cultures, and the way we approach things helps the students to have a sense of belonging, of us all looking out for each other. That and the leadership side of things starts from the offset; the students have to collaborate to create a commitment sheet saying how they’ll support each other and enjoy the activities. It helps make them aware of the work that needs to go into this to make it a success. We have our showcases and concerts through the year and we’ve had the pleasure of seeing students come back at lunchtimes, or forming their own bands because their enthusiasm has just grown so much.

In April, we held a multi-cultural evening, with music celebrating the different cultures that make up the school family. We ran it with the students, the drama teacher, the music department and

They had to go through an audition process, and of the 40 who auditioned, Matthew Chandler Garcia, the chief executive and founder of the British Theatre Academy, selected the final eight. Of those, two were selected to play the children of the lead character on stage. That was one of those rare moments in life that makes everything shine for all of us.

To help top the year off brilliantly, five of the eight students took their grade 6 and 7 singing exams and got a merit. To put that into context, a grade 6 carries the UCAS points of an AS Level, grade 7 the same as an A Level. Our students were doing these exams before sitting their GCSEs!

The kids in our school really are amazing. They are wonderful young individuals, and they deserve these opportunities. Working with them to help make them happen, and seeing the difference it makes to their education and their personal growth, is a privilege for us and we’re looking forward to continuing the programme next year!

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