What it's like
Started as the Academy of Choreographic Art in 1929 by Ninette de Valois. Under the auspices of Lilian Baylis, it became The Sadler's Wells Ballet School in 1931, and The Royal Ballet School at the granting of the Queen's 1956 charter. It provides many of the dancers for The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet. Up to the age of 16, the majority of pupils board at the Lower School; this is housed in White Lodge, built as a Royal Hunting Lodge in 1727, and set in idyllic surroundings in the middle of Richmond Park. The Upper School provides tuition in central London (alongside The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden) for students living at home or in rented accommodation. The school puts on an annual performance at The Royal Opera House and there is a week of performances at the ROH Linbury Studio Theatre. The curriculum includes classical ballet, contemporary, national dancing, English folk dancing, Scottish social and Highland dancing, character dancing and drama. Although nearly all pupils go on to become professional dancers, the school aims to provide an education that will also be useful in fields outside dancing and ICT is widely used within the curriculum. This is one of the few schools attracting government support for pupils under the Music and Dance Scheme.
Pupils & entrance
Pupils: Total age range 11−19; 214 pupils, 10 day (5 boys, 5 girls), 204 boarders (102 boys, 102 girls). Lower school 11-16, 126 pupils (63 boys, 63 girls). Upper school 16−19, 88 pupils (44 boys, 44 girls). Entrance: Main entry age 11, with significant intake to Upper School at 16. School looks for potential talent and physical suitability.
Scholarships & bursaries
Pupils may be eligible for means-tested help through the Government's Music and Dance Scheme; limited scholarships and bursaries for pupils who do not qualify (no student should be discouraged from applying by lack of finance).
Head & staff
Director: Gailene Stock, in post from 1999. Trained in Australia and at the Royal Ballet School. Previously Director of the Australian Ballet School; Principal Dancer with the Australian Ballet, National Ballet of Canada and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Assistant Director: Jay Jolley, in post from 1999. Previously Company Manager at Birmingham Royal Ballet, Principal Artist at the Royal Ballet and danced with London Festival Ballet.
GCSE: 25 pupils in Year 11, 92% gaining at least grade C in 5+ subjects. A-levels/BTEC: 34 pupils in Year 13: 95% passing the equivalent of 2+ A-levels (in addition to ballet training).
Students are sought by company directors worldwide; many join The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet. All gained a professional contract in last 2 years.
In addition to dance training, most pupils take 8 GCSEs at the end of the Lower School. In the Upper School, most take 1 A-level (from art, English, maths, French) and 2 BTEC National Awards in performing arts (dance in 1st year, arts management in 2nd year); third (graduate) year concentrates on performance. Key skills addressed where relevant. Vocational: Dance training geared towards careers in dance. Special provision: For ESOL and dyslexia. ICT: Taught both as a discrete subject and across the curriculum.
Qualified nursing sister; orthopaedic examinations for Upper School. Student counsellor, physiotherapist attends daily.
Dame Margot Fonteyn; Sir Kenneth MacMillan; Sir Peter Wright; Sir Anthony Dowell; Dame Antoinette Sibley; Dame Merle Park; Lynn Seymour, Wayne Sleep; David Bintley; Viviana Durante; Darcey Bussell,;Jonathan Cope; Alina Cojocaru; Edward Watson; Lauren Cuthbertson.