There were big celebrations at the Senior School last week following the announcement that we had been named Independent School of the Year 2021 for the Performing Arts. The Prep School was shortlisted for the ‘Green Award for Environmental Achievement’ earlier in the year, but it was at a virtual Awards Ceremony on 7th October that performing arts teachers and students learnt of the historic win, during which the judges commented on “the energy” of our vision and “enterprise in making Music and Drama possible this year“.
Our Award entry told the story of Student Voice as a driving force in the many extraordinary drama, dance and musical performances. It described the poignancy of the original devised theatre our students produced this year and how they tackled gritty issues such as child kidnapping, sexual harassment, war, abuse and addiction, whilst finding creative and impactful ways to breathe youth and diversity onto the stage. It celebrated the work of the ‘Claremont Extra’ podcast team, the ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ virtual outreach project and the short film ‘BETCHA’, which won ‘Best Production Design’ award at the first International Schools Partnership Film Festival…
Director of Performing Arts, Sarah Cakebread said “This is something that has really lifted the spirits of the whole school community as well as the Performing Arts team, and when I say team, I mean the teachers AND the students. We are enormously proud of them and all their hard work, creativity, resilience and determination in continuing to perform despite the challenges thrown at them this year, and we will continue to enjoy the feeling that there is no ceiling to what we can achieve. It’s now full steam ahead in preparations for our school production of Guys and Dolls in December – we are so looking forward to having another opportunity to share with our audiences what we do well”
We are very proud indeed of winning this award. It is testament to the culture of ambition and high standards that has developed at Claremont in the past few years – the Performing Arts team are the beating heart of this culture and the quality of the work produced in the Drama, Dance and Music departments is astonishing.
The judging panel of 14 was made up of representatives of professional associations and advisory bodies as well as headteachers and principals from leading independent schools from across the country to include Dr Helen Wright, international education advisor and Vice-Chair of the Independent Schools Council; Robin Fletcher, the Chief Executive of the Boarding Schools’ Association; Tonbridge School’s Headmaster James Priory; the Principal of Sedbergh School, Andrew Fleck; Leeds Grammar School’s Headteacher Sue Woodroofe and the Principal of last year’s Independent Boarding School of the Year 2020 – DLD College London, Irfan Latif.
Over 700 schools up and down the country submitted entries in 24 separate categories, all seeking to celebrate the breadth and diversity of life as a student in the independent education sector. Each entry needed to evidence a school’s commitment to fostering excellence and show originality, creativity and drive in its approach to meeting and exceeding the needs of its students.
Seeing students, who elsewhere may not be heard, ‘hold the space’ and the attention of a live audience of their peers is, and has been, pretty extraordinary. It is like no other area of their student life – they cannot get it wrong! It is a doorway to the fullest expression of themselves – something of profound value and importance to our teenagers.
It is an enormous pleasure and privilege to chair a panel of judges which brings together such highly experienced leaders in the world of independent education. Between them the judges possess an unrivalled combined wealth of wisdom and insight into how top-achieving schools operate.
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