Tring Park School for the Performing Arts
Muddy says: Lights, Camera, Action - and very likely international fame. This awesome local performing arts school has a to-die-for alumni list and a healthy, sensible work ethic for its young talent.
Something a bit different – my first performing arts school on the Muddy Best Schools Guide. Not what I was expecting at all! Read on…
Tring Park School for the Performing Arts is on the Bucks/Herts border (in Tring obviously!). It’s a lovely 16 acre setting in a stunning Rothschild building, up a long driveway with a long tumbling lawn to the front.
Even without the school attached this building would offer up a million reasons to visit – the magnificent oak turned staircase and stunning ceiling friezes and the tantilising glimpses of the building’s former life as an aristocratic home.
The school takes boys and girls from 8-19 years, and offers both boarding and day school options – boarders make up two thirds of the numbers.The school specialises in dance, drama, musical theatre or commercial music, and was graded as Outstanding in every area by Oftsted in a dance inspection in Nov 2015, but also, unusually for an elite performing arts school, has a focus on academic results.
You walk into the main building and see the most incredible dance studio with high ceilings, plaster cornicing and oak and glass doors. I walked into the foyer and saw the ballet dancers at the barre and, seriously, it gave me goosebumps.
There are 3 further large rehearsal spaces in the mansion building plus a music suite and small rehearsal rooms, plus there’s a stunning new wing of 5 rehearsal spaces in the recently built Park Studios (below).
There’s a theatre space (smallish – there’s a replacement due to be built in 2019), and rolling lawns for playing, but understandably not masses of sports features – students are exercising at least half the day anyway on dance or body conditioning (even those not on the dance course), and they have to be careful not to sustain injuries. There are regular swimming lessons for younger pupils though. A new building has been approved for a large art studio, classrooms and workshops, with work to start soon after Easter 2017.
Headmaster: Stefan Anderson is the Principal, and has some serious credentials – Royal Conservatory of Music, Royal College of Music, Emmanuel College Cambridge, and Director of King’s School Canterbury (where my lovely dad was a chorister if anyone cares!). I met him very briefly, almost by accident, walking up to the mansion. He seemed friendly but I didn’t ‘officially’ meet him on the day.
The academic side of things is taken very seriously, because there’s a realisation here that not everyone will ‘make it’, and if they do, careers can be short. The upshot is that grades are pretty impressive. GSCE grades A* – B 63.1%; A*-C 84.6%. A Level: A*-B 64.2%; A*-C 82.4%. Not bad eh? Compulsory GCSE subjects, if you really fancy examining the syllabus, are English, Mathematics, Science, Modern Foreign Language (French or German) plus two or three additional subjects, while in the Sixth form the children will usually take three A-level subjects.
Quirks: Entry to Tring Park is by audition plus an academic test for the under 16s, so motherly bias needs to be parked at the door! For those who get in, I can tell you the atmosphere is very buzzy, very different to any other school I’ve been to. I half expected to see Lydia from Fame around every corner in fluffy legwarmers shouting ‘Fame costs!’ It was a very exciting space to hang out in.
It was totally brilliant to see that health was taken seriously – if children’s weight drops below 18% BMI (and they are weighed regularly), they’re immediately pulled from physical lessons, meaning that the kids eat sensibly. In the cafeteria area the walls are splattered with how to eat healthily – how much water the kids need to drink, proportions of food, sensible healthy choices for athletic bodies.
Fees: Hovering a little higher than an average public school I’d say, costing £4,595 – £7,320 per term for day pupils, or for boarders £7,750 – £10,960 per term.
Wrap around care: With an 8am start and kids normally collected at 4.30pm (juniors) and 6.30pm (seniors) they are long, busy days. Pupils can stay for supervised prep with prior notice, and often they will have to stay later anyway for rehearsals and shows.
Word on the ground:
I know several kids who board here and they love it. I mean, really love it. Admittedly they are very serious about working in film and dance industries (and in fact are already working) and I suppose for children so driven by performance, they will fit in better around like-minded kids who want to sing and dance all day with them. I haven’t heard any dissent from the parents – not surprising when you can see how successful it’s been at producing famous alumni, most recently Lily James (Cinderella, DowntonAbbey), Ella Henderson, Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey) and Daisy Ridley, the hot property from the latest Star Wars movie. That’s a large cohort of very recent, very talented, very famous Tring Park graduates.
Good for: Kids who have the drive and passion to be a professional singer, dancer or actor and basically want to spend hours and hours every day working towards that goal.
Not for: Enthusiastic amateurs. The half a day of vocational training means that hockey, netball and more general school activities are not possible, so while it provides brilliant opportunities there are drawbacks if you’re looking for an all round education.
Dare to disagree?! There are three Open Mornings in October (6, 12 and 13) and the bookings are open. Be warned, when the open mornings are full the booking closes, so don’t leave it too long!
Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, Tring, Hertfordshire, HP23 5LX. tringpark.com