"Excellent opportunities in the arts foster pupils’ accomplishments in creative and performance skills."
—ISI (Independent Schools Inspectorate) report on Eaton House The Manor School
At a time when employers are placing an increasingly high value on creative skills and statistics show that a growing number of young people are experiencing mental health issues, we believe the performing arts have a vital role to play in addressing both areas. Thus, throughout the seven years that the girls are with us at Eaton House The Manor Girls' School, we strive to offer as much exposure to music, drama and dance as possible. In doing so, we believe the girls gain a greater understanding of their own cultural identity; they learn to express emotion through an artistic medium; they develop the self-discipline required when rehearsing and the composure in performance; and they feel the wonderful sense of satisfaction when entertaining others. We hope that the joy found in the performing arts will stay with the girls for their rest of their lives.
Embedding core skills at an early age
As with so many elements of the educational adventure, we believe that introducing the performing arts to the girls from the age of 4 means the core skills will become embedded at an early age. Music, drama and dance are therefore an essential component of our academic curriculum and appear on the girls' timetables throughout their Eaton House careers. Every year every girl in the school appears in one of our productions in the professionally-equipped theatre, and as these shows are rehearsed solely during music and drama lessons we do not require the girls to rehearse after school or at the weekends.
In addition, all forms lead an assembly on two occasions during the academic year. These assemblies are, again, performed in the theatre and are based on a theme or topic chosen by the form teacher. Generally consisting of drama sketches, direct address and songs, the assemblies maintain the frequent contact between the girls and the stage, meaning that their confidence grows at a consistent and steady rate.
Our numerous concerts and services are opportunities for the girls' souls to be lifted through the playing of instruments and the singing of songs. Whether they have been learning for only a few weeks or playing for years, our musicians are regularly encouraged to perform in front of friends and family. With three choirs in The Girls' School and an additional joint choir with the boys, we are able to be inclusive and yet also produce performances of a remarkably high standard.
With ballet being our current dance of choice, we provide a timetabled lesson every week for all the girls from KG to Year 4. In Years 5 and 6, the lessons become optional and, although they sit outside of the curriculum time, they still take place within the school day. Thus, many of our girls dance for the full seven years they are with us, and it is always a wonderful sight to see the girls perform in the pre-Christmas ballet presentation each December.
After-school activities and trips
Above and beyond all the opportunities already mentioned, the performing arts feature heavily in both our after-school activities programme and our school trips. All ability levels are catered for when it comes to the after-school activities programme, meaning that we are able both to give creative space to those wishing to perform simply for pleasure and more intensive tuition to those preparing for practical scholarships. With visits to some of London's theatres and concert halls, all the girls are able to see and hear performances of the very highest standard; there is often no better way of inspiring the musicians, actresses and dancers of tomorrow than by showing the professionals of today.
With specialist teachers leading the way, and with opportunities for the girls to have additional one-to-one lessons with peripatetic staff for music and speech & drama, the performing arts in The Girls' School are flourishing.
The Music department offers individual tuition in musical instruments, an orchestra that the girls can join, and singing lessons and a choir.
- Tutors are available to the girls in a range of instruments: piano, violin, wind instruments, drums, guitar and many more.
- We have an orchestra, and all girls who are interested in music are welcome to join.
- Singing is also taught and there is a chamber choir. We hold house singing competitions and here is plenty of opportunity for spontaneous musical expression in class.
One-to-one instrumental and vocal lessons are available from Year 1 upwards. We have 13 specialist tutors, who give individual tuition in piano, voice, brass, woodwind, percussion, violin, viola, cello and music theory. The School's structured, integrated approach, liaising closely with the tutors on a child-by-child basis, prepares the girls for concerts, formal examinations and, where appropriate, musical scholarships.
We ensure that a pupil's individual lessons are rotated each week so that she does not repeatedly miss out on another subject.
In the autumn term each year, the KG girls put on a Nativity play for their parents and the rest of the school, so that immediately, performing on stage becomes second nature to them. Meanwhile, the Year 1 and Year 2 girls take part in a Junior Christmas play which never fails to get everyone in the festive spirit. Needless to say, singing plays a significant part in the production and the rows of beaming faces whilst singing from our youngest girls is such a sight to behold!
Extracurricular activities for juniors
Extracurricular musical activities for our junior girls include visits to the Royal Festival Hall where they take in a performance by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, watching our head of music’s professional string quartet perform in assemblies, and hearing the magnificent sound of Oompah Brass as they take to the stage and introduce the brass family of instruments. The girls from Year 2 are welcome to join the joint choir with the pre-prep boys as part of the The Manor Voices after school choir club as well as joining the Music and Song club which is open to girls of all ages.
The violin scheme
As part of the curriculum, all the Year 2 girls learn to play the violin in class and can take a school violin home to practise the skills they are learning. The violin scheme takes place over the course of the whole academic year and is an exciting opportunity for the girls to be exposed to learning an orchestral instrument. It is also an excellent way to put into practice what they have already learned about rhythm, pitch and tone as well as giving them the joy of playing together in an ensemble.
Several Junior concerts take place over the course of the year, where the girls are encouraged to present the pieces they are learning on their instruments or in their vocal lessons. The uptake for the concerts is always extremely popular and a real sense of achievement is apparent from all those who take part. The Junior Choir also perform in these recitals which includes every girl in Year 2 so every child has their moment to shine on stage.
By the time the girls reach the Senior part of the school, music and singing is deeply rooted within them and there are opportunities a plenty for performance and tuition.
From Year 3, any child in the Girls' School is invited to join the Senior Choir, which currently boasts over 70 members and performs throughout the school year at important events such as the carol service and Senior music concerts.
In the spring term, Year 3 and Year 4 show off their musical and theatrical skills in their play, closely followed by Year 5 and Year 6 in the summer term. Past performances have included The Wiz, Bugsy Malone, Olivia, Dragon Days and Mystery at Magpie Manor, all of which have demonstrated the girls' maturity and immensely accomplished musical efforts. There are many senior music assemblies in the calendar where all who learn instruments or sing are encouraged to give performing a go whilst being in a nurturing and supportive setting.
Orchestra and music ensemble
Our ensembles include the Senior music ensemble, Form 2 violin ensemble, string quartet, and recorder ensemble.
Playing successfully within an ensemble is a skill which enables a musical child to progress to true musicianship. The benefits of participating and performing in an ensemble, group or orchestra are huge – not least for the sense of exuberance, joy and fun.
We teach general instrumental technique through individual lessons, but ensemble playing gives students the opportunity to reinforce and develop their technique in a different setting. Students are taught how to interpret, to respond to the conductor's gestures and expressions and the importance of strict adherence to beat patterns and tempi.
- We have a Junior and a Senior choir open to every pupil.
- The Bel Canto Choir, drawn from Years 4 to 6 with entry by audition, provides higher challenges for the more gifted vocalists.
- A joint choir with the Eaton House Pre-Prep Boys' School has also been established, further extending the horizons.
- In addition, we can offer specialist individual voice tuition in certain circumstances.
By the time our girls leave Eaton House, they feel inspired and motivated to continue singing, performing and practising their instruments, having had a fully rounded, plentiful and happy musical experience.
As with all the arts, drama is about being able to take yourself away, taking your learning to a new dimension and exploring everything around you. By building on unique skills, children are given adaptable opportunities to help overcome inhibition.
Drama starts as early as Year 1 as a timetabled lesson including the use of expression to create movement, and circle games to enforce communication and confidence to speak within a small group. We build on the term "expression" and use this term during drama exercises. It may involve expression in movement, using expressive language, or expression to physically portray a character type. Children will continually develop their skills in the Junior School and are encouraged to think about how they move and enter stage.
They will begin to work on their miming, improvisation and observational skills. They will have an opportunity to talk about what they enjoy about performing as well as looking at other practitioners. Children will begin to understand concepts and techniques such as freeze frames and creating improvisations with use of props or a piece of music. They will work on their storytelling using expression and selecting scenes to re-enact.
As the children build on their repertoire, they will soon develop the confidence to devise their own theatre, taking into consideration certain practitioners to sculpt their work. The seniors are given opportunities to reflect on other productions as well as rehearse their own plays to perform in front of an audience.
As well as the creative drama-based class assemblies, all children throughout their time at school are involved in a production.
We run a production each term:
- Christmas: Years 1 and 2, Nativity play
- Spring term: Years 3 and 4
- Summer term: Years 5 and 6
"Why fit in when you were born to stand out?"
In addition to our full-scale shows, drama clubs are available to both our junior and senior girls as part of our after-school programme. Whether rehearsing a Shakespearean scene or a comic mime, these opportunities further enable the girls to pursue their passion for performance but in a more relaxed context.
Speech and drama lessons
All the girls in Year 4 to Year 6 now also have the option of having a weekly speech and drama lesson during the school day. Taught by a drama specialist to the girls, either in pairs or as individuals, these sessions not only refine the vocal and physical techniques required to bring poetry, prose and scripts to life but also nurture the girls as they explore many different forms of expression. Twice a year, the girls work towards practical exams which are marked by visiting examiners from NEA (the New Era Academy).
Our ballet and dance classes are led by Raquel Ashton ARAD PDTD (dis London) RTS.
Following a career as a principal professional dancer, Raquel completed the Professional Dancers Teaching Diploma course at the Royal Academy of Dance in London with distinction. Since then she has taught at the dance school of the Royal Academy of Dance and at several theatre colleges in and around London.
Raquel's classes have been featured on Sky Sports and she has recently completed a project involving English National Ballet for an interview for Dance Gazette magazine.
The dance classes start at KG level and continue all the way up to Year 6. From Year 5 ballet is optional. However, we have a large number of girls wanting to continue their ballet and dance training. The classes are based on the RAD syllabus and enable the girls to strengthen their posture, coordination, musicality and confidence by encouraging artistic expression.
The highlight of the ballet year is the presentation at Christmas time. Each class performs a dance based on one of the ballets.
The students love the process of learning, perfecting and performing the dances in front of an audience and the event offers them a great sense of achievement.