Best private schools in the UK for performing arts

Best private schools in the UK for performing arts

Is your child a star in the making? Do they love to express themselves through drama and performance?

Then it’s time to encourage their passion and celebrate their enthusiasm by finding a private school that’ll help them unleash their talents.

Without the constraints of the national curriculum, private schools have the freedom to bring specialisms to their teaching programmes. And without the tight limits of state funding, private schools have some incredible facilities for children to experience. When it comes to performing arts, there are many private schools with excellent drama, dance and music departments to choose from.

So, where will your child have the best chance to shine? In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the top private schools for performing arts in the UK.

Which schools offer the best drama, music and dance education?

Gresham’s School

A group of students singingGresham’s school in Norfolk has a strong legacy of arts and performing arts. The school’s impressive list of alumni has achieved great things in front of national and international audiences. Gresham’s has enviable facilities across many disciplines, but performing arts is an area where the school really excels.

Gresham’s also boasts a 300 seat theatre, the Auden Theatre – named after former pupil and renowned poet W.H. Auden. In recent years, the school’s built a music festival-style stage on the grounds, the Theatre-in-the-Woods, bringing an exciting venue for concerts, speech days and plays.

And when it comes to music, every pupil at the school takes weekly music lessons, and those in years 3-6 take two each week. There are also brass, woodwind and string groups to join, so children can experience playing together. Gresham’s calls itself an ‘All-Steinway’ school, meaning the only keyboards its pupils use are world-class Steinway pianos. And in other areas of music, students have access to state-of-the-art digital mixing equipment and specialist software.

Each year, the students at the school go head-to-head in releasing Christmas singles to raise money for the school’s chosen charity of the year. In a boys-versus-girls battle of the bands, the Gresham Girls and Gresham Guys pick a song to cover, producing high quality music videos that are available to stream through major platforms like iTunes, Spotify and YouTube.

Hurtwood House

At Hurtwood House in Dorking performing arts are the glue that creates the school’s community. There’s a wide range of performance opportunities available to the whole student body – not just those studying drama or arts-related subjects – and the teachers are professionals from the West End and the media. It means the pupils are stretched to achieve pro-level standards in their performances.

Topics taught are as varied as circus skills, stage combat and acting lessons to broaden students’ performance repertoires. And the school puts on several big-budget productions every year, inviting agents and casting directors to join the audience.

For those interested in media, there are recording studios and mixing suites, and for students who dance, the school encourages them to refine their skills by practising three techniques every week in their airy dance studios.

Hurtwood House is one of the best-equipped schools for the performing arts, and industry pros with high expectations are responsible for inspiring students to work to professional standards.


Dancers in a mirrored dance studio

Girls’ school Queenswood in Hertfordshire uses drama and dance to promote confidence, self esteem and poise in its students.

To support the girls’ studies the school has a 280-seat theatre that’s equipped with all the mod cons. Queenswood girls stage several productions throughout the year, both as part of drama in the curriculum and as co-curricular activities. The school’s productions regularly include over one hundred students in the cast and crew.

Girls are able to enjoy dance either as an area of study or a hobby. The school has a mirrored dance studio with a sprung floor to give the best environment for students to develop their dance skills.

Bryanston School

At Bryanston School in Dorset, creativity is put at the heart of everything. The school is well-known for the quality of its music and performing arts teaching, and it has amazing facilities to match. Bryanston has a professional-standard concert hall, a theatre, and an amphitheatre for outdoor performances in its beautiful grounds.

Bryanston stages between 15 and 20 performances each year, giving students plenty of opportunities to try their hand at performing, directing or designing. They are also encouraged to join the stage crew or get involved with marketing and box office functions.

Pupils are also able to attend performances by the many professional touring companies who visit the school, and enjoy cinema and live streaming from organisations like the Royal Opera House


Two teenagers rehearsing on a stage

With a founder who was both an actor and a manager, Alleyn’s school has drama at its core. The school is always striving forward with new, original theatre – pupils even write and star in performances for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival each year.

Alleyn’s has a 350-seat theatre, the MCT, with fantastic facilities that allow them to produce theatre in all kinds of formats, including in-the-round and proscenium.

Dance also thrives at Alleyn’s, with a huge range of genres explored in each year group, like street dance, jazz and lyrical dance. Students are encouraged to express themselves and their world through dance in the curriculum, and those who choose dance for GCSE have the opportunity to perform both solo and in a group. The school puts on two sell-out dance shows every year, with over 150 dancers getting involved.

And of course, music is a big part of both theatre and dance. The school encourages all its pupils to enjoy music outside of timetabled learning with a wide range of groups, ensembles and bands to join.

Opening performances

A teenage girl singing into a microphone

Whether your child loves drama, dance, music or all three, private schools can offer them incredible opportunities to develop their passion and their performance skills.

Importantly, though, all independent schools with a specialism in performing arts ensure they give a rounded education to their pupils. They use performance training as a boost to confidence, an avenue for self-expression and as an enrichment of the school experience. And there’s a strong theme of participation even for pupils who aren’t studying drama or dance.

If your child longs to share their creativity through performing arts, an independent school can be an fantastic place to give them unrivalled experiences and opportunities. They’ll be surrounded by other students who share their enthusiasms, and tutored by staff at the top of their game – not to mention, they’ll be able to practise and perform in excellent, inspiring spaces.

Theatre finances

Unfortunately, the cost of independent school fees can be intimidating for parents hoping to help their child follow their dreams in dance, drama or music. When you start to look for the perfect performing arts school for your child, it’s important to take proper financial advice.

Some parents dismiss pricier private schools out of hand, but those who put the right financial planning in place often find school fees are more affordable than they expected.

Many parents are relieved to discover that they can finance a private education that specialises in performance arts without having to give up on their own plans for early retirement or a second home. To find out just how affordable private school can be, talk to us. We can advise on savings, negotiations, and reducing the costs of your child’s school fees.