Lights, Camera, Action! After all, ‘All the world’s a stage!’ – especially for a Head

Posted on 3rd Apr 2019 in School News, Prep Schools Guide, Performing Arts

Richard Whymark, Head of King’s Ely Junior, celebrates the benefits of a broad and rich curriculum...

As the Head of an independent school which sees dramatic and musical performances as wonderful opportunities to foster positive mind-sets and resilient attitudes for children, it strikes me that when ensuring our pupils’ mental health and well-being are priorities, our investment of time and resources in Music, Dance, and Drama are well targeted on behalf of our children. At King’s Ely Junior, we continue to prioritise these rich subjects within our broad curriculum; simply because of the huge benefits the children reap.

At a time when resources are limited for many, it is a joy to be able to supply myriad choir, dramatic, dance, competition and concert performance opportunities to pupils at King’s Ely Junior. When all of us working with children are dedicated to promoting their well-being, and fortitude and to fostering their independence, the opportunity to perform at school may be one way we can counter the flood of worry about children’s apparently diminishing resilience.

From the moment that the outcome of an audition is known, to the posting of a cast list, through to the final ringing of the applause, our students go on a creative adventure. That journey from rehearsal through to performance requires them to take risks, to dig deep, to extend themselves and to try something new. The creative process isn’t cushioned by cotton wool; it is judgemental, successful or not, a triumph or a flop! When the prevailing atmosphere surrounding the endeavour is mutually supportive, the flops become springboards to success and fulfilment.

At King’s Ely, all children up to the age of eleven perform at least annually on a stage. The shared aspirations for the productions and the joy that we take in the outcomes fuel us all as we move on.

Our musicians and choristers see performance opportunities as a way to give – to share their talents and abilities sure, but most importantly to build a sense of tangible togetherness through inspirational ensemble and group work. Even when we consider the fear of the soloist, it becomes a positive emotion because it ends up being dismissed by the shared expectation that all will be well and that the individual concerned will enjoy their moment to shine. Performances of all kinds, but especially musical ones, touch us within. Moods lift, spirits soar and the children involved can become more robust and secure through their involvement.

A broad curriculum, such as the one that is offered here at King’s Ely Junior, provides pupils with multiple ways to build their confidence, develop their application and to achieve their ambitions. I may be talking about dramatic and musical performances here, but the same can be said about the opportunities our leading schools provide for sporting and academic performances too.

What underlies great performances is the belief shown in the children by stretching them – by pushing the envelope – just enough. I think that children will fly only as high as we believe they can. Therefore our belief in their capabilities is key to their success. I have observed performances to be a wonderful way to help inspire children to achieve what they previously thought was beyond them. At King’s Ely Junior, we are planning to continue to reach for the stars.

This article first appeared in John Catt's Preparatory Schools 2019. You can view this guidebook here: