The Hammond School is a leading English boarding school in the specialist provision of a performing arts-focused education.
The Hammond Dance programme includes training in classical ballet, tap, jazz, modern, street, and contemporary dance.
Post-16, Hammond offers the National Diploma in Performing Arts (Dance), (Musical Theatre), and a BTEC level 3 in Performing Arts (Acting), in combination with 2 A-Levels. The school occupies a regency-style country house with modern extensions and outbuildings, set within a semi-rural location near Chester, two hours north of London by rail.
The school advertises itself as welcoming international students.
Dedicated boarding provision is offered between the ages of 11 and 16; between 16 and 18 lodgings are provided by the private sector. Fees are below average and the school offers a lower-cost academic-only education for those not seeking specialist dance, theatre, or music programmes. Former students have recently graduated from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, and alumni include Lindsay Craig, Kevin McGuire, and Jorgie Porter.
The Hammond offers pupils at 14 a full academic program leading to up to 9 GCSEs, according to ability. The Independent Schools Inspectorate have noted a clear rise in standards between 2012 and 2014 but it should be noted that it is in the area of performance arts that Hammond scores exceptionally well.
The Hammond is not academically selective. For standard academic provision, the school hovers around the national average for maintained schools at GCSE. 57% achieved 5 or more GCSEs with Grade A to C in 2014 (including English and Mathematics), and most students should expect to secure this minimum.
At A-Level the school under-performs the national academic average (2014), with on average pupils scoring a C- (2014) in each entered subject against a national average of a C/C+.
In the area of vocational attainment the story is very different with BTEC, LAMDA, RAD, and Trinity Diploma attainment in dance, drama, and/or music significantly outperforming the national average.
In 2014 Hammond scored an average point score per full time equivalent vocational student of 620 against a national average of 560.
The Hammond, like the majority of performance arts schools, has no Oxbridge slipstream.
Like other performance arts schools, extra-co-curricular activities are not as extensive as other solely academic schools; attention is focused on the vocational areas of dance, music, and theatre.
However, in these areas the school has facilities that compete with the best in the independent sector, including a 400 seat theatre, 8 Dance studios, 2 dedicated Drama studios, Music and Music Technology rooms, and a small recording studio.
Unlike most other schools, boarding is dislocated from the school with boarding houses and 6th form lodgings some two miles away in Chester, although this does provide students with access to city centre activities including swimming, shopping, and cinema. Regular weekend trips include camping and theatre.
Entrance to The Hammond is by tests and audition in dance, drama, and music. The school is not academically selective; tests are used for streaming and placing students. The school has dedicated provision for international applicants who can submit auditions by DVD. At 14, this must include a 1.5 minute dance solo, vocal solo, and stretches to demonstrate flexibility. At 16, the audition adds an acting monologue. The Hammond has no advertised internal scholarship or bursary program.
The school is a non-denominational and religions plays no significant role in school life.
The Hammond is not by any standards an academic school, but it does not market itself as such. It is designed specifically for parents seeking a performing arts focused education for their children. It does not offer the academic fail-safe of its closest peer, Tring Park, or its prestige, but it does offer instead a very different boarding experience, off campus and therefore arguably less pressurized and more “normal.” The school also attracts non vocational children, again ensuring a much more open environment in which it is easier for pupils to shine. It is quite early to judge the potential of The Hammond: in 2008, it worked through a one million pound investment program in new facilities, and ISI data suggests strengthening academics. Combined with a very open welcome to international applicants through DVD auditions, The Hammond is certainly worth considering. For parents with academic and vocationally talented children however, Tring Park has a very clear and significant edge.
• Strong vocational attainment
• Good value fees
• One of few specialist performance arts boarding schools
• Boarding is dislocated
• Lack of scholarship and bursary provision
• Weak academics compared to best-in-class
• High-potential pupils in the performing arts with average academic ability
• International performing arts students requiring boarding
• Performing arts education in dance, theatre and music
• Academically gifted children
• Children who see performing arts as a hobby rather than vocation
• Those seeking a traditional English boarding school experience
• Boarding number: 76 pupils
• Day number: 162
• Sixth Form: 99 pupils
• ISI Rating Boarding (2014): Good
• ISI Rating Academic (2014): Excellent
• ISI Rating Dance/non-academic (2014): Exceptional
• ISI Rating Personal Development (2014): Excellent
• ISI Rating Leadership (2014): Good
• Ofsted Report - Outstanding (2015), view here
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