Tring Park is one of only a few specialist English boarding schools for outstandingly gifted children in the performing arts and one of only eight vocational schools funded by the DfE as centres of excellence for exceptionally talented young dancers and musicians.
Its curriculum focuses on dance, drama, music, musical theatre, and theatre arts, balanced with a focus on high academic attainment at GCSE and A-Level. Nevertheless, as Tring Park advised us, “we are primarily a performing arts school with an excellent academic education [second].
“We have sent, and continue to send students to Oxbridge [but] that is not a key driver for potential pupils who have to pass a stringent audition process but are not tested on their academic ability.”
Around 10% of boarders are drawn from overseas. The school mansion was built to a Christopher Wren design in 1685 and is set in 17 acres of ground, around 30 minutes from Heathrow and an hour from Central London. The school has exceptionally high fees, but these are to be expected from a school focused on the performing arts. Amongst its alumni, which include those from the Cone Ripman and Arts Educational Schools from which Tring Park evolved, are a who’s who of the performing arts world – Dame Julie Andrews DBE, Jane Seymour OBE, Sarah Brightman, Thandie Newton, Caroline Quentin, Emma Cunniffe, John Gilpin, Rupert Pennefather, and Joshua Thew.
Tring Park offers a relatively small choice of GCSEs, although average pupils will study for eight or nine subjects including the core subjects of English, Mathematics, Science, and a Modern Foreign Language (French or German).
The focus is of course on a choice of two vocational areas: Tring’s “Dance Course” or its “Performance Foundation Course.” Dance is founded on classical ballet, and it is a pre-requisite for entry that “the physique of each dancer is suitable for classical ballet training.”
Success on the Dance Course may lead to acceptance onto Tring Park’s famous “Senior Three Year ballet Course” but competition (intense) and entry requirements (exceptional) means there is often disappointment. Alternatively, together with those who successfully studied for the Performance Foundation Course, students may opt for sixth form study in Drama, Musical Theatre, or Commercial Music courses.
These are combined with A-Level study drawn from a broad range of subject choices. Each pupil will normally choose three or four AS Levels to study in the Lower Sixth and will usually take three A2 subjects in the Upper Sixth. The BTEC in the Performing Arts is also offered in the Sixth Form. EAL and SEN is resourced, as you would expect from a school in which entrance is resolutely based on talent in singing, dancing, or drama rather than academic potential.
1 in 4 pupils has dedicated SEN support, and IGCSE English as a Second Language is compulsory where English cannot be studied as a first language. Given that Tring Park is not academically selective and focused on performing arts, you might not expect an Oxbridge slipstream. Although figures vary yearly, Tring Park does in fact have an Oxbridge feeder stream, and the school historically has seen its pupils win the Churchill Memorial Trust Bursary for English at Cambridge, as well as a doctoral place for study in Chemical Engineering. It says a lot about Tring Park that its focus is less on its academic success than its rarity and importance as a school for gifted children in the performing arts who would, without Tring Park, find it much harder to have their talents and ambition realized.
Extra co-curricular activities are not as extensive as other solely academic schools, because Tring Park effectively provides those activities that would be treated as extra- curricular at other schools as part of its core non-academic curriculum.
Entrance to the school is by one-day audition in dance, drama, and singing. The school is not academically selective and although an academic test is required for potential pupils below 16, it is used solely for streaming and placing students. Children can join from age 8, although traditional entry is at 14 and 16. Candidates are expected not only to demonstrate talent at auditions, but also potential and the drive to succeed. It is not expected that children excel in every non-academic discipline. Where children require funding, whether through scholarship or bursary, they are invited to a second audition if they pass the first and are successful in being offered a place. Overseas candidates may be given special arrangements for auditions in exceptional circumstances.
Tring Park is a non-denominational school with a Christian foundation. All faiths are welcome and no child is required to attend any church where it is contrary to their beliefs.
Tring Park was rated Good in its most recently available ISI Educational Quality report (2017).
A Level grades secured at A*/A/B 62.2% (2014)
A’ Level grades A*/A 29.1% (2014)
GCSE Grades A*A 44.9% (2014)
GCSE Grades A*B 73.9% (2014)
On the Record
An interview with Miriam Juviler, Marketing Director
– How many international students are at Tring Park and historically from how many countries are they drawn?
Tring Park usually draws approximately 10% of its 335 students from abroad. Countries include: Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Dubai and mainland Europe. We have also had occasional pupils from Australia and the USA.
– How many, if any students, were accepted to Oxbridge in 2014/15?
In the past 3 years Tring Park has had a student who was the recipient of the Churchill Memorial Trust Bursary and has just graduated with a 2:1 in English; another who studied Archaeology and Anthropology and another who undertook a PhD in Chemical Engineering at Cambridge. Many other students go to Russell Group universities to study non-arts subjects such as Medicine and Law.
– Tring Park manages comparatively outstanding academic results for its pupils in the league tables, yet is not selective. This suggests added value performance and leads some to question how children can produce such attainment in both academic and performing arts examinations without being subject to significant pressure. Do you reject accusations that Tring Park is a hothouse school in this context? How much genuinely free time to children have during weekdays or on an average weekend?
Tring Park is not a “hothouse school”. Tring Park is instead a perfect fit for highly motivated, gifted performing arts students. Due to this high level of motivation they know that they have to be highly organised to accomplish the amount of vocational and academic work demanded of them. Students at Tring Park do not have the situation that occurs with young people who undertake extra-curricular activities in mainstream education after school and at weekends. Everything takes place on one campus so there is not the endless travelling from one class to another which can be tiring and stressful for parent and child alike. There are extracurricular activities including school trips on offer at the weekends.
– Do you have to be absolutely outstanding in an area of the performing arts to pass auditions for joining Tring Park?
Tring Park is a highly selective school based on vocational attainment and promise. The younger the pupil the more we look for potential. However, young ballet dancers have a set of criteria that have to be adhered to involving a particular physique. In musical theatre the school looks for vocal, acting and dance potential and very few incoming students have all three in equal measure. It is the school’s responsibility to develop these so that they are able to respond to the ‘triple threat’ successfully when they leave school.
– Do you have any scholarships or bursaries that international students could apply for?
Tring Park has scholarship and bursary funds which are both means-tested. Students can apply to be considered if they are successful at their first audition.
– Who would you count as your competition in providing a performing arts based co-educational boarding school education in the UK?
The only school that offers an equivalent breadth in performing arts and academic education is The Hammond School in Chester. However, we are unique in that, in addition to a comprehensive performing arts education (Dance, Drama, Musical Theatre and Commercial Music) Tring Park offers up to 21 A Levels and BTECs.
– How would you describe your EAL provision?
Tring Park has a well-resourced EAL department within Learning Support. Every student from overseas is assessed at audition stage and strongly encouraged to take English classes before arriving in school if they are non-English speakers. Numbers vary from year to year with most students receiving one–to–one teaching.
– In a sentence, can you describe a Tring Park pupil at their best?
Tring Park pupil is creative, determined, inquisitive, organised and open to the diverse learning experience offered at the school.
– It has been said that your Boarding facilities are not as sophisticated as other schools. Do you agree?
We are always looking at improving our boarding accommodation and this is an important part of being able to offer a ‘home from home’ experience. However, much of the life of a boarder relies on the quality of the school’s pastoral staff which is excellent and hugely supportive of pupils at both ends of the day which can sometimes be the most challenging times! We have launched a campaign to raise funds to build additional accommodation and our eventual aim is to provide single study rooms for the whole of the 6th Form.
– How does the school manage the expectations, competition and stresses of its children from attending a performing arts-selective school with so much talent?
Our pupils understand that they are aiming to enter a highly competitive industry. Dancers understand that their career path can change in a moment due to injury and our drama and musical theatre students understand that even gaining a place at drama school is a challenge. They aim high but they remain realistic and the support they receive from their vocational teachers in preparing them for auditions provides them with a great basis to proceed to the next stage of their careers, whether that be further education or directly onto the stage or into TV or film. At any point during their time at Tring Park they may decide that a career in the performing arts is not for them in which case we support them academically so that they are prepared for university life and beyond.
There are very few performing arts schools anywhere in the world where children seeking a performing arts based education can board. There are even less schools, if any, where children are able to succeed academically quite so well whilst, at the same time, realizing their non-academic potential in dance, music or theatre.
For internationally based parents seeking a UK-based, world class performing arts centred education for their gifted children in dance, theatre or music, Tring Park is a must-consider.
It may not have hotel-like boarding facilities (dorms rather than single-study bedrooms are still the norm), and students certainly do not have the time to fill with the number of extra-curricular activities offered elsewhere in the independent sector, but Tring Park makes up for it in providing a genuinely extraordinary, performing arts focused education for talented children, and quite possibly an education inaccessible anywhere else.
Add prestige, an alumni that reads like a who’s who of the acting, singing and dance worlds – and the prospect of finding somewhere designed bottom up to help young people reach their calling outside as well as within academics, and you have a school that, for the students it is designed for, probably comes as close to perfect as it gets.
• For some the finest boarding school for performing arts in the world
• Strong academics with outstanding dance, drama and musical theatre
• Means tested scholarships and bursaries for international students
• Boarding facilities functional rather than “flashy”
• Expensive fees
• Entry subject to auditions – one shot to shine
• Extremely talented, high-potential pupils in the performing arts
• International performing arts students requiring boarding
• Those seeking a fail-safe academic back-up
• Children without self-discipline and determination to succeed
• Children who see performing arts as a hobby rather than vocation
• Children applying for Dance without the required ability
• Boarding number: 260 pupils
• Day number: 75
• Sixth Form: 140 pupils
• ISI Rating Boarding (2014): Fully met NMS in all areas
• ISI Rating Academics (2007): “at least good, in many cases Outstanding”
• ISI Rating Dance (2007): Exceptional
• ISI Rating Personal Development (2007): Outstanding
• ISI Rating Leadership (2007): Effective
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