Hemdean House Min

Finding their voice

by Luisa Mason, Head of English and Drama

It is unusual for prep schools to schedule drama into the weekly curriculum, but for children at Barrow Hills – a prep school and nursery for children aged 2-13, where the focus is very much centred on developing the whole child – this is the norm. Offering an education which extends beyond purely academic learning is pivotal to helping our children grow, encouraging them to establish essential life skills and affording each and every child the opportunity to find their personal talent. All that we do is inspired by the qualities in our pupil profile, and this underpins our commitment to providing a rounded education.

From Year 3 upwards, our children enjoy one-hour timetabled drama, once a week, with the same amount of time allocated to art, music and design technology lessons. By engaging in drama, Barrow Hills’ children are regularly encouraged to go outside of their comfort zone, inspiring bravery when they perform in front of their peers and to an audience of parents. Some children may be reluctant to take to the stage – others will be difficult to get off – but the personal growth evidenced by all in Years 3 to 8 is wonderful to witness.

Our pupil profile also refers to cultivating curiosity in our children, and participating in drama certainly fires the imagination, requiring each child to show a natural interest in a variety of texts and role-playing a wide range of situations.

Being responsible is another trait we instil in our children, and drama can help hone this attribute by requiring each child to understand the importance of their role in any production, whether they are the protagonist or in charge of props, scene changes or costumes. Everyone has a responsibility to play their part.

Similarly, showing generosity in terms of sharing the stage, demonstrating true team spirit and supporting each other in their drama endeavours is also aligned with the desired qualities of the pupil profile. The pure joy of performing or being part of a successful production is etched on the children’s faces during any drama session, helping them to appreciate the value of this emotion, once again linking to our pupil profile. All of the above qualities are critical in preparing our children for greater things.

Drama in particular can equip young people with improved confidence, the ability to project their voice, to talk up in meetings, even to mask nerves when in a challenging situation. Our children often remark upon how their drama studies have helped them to grow as individuals and to, quite literally, help them to find their voice.

A perfect example of this is a parent describing a ‘seminal moment’ when her son took to the stage for the first time. She was surprised that he was able to take up the challenge of walking on stage, let alone performing a solo, as he had never shown any aptitude in singing. That same child went on, in Year 8, to take a lead role in the school’s highly successful production of Les Misérables.

The view of Linda Hartzell, Artistic Director of the Seattle Children’s Theatre, when she says

“I’ve seen first-hand that theatre makes for smarter, braver, human beings. Theatre helps connect the head to the heart”

is certainly one that I concur with.

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