High school recognised for performing arts excellence

Ipswich High School performing arts students

Ipswich High School was shortlisted as a finalist for the ISA Award for Excellence and Innovation in the Performing Arts - Credit: Karl Nathan Hill

Ipswich High School, the coeducational independent day and boarding school based in Woolverstone, has been shortlisted at the prestigious Independent Schools Association (ISA) Awards, in recognition of its work across the performing arts. 

In a period that has seen so much of the arts industry grind to a halt, the school has strived to maintain momentum even when pupils were forced to work from home. Along with its extensive online learning provision, the school’s performing arts department put creative projects, performances and experiences at the centre of its work during lockdown, and upon its return to school, whilst managing Covid restrictions.

Wellbeing has been an important driver for the work the school has undertaken, and even when forced back into online learning in January, it strived to find ways to connect pupils. Creating snow dances, making social media videos, and running clubs and rehearsals online – alongside the normal curriculum lessons – all helped students have fun and take their minds off feeling isolated and often scared of what was happening in the world beyond the safety of their homes.  

The school’s award entry highlighted several projects and activities that each performing arts department had been involved in. The Hayworth Players’ most innovative work included 'The Merry Wives of Windsor', its first live-streamed performance on YouTube as part of the Shakespeare Schools Festival’s ‘One Night of Shakespeare' event, and taking its performance of 'Look Up' to the Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch for National Theatre Connections – despite a large part of the rehearsal process being completed online.   

Music continued with its Primo programme, where each child in the prep school is given a musical instrument to learn with specialist teaching in each year. Students get the chance to play and use a variety of instruments across their schooling – from toots to cellos – paving the way for them to take on an instrument they love to play. They then recorded performances for a filmed concert which was shared online with their families.    

Performing arts students at Ipswich High School

The school’s award entry highlighted several projects and activities that each performing arts department had been involved in - Credit: Karl Nathan Hill

In dance, successful projects this year included a flash mob to raise money for the children’s wing at Ipswich Hospital. It was the first event that most of the new students took part in at school, and the first – albeit filmed – performance they were able to do since the beginning of the pandemic.   

The school’s dancers also began a community project with a local care home during lockdown. Dancers from the senior dance company contacted residents to find out more about their childhoods and how they were similar or different to the pupils’ today. They then created a dance piece and taught the residents some of the choreography via Zoom – providing a vital connection to the outside world at a time where visits and interactions with young people had been restricted.  

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The pupils were able to perform a version of this work at their dance showcase held at the end of the summer term.  

The annual ISA Awards are a chance to celebrate the achievements, hard work and dedication of schools, and Ipswich High School was delighted to be shortlisted as a finalist for the ISA Award for Excellence and Innovation in the Performing Arts. 

Mark Howe, head of Ipswich High School, said: “During the most challenging period, and at a time when the provision for creative and performing arts is being diluted and marginalised in so many schools, this shortlisting is recognition that Ipswich High School continues to buck the trend.   

“We are proud to have a faculty which continues to go from strength to strength thanks to our wonderful and immensely talented pupils who thrive under the direction of an inspirational staff team who work incredibly hard when teaching at home and in school.  

“For a school of 450 pupils, the breadth and quality of the opportunities our pupils enjoy is truly remarkable and all involved should be truly proud of this achievement.’’