Skip to main content


Pupls at ArtsEd Day School and Sixth Form being coached by drama teacher19 June 2024

Budding young thespians can either go down the route of a specialist drama school or a mainstream school where drama shines. Either way, academics don’t have to suffer as a result, as these schools prove. What’s more, they’re not all private schools. So, in no particular order...

Sylvia Young Theatre School

For pupils aged 10-16, there’s academic study three days a week, with Thursdays and Fridays dedicated to performing arts. Students are coached by top-notch professionals, and the emphasis is very much on setting you up for a career in industry. ‘Standards are extremely high, the discipline is exacting, the work hard and the hours long,’ says our reviewer of this London-based school. Pupils can be found playing parts in most of the big West End shows. Amy Winehouse, Dua Lipa and Keeley Hawes are among alumni.

Read The Good Schools Guide review of Sylvia Young Theatre School 

Bedales School

This co-ed boarding school for ages 13-18 is renowned for its drama. Students can opt to do the school’s BAC theatre course and theatre studies is offered at A level. Lots of opportunities for extracurricular drama too, including a whole-school show performed over three nights in the 320-seater Olivier Theatre. Other facilities include the drama and dance studios. Students can train with LAMDA and RADA. Daniel Day-Lewis came here, as did Cara Delevingne. Drama scholarships available.

Read The Good Schools Guide review of Bedales School

The BRIT School

A rare beast, in that this specialist performing arts school is also a state school. Pupils, who can join aged 14 or 16, are assessed on raw talent and all but 10 per cent must live in catchment. Students take nine or 10 GCSEs including a vocational pathway, while sixth formers do UAL level 3 extended diploma. Over 250 events a year (plays, musicals, etc). Teachers all highly experienced and all from industry. Alumni list reads like the story of the last 20 years of UK pop music (Amy Winehouse, Adele, Raye) acting ex-pupils include Cush Jumbo and Tom Holland.

Read The Good Schools Guide review of The BRIT School

Tring School for Performing Arts

‘Like coming home for young theatrical souls, and they feel it the moment they walk through the door,’ says our reviewer of this vocational school where academics are equally prized. Located in a former Rothschild mansion in leafy Herts, the school caters for ages 7-19, with the most common entry points at ages 11-13, 14 and 16. Students specialise in commercial music, musical theatre, dance and drama, with alumni including Lily James, Jessica Brown Findlay and Zach Wyatt.

Read The Good Schools Guide review of Tring School for Performing Arts

St Edmund’s School, Canterbury

Drama is a key reason parents choose this all-through co-ed boarding school. Exceptionally polished performances in the school’s 450-seat tiered theatre – or, as with a recent production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in the school’s woods. Teachers, who are nearly all professional actors, support pupils to gain top grades in drama exams, as well as helping with audition speeches to drama school. Trips worldwide so pupils gain a wide understanding of the industry. Drama scholarships available. 

Read The Good Schools Guide review of St Edmund’s School

Clifton College

This co-ed boarding school, for ages 13-18, was one of the first schools to have a theatre – named after Sir Michael Redgrave, a former pupil. The school works closely with Bristol Old Vic, Bath Theatre Royal, RADA and Shakespeare’s Globe in London, and hosts up to 40 productions a year, including brave choices such as Withnail and I to those written by students themselves. House drama widely acclaimed. The school has its own Oscars and sees getting on the stage and public speaking as essential preparation for today’s workplaces. Drama scholarships at 13+ and 16+.

Read The Good Schools Guide review of Clifton College

Hurtwood House School

‘Theatre permeates the whole school,’ says our latest review of this co-ed boarding school for ages 15-19. The annual Christmas production gets at least a third of the school involved – cast,  professional lighting, costumes, set design, musicians etc. Agents attend these blockbusters to scope out the newest talent. Overall, there are 40-odd productions a year, from A level devised pieces to a Shakespeare project, acting showcases and big, bold musical theatre. There’s a 170-seated theatre and green room. Former students include actors Emily Blunt, Emily Beecham and Jack Huston.

Read The Good Schools Guide review of Hurtwood House School

ArtsEd Day School and Sixth Form

This dynamic, co-ed west London school provides a first-class vocational education in the performing arts without compromising on GCSEs and A levels. Pupils, aged 11-18, specialise in dance, drama or musical theatre, but get lessons in all three. Offers BA degrees itself but destinations are impressive – Guildhall School of Music and Drama, LAMDA, RADA, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama etc. Some go straight into professional work, including West End musicals. Sixth form alumni include Isabella Pappas and Summer Strallen.

Read The Good Schools Guide review of ArtsEd Day School and Sixth Form

Uppingham School

Uppingham’s magnificent 300-seat theatre is one of the largest school theatres in the UK, complemented by a neighbouring 160-seat black box studio. The school employs three full-time theatre technicians but pupils are in charge of much of the lighting, sound, make-up and front of house themselves. Around 30 pupils a year take drama GCSE and up to 10 do A level. Variously themed and sized drama productions run throughout the year, and house drama is popular. Recent pupils have gone off to RADA and Guildhall, as well as New York drama schools. Drama scholarships at 13+ and 16+.

Read The Good Schools Guide review of Uppingham School

Other standout schools for drama include Wells Cathedral School, Oakham School, King Edward’s School, Birmingham, Hurstpierpoint College and Bede’s. Read our article on schools for performing arts.

Image credit: ArtsEd Day School and Sixth Form


Most popular Good Schools Guide articles

  • Special educational needs introduction

    Need help? Perhaps you suspect your child has some learning difficulty and you would like advice on what you should do. Or perhaps it is becoming clear that your child's current school is not working for him or her, and you need help to find a mainstream school which has better SEN provision, or to find a special school which will best cater for your child's area of need. Our SEN consultancy team advises on both special schools, and the mainstream schools with good SEN support, from reception through to the specialist colleges for 19+. Special Educational Needs Index

  • The Good Schools Guide International

    Find top international, British, IB and American schools in over 40 countries. The Good Schools Guide International publishes impartial and forthright reviews of international schools across the world.

  • Grammar schools best value added

    We examined the value-added from KS2 to GCSE for 2022 to see which state selective grammar schools added the most value to their offspring. A note of caution - the more highly selective a grammar school, the less scope there will be to add value.

  • Grammar schools in the UK

    Grammar schools are state-funded, academically selective senior schools. The education a child receives at grammar school is paid for by the state unlike at private schools which provide education for a fee. There are currently around 163 located in 36 English local authorities, with around 167,000 pupils between them. Northern Ireland has a further 67 grammar schools, but there are none in Wales or Scotland. A word of caution: there are private schools that have the word 'grammar' in their name but this is purely for historical reasons. 

  • Music, drama and dance at Performing Arts schools

    At specialist music, dance or performing arts schools, the arts aren't optional extras. They’re intrinsic to the school curriculum. Students are expected to fit in high level training and hours of practice alongside a full academic provision. It's a lot to ask any child to take on, but for those with exceptional performing ability this kind of education can be transformative.

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

☑ 30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
☑ Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
☑ Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,200 schools
☑ Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

Buy Now

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.


Our most recent newsletter: