Elmhurst supports students & staff as the Birmingham based Ballet School makes a full return to academics and dance

Elmhurst Ballet School. Photography by Kate Jackson

After five months of lockdown and many hours of remote learning across its academic, artistic and health and wellbeing departments, Elmhurst Ballet School, the vocational school with close links to Birmingham Royal Ballet has finally welcomed back students and staff to its Edgbaston, Birmingham home. 

Over the summer months a variety of support mechanisms have been put in place and a 27-page, Covid-19 specific risk assessment developed, with parents and the Elmhurst workforce an integral part of the conversations to reopen the school. Now, a week into the 2020-21 academic year and the new procedures are being implemented and continue to evolve as staff and almost 200 UK and international students have returned to Elmhurst with their safety and wellbeing at the heart of the school’s activity. 

Jessica Wheeler, Principal of Elmhurst Ballet School, said:We are so happy to see our school community come back to life. The incredible team have become masters of Zoom but you can’t beat interacting with people in person. In light of Covid-19 and the impact it has on mental and physical health, we have made numerous changes to the way we deliver our world class training and education. At the end of week one we can already see students and staff have hit the ground running and some level of normality has returned to the school.”

Students have quickly adapted to the rigour and focus of training and are clearly delighted to be back in the dance studios, albeit the necessary social distancing restrictions. Over the coming weeks the school is going back to basics as students regain their strength, reacquaint themselves with the finer details of the classical ballet technique, and work in large studio spaces after months of dancing in bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms. 

Now into week two, marking Elmhurst’s first full week back at school and support services and health clinics will resume as normal. Students’ overall health and wellbeing has already been assessed and excellent results show students have maintained good levels of fitness through the summer, with thanks to the extensive online offer.

Elmhurst academic classrooms are also buzzing as teachers focus on practical elements of the curriculum in Science, Drama and Art, particularly during the autumn term. Thanks to delivering online classes during the lockdown, academic staff are not far behind where they should be in their schemes of work, and the curriculum will be adjusted accordingly to ensure any gaps in students’ learning are continually addressed. 

This additional support across the classrooms, dance studios, Elmhurst’s pioneering Health and Wellbeing Centre and boarding, will be complemented with a new whole school programme devised by leading performance psychologist, Niall O’Carroll. 

Niall has worked with world and Olympic champions and corporate clients in the pursuit of excellence. He takes a unique approach to understanding distractions and building a culture of excellence. 

Niall O’ Carroll, commented: I was introduced to Jessica and Elmhurst Ballet School in 2014 and was instantly impressed by the work ethic across the entire school. Elmhurst’s ambition to be listed amongst the top ten ballet schools in the world excites me and I look forward to sharing my experiences from the corporate and sport sectors to support the school in its aim to produce the best quality of young people and dancers.”