The Helen O’Grady Drama Academy in Jersey was established three years ago by Jolyon Baker, head of media at Jersey College for Girls.
Currently around 200 children ranging from five to 13 years attend the classes, at Trinity Youth Centre and Communicare in St Brelade, and from this month classes will be available at a new venue in Georgetown.The Jersey academy is one of over 40 franchises in the British Isles and is part of an organisation set up by Australian Helen O’Grady in 1979.
In business terms it is substantial – there are now around 35,000 students around the world in over 1,000 locations.
But the Channel Islands is regarded as an ‘exemplar’ academy, says Mr Baker, with the national director, Nigel Le Page, based in Guernsey.The Helen O’Grady program is carefully structured to help children develop communication, social skills, and confidence – and have fun at the same time – through a range of activities including speech, verbal dynamics, creative movement, dance drama and structured improvisation.Initially the Jersey academy was open on one or two evenings a week, but the demand is such that Mr Baker now employs two teachers and one or two classes are held every weekday after school.
Facing a bunch of lively youngsters at the end of the working day might seem daunting, but although it can be tiring it is also stimulating work, Mr Baker explained.
‘It’s not about talent spotting – it’s about recognising the talent in everybody, developing confidence and self-esteem, being able to work better at school, being confident enough to ask questions and express themselves better.’The Education Department now recognise the importance of drama in the curriculum and are supportive, because they see the benefits.
Some schools would like to do more, but they do not have the resources.’