Life at White Lodge

Exterior of white lodge in richmond park.

‘The best thing about being at The Royal Ballet School is that everyone has the same passion’

– White Lodge student

White Lodge in Richmond Park is the home to our school for students aged 11-16. Full-time classical ballet training runs alongside the students’ regular academic classes, which later includes GCSE/iGCSE preparation and examination. Admission is based on artistic talent and potential, regardless of academic ability.

Approximately 125 girls and boys attend The Royal Ballet School at White Lodge. In Year 11, dancers are invited to audition for the Upper School and the opportunity to continue their preparation for a career in classical ballet.

In addition to artistic excellence, our students achieve well above the national average in their academic results. In the academic year 2018/19, 95% of our students’ GCSE/iGCSE results were at levels 9-4, with the national average being 67.3%. 60% of all entries were at level 7 or above with the national average on this measure being 20.8%. Students also achieve well beyond what might normally be expected of children of similar ability.

The life of a White Lodge student

Life at white lodge

White Lodge students live in boarding houses in the grounds of White Lodge, or at home, only if the School agrees that a student lives close enough to commute. They live in dormitories separated by gender and year group.

As expected in a boarding school, mealtimes and bed times are regulated during the week but there is more flexibility at weekends, when students also have a chance to relax at home or take part in activities and outings organised by staff.

The weekday routine at White Lodge begins with a 7am wake-up call, followed by breakfast, all in time to start class at 8.30am. From then until 4pm, each student completes four hours of academic lessons and two hours of ballet class. In the late afternoon there may be more dance classes, rehearsals or free time before supper. They then do one hour of supervised homework at 7.15pm before bed.

Mealtimes are held in the dining hall and are an important part of the day, allowing time for students to relax, socialise and refuel.

Students in art class with teacher
White lodge year 7 girls in studio

The study of classical ballet is central to a Royal Ballet School student’s education, the level of which steadily builds as a child progresses through the school. On Saturday mornings, all students are involved in dance classes and rehearsals for future performances.

In Year 11 students are invited to audition for a place at the Upper School, to continue their pre-professional training upon leaving White Lodge.

In many ways, The Royal Ballet School is like a regular secondary school. In Years 7-9, students follow an academic programme which includes English, Maths, Science, Languages, Humanities and the Arts.

In Year 10, work begins towards GCSE/iGCSE preparation and coursework, with final GCSE/iGCSE examinations in the summer of Year 11.

Students walking to class carrying textbooks
Student smiling backstage waiting to go on stage

The Royal Ballet School is unique in its links with The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet. Our students have many opportunities to perform with both companies throughout the year, dancing on the Royal Opera House stage alongside professional company members.

Often our White Lodge students are selected to perform the children’s roles in The Royal Ballet’s The Nutcracker, dancing parts once played by alumni who now perform the principal roles in the company.

The highlight of the year are the Summer Performances, most recently held at Opera Holland Park, and the Royal Opera House matinee performance.

State of the art facilities

A former Royal hunting lodge, White Lodge in Richmond Park became home to The Royal Ballet School’s younger students in 1955. Since then, there has been continuous development of its facilities in order to keep it at the forefront of ballet training in the UK.

Most recently was an extensive £22 million, three year redevelopment, completed in 2009. This included two new dance studios, the extension of a third studio, state-of-the-art accommodation for the 126 students, a new dining hall as well as major works to the original 300-year-old building.

There are now six studios, one of which is the Fonteyn Studio Theatre, named after Margot Fonteyn, one of the School’s first and most illustrious graduates. The Fonteyn Studio Theatre converts from a fully equipped theatre with a seating capacity of 250, into one large studio or two smaller ones.

Recreational facilities at White Lodge include an indoor heated swimming pool, a tennis/netball court, and a small football pitch. The student common rooms provide darts, snooker, table tennis, video games and television.

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